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Parenting and Eating Disorders; Parent´s Influence and Obesity in Children

Abstract: How should I raise my children, so that they will not get eating disorders?

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Parenting and Eating Disorders; Parent´s Influence and Obesity in Children

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Written by: Gunborg Palme, certified psychologist and certified psychotherapist, teacher and tutor in psychotherapy.
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 23 Jul 2008.

How should I raise my children, so that they will not get eating disorders? Can a parent prevent obesity in children?


Parents can help their children to develop a proper feeling of hunger. They can help them recognize their true feelings. For example, they should only give a child food when it is physically hungry. Food should never be used as a reward or comfort of some kind. It should only be associated with genuine physical hunger. This is most important.

It is important to listen to the child in order to understand its feelings and needs and show respect for them but that doesn't mean that the child should always get exactly what it wants. It can get understanding for its experiences. Where food is concerned the child should eat when hungry and stop when satisfied.

Never compel a child to eat. More . Do not reward a child with food, do not punish a child by withholding food. Don't overemphasise food. You eat primarily to get nutrition and satisfy hunger. Enjoyment can be found elsewhere. Serve proper food, not candy, buns or cakes.

The foundation for an eating disorder is often laid during the first year of a child's life, but its development continues throughout its entire upbringing.

The surrounding environment must during this period react according to the child's true emotions. Then and only then can the child learn to organize the determining bits and pieces of information to understand and interpret them. Before they have learned to master this, they can not differentiate among their various needs and impulses. If they do not learn this, they will grow up confused when it comes to distinguishing biological and emotional experiences. Such people feel helplessly controlled by external causes.

You can find out how the development can go wrong by studying the eating of a baby. When the caretaker offers food as the answer to a cry, meaning need of nutrition, then the child will little by little learn to single out a true feeling of "hunger" which is different from other tensions and needs. If on the other hand the caretaker's reaction is not adequate, for example if he neglects, overprotects, hampers or is limitlessly allowing, then the result will be a tangled mess. When the child grows older it will not be able to differ between hunger and satisfaction or between nutritional needs and other feelings of discomfort and tension.

Should fat children diet?

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