Why should you not force a child who refuses to eat?

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According to new research, parents who control their children's diet are more likely to make them "picky eaters."

"You won't leave the table until you have finished your plate." Many parents have already said this prayer. Problem: This command is not always effective, and very often results in crying or crying of the child, who reiterates her refusal to eat.

A study published in the journal Pediatrics examined this phenomenon to try to understand its mechanisms. To do this, the researchers asked 300 families to complete questionnaires to find out if their children were "picky" and how the parents handled the problem. They completed these questionnaires when their children were 4, 5, 8, and 9 years old.

The "picky eaters" have parents who control their diet.

Outcome? The children who had the most difficulty with meals were those whose parents were particularly authoritative about food. Clearly, the more parents force their children to eat foods they don't like or stay on the table until their plate is finished, the more likely children are to become "picky eaters."

And for good reason: "Eating is one of the few areas where children can exercise some control," explains Dr. Megan Pesch, lead author of the study and a pediatrician at CS Mott Children's Hospital in Michigan Medicine, United States.

To remedy this problem, the researchers recommend that parents try to increase their children's food preferences before the age of four. But that's not all: "Don't force children to clean their dishes, don't make them sit at the table until they eat a certain amount of food. And avoid bribing food," adds Dr. Megan Pesch.

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