4 Ways to Deal With People Who Food Police Your Kids

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We all have those well-meaning friends and family members who give unsolicited parenting advice. From how we feed our kids to how we discipline them and everything in between, there’s no shortage of people who think you can be doing it better. Nowhere does thing seem truer than in how we feed our children.

That is where the comments, like these, seem plentiful:

“Are you sure he’s eating enough?”

“You shouldn’t let them eat so much sugar.”

“You know the latest research shows how bad that food is for them”

“Maybe you should cut out [fill in the blank with a certain food]”

“He should eat more of this”, or, “She should eat less of that”

This list can go on and on.

Understanding How Food Policing May Appear

What is food policing and how can this show up in the way you feed your kids?

Simply put, a food police is a person who may instigate doubts, criticisms or guilt-provoking statements about how your child is eating, what they are eating, and/or how you are feeding your child. While food policing may come from a person who means well, it can create a lot of tension and unnecessary stress around your parenting approaches and decisions.

If you are focusing more on building a positive feeding relationship with your child, you may be doing things that seem counterintuitive to others on the outside, such as:

  • Letting your child be the one to decide how much to eat from what you have served, without forcing or bribing them

  • Serving meals family style

  • Keeping language neutral around all foods

After all, these are the things research has shown will help your child have a healthier relationship with food over the long term.

But how do you explain this to other people who question your feeding approaches?

There’s nothing like these type of outside comments and questions that can cause you to feel doubtful about the way you feed your kids. Food and the way we eat can be a touchy subject. Maybe these types of conversations have caused you to feel inadequate as a parent or question if you are even doing the right things for your child.

When the rubber meets the road, you can rest assured that your feeding tactics are what’s best for your kiddos, despite what anyone else might think. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind as you navigate the naysayers and negative Nancy’s in your life who uninvitingly step into the role of Food Police:

1.Defend

Advocating for yourself and your children can be a powerful way to mitigate some of the shame and negativity that often comes with food policing. Speak positively about your child and the feeding relationship you are building, even if a person is causing you to doubt your approaches.

Learn phrases you can use to redirect conversation and defuse tense situations (get your helpful handout at the bottom of this article for tips on phrases you can use!). If it is a family member or friend that your child regularly interacts with, communicate often to keep conversations open and productive toward positive changes for your child. Keep in mind that advocating is a more productive action than arguing, which may not be helpful with someone who doesn’t understand your perspective.

2. Discuss

A natural reaction to someone questioning how you feed your kids or your children’s food selection is to get defensive. But this can be an opportunity to educate others who may not understand your perspective or feeding decisions.

If a person is opening to listening, take the time to share why you believe in certain feeding approaches, why you prefer to feed your kids in a certain way or the benefits you have seen in your family when there is food flexibility. Helping someone understand the big picture versus seeing only a snapshot of your life can give them more insight on your parenting approaches.

3. Defer

In some cases where a person may not be open to discussing with you, or if you’re having a hard time communicating, defer to a professional, article, or research that supports your feeding approaches. This can also give validity to your feeding style and help others understand that there is scientific evidence that supports the way you are raising and feeding your kids.

You have the long-term game in mind when it comes to raising a healthy eater. Share your favorite articles as a way to defer a food policer.

4. Distract

Ultimately, no matter what you do, you can’t change anyone or their perspective. If you find yourself stuck in a hard position with a difficult person, you can always opt to change the conversation entirely or distract them from their actions that may negatively influencing you or your child.

Redirecting the topic of discussion can help create some space and breathing room during a time that feels stressful or stifling.

Help Your Kids Confidently Deal With Food Policing

On the flip side, there may be situations where you are not around your child to help them with food policing, like at school, friends or relatives’ homes, social events, and more. Ultimately, the goal is to nurture our children in a way that helps them feel confident in themselves and their innate eating abilities.

Having open conversations with our kids that cultivate this eating confidence is important for creating a sturdy foundation for them to stand on, no matter what situation they may be in.

As parents, we inevitably have to relinquish some control when we send our kids off, and helping them navigate times in which they may face food policing can support them when they are on the retaliating end of the negative questions and comments.

Here are some practical conversation starters and phrases you can share with your kids to give them a boost of confidence wherever they are eating:

  • “You are in charge of your body and can decide what you want to eat.”

  • “You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to.”

  • “There are no good foods or bad foods - listen to your body to help you decide what you want to eat”

  • “How did you feel after eating that?”

  • “You can choose whether or not you want to eat.”

Remind your child that no matter where they are or what comments may be negatively said about them or their food choices, that they can confidently trust themselves when it comes to eating.

Mama Knows Best

Food policing can be a hard thing to encounter. Never forget that as a mother, you know what’s best for your child and you can completely trust your intuition when it comes to how you feed your kiddos. If you are nurturing a positive feeding relationship with your child within your own home, this is what will ultimately support their confidence in themselves and their bodies for years to come. You’ve got this mama!

If you’re looking for some phrases and comments to help you deal with food policing in specific scenarios, be sure to download your free cheatsheet below: “12 Phrases to Say to People Who Are Food Policing Your Kids”

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