What to do:
Self-talk. Say to yourself, "I don't like it that my child eats too much, but I can help her to learn healthy eating habits. It's nothing to get upset about."
Empathy. Ask yourself, "How would I feel if my mom told me not to eat so much? I wouldn't like it! I still have trouble practicing that!"
Teach. Tell yourself, "I can help my child learn ways to recognize when she is hungry or full, eat slowly, and enjoy other activities besides eating.
When Your Child Wants More of One Food Without Eating Other Things. Use Grandma's Rule. Say, "Yes you may have more of that (mashed potatoes, for example), when you have tried the other things on your plate (broccoli, for example). It's okay if your child then refuses to eat. She'll be hungry by the next meal.
Provide healthy snacks. Providing snacks and meals made up of vegetables, fruits, proteins and whole grains is important because they are not only good for overall health, but also satisfy hunger.
Change Time at the Table As She Grows. Toddlers may not have the attention span or the desire to sit at the table with you for as long as you would like. So feeding her more just to get her to stay there is often the remedy! When she is done, offer the chance to play near the table while you continue to sit. That way, she is not "set up" to continue to eat, but you can keep an eye on her while you have fun chatting. As she grows, her attention span for sitting will, too. And she will learn from your example what fun social skills look like at the table.
Provide Pleasurable Activities Other Than Eating. Suggest activities after a meal or snack to change your child's focus away from food. It takes about 20 minutes or so for his brain to let him know that he's not hungry anymore. Say, "I love it when you draw me a picture. I'll get the markers and paper." Give him positive attention for things that are not food related, such as telling him you like his artwork.
Watch When Your Child Overeats. See if your child overeats when he's bored, mad, sad, watching others eat, or wanting attention from you. Listen to his feelings and help him come up with solutions to solve the problems, instead of using food to help soothe his upset feelings.
Praise Wise Food Selections. Say for example, "That's a great choice you made for a snack. I'm glad you're taking care of yourself so well by eating yummy treats like apples."
Teach Your Child How to Eat Slowly and Recognize When He is Hungry or Full. Encourage eating slowly so the brain has time to receive a series of signals from digestive hormones that say the stomach is full.
Encourage Exercise. Overweight children often don't eat any more than normal-weight children; they just don't burn off enough calories through exercise: dancing, jumping rope, swimming, walking, baseball, soccer and swinging. All these are not only good for your child's physical development, but they also relieve tension, give him fresh air, and build his coordination and strength. Your participation will make exercise even more fun for your child.
What not to do:
Don't Brag about How Much You Could Eat When You Were Younger. Doing so models overeating as a goal to be proud of, which encourages your child to overeat.
Don't Reward with Food. Don't offer food as a present or reward. This helps you avoid teaching your child that eating means more than satisfying hunger.
Don't Give-In to His Desire to Overeat. Your child may keep asking for another hot dog, for example, after he's eaten two. Use common sense about quantities of foods that you give your child to consume at a sitting.
Don't Give Treats When Your Child Is Upset. Your child may begin to associate food with emotional (rather than physical) nourishment if you consistently offer treats to comfort him when he's upset.
Don't Consistently Allow Food While You're Watching TV. Avoid teaching your child to associate food with watching TV and using other screens.
Don't Give Junk Foods as Snacks. What you allow for snacks and meals is what your child will expect. Food preferences are learned, not inborn, and empty calories are designed to make us crave more of the same.
Don't Make Fun of Your Child If He Overeats and If He's Overweight. Calling him a name, such as "Chubby," doesn't solve the problem of overeating. It does create another problem, however: it becomes his identity.