If you’re anything like me you’ll know what mealtime battles are like.
If you’ve been following my work for more than a hot minute, you’ll be learning the 10 key principles of raising body confident kids and feel less concerned about getting nutrition perfect.
What the 10 principles don’t address, though, are broader parenting tools that are not specific to body confidence but help in the body confidence journey.
That’s why I want to tell you about “filling their power cup”. It’s a parenting tool that has way wider application than just body confidence, but it’s a beauty for many food/body situations.
This tool is great to know if you have a particularly willful child (be them three or thirteen) and often find yourself battling with him about what he eats. This might be happening even if you are feeling less frustrated about sugar and/or nutrition in general.
The first step in learning to use this tool is to remember that all humans have free will. We can’t actually make our kids do anything, least of all eat something they don’t want to (notwithstanding brute force or bribery).
The ‘fill their power cup tool’ gives parents a way to work with ‘free will’ that doesn’t require policing or bribing. It will lead to peace at the dinner table, rather than fights. And it will help them to use their own free will to eat what is right for them whether you are in the room keeping an eye on them or not.
The problem with making them eat to your standards (you dictating how much of this or that) is that you’re teaching them that eating is about complying with rules, not listening to their own body. It teaches them to eat for reward (seeking praise for being ‘good’ or being allowed the thing they really want) instead of listening to their own fullness, satisfaction, and hunger.
Humans who eat by nourishing their bodies’ natural signals of fullness, satisfaction and hunger are shown to be more likely to enjoy long term health benefits.
So let’s dig a little deeper into using the ‘fill their power bucket’ tool.
Using the ‘fill their power bucket’ tool starts by considering the fact that your child, like all of us, has a deep need to feel belonging and value. She wants to feel like she is an important member of the family and that she contributes to its success.
The way knows they belong and are valued is by filling the twin buckets of attention and power.
Most of us are familiar with the idea that our kids need attention and they will get it through positive or negative means, as long as they get it.
What isn’t talked about quite so often is that power is just as important to kids as attention and they will fill their power bucket with negative or positive means, in just the same way.
One of the healthiest ways for a child to ‘fill their power bucket’ is to have agency over their own body. Choose what to wear. Decide how fast to run. Use their own words. And…decide what to put in their mouth.
When we overpower the agency our child has to decide what to put in her mouth, she is almost guaranteed to attempt to get her power back in another way. She might refuse. She might start fighting and wingeing and whining about what she wants that isn’t being provided. She might sneak and steal food.
When we give our child agency over what goes in his mouth, his power bucket gets filled in a positive way and the need to battle with you diminishes.
So here’s a starter for ten on how you can ‘fill their power bucket’ at meal and snack times.
- Put the food in the middle of the table so your children can help themselves (you provide the food, they chose what to eat – giving them agency over their body).
- Don’t comment on what they do or don’t eat. Just tell them you believe they can listen to their body and eat what their body is telling them is right.
- You can ‘close the kitchen’ between meals – so let them know this is the opportunity to eat, and they are welcome to pass on this meal. Let them know when the next eating opportunity will be. If they are asking for a particular food that isn’t at that meal you can always tell them when it will be available. We are not having cupcakes with lunch, but we are having them for afternoon tea tomorrow.
The ‘fill their power bucket’ tool is just one of many that can help you create calm and peace at the dinner table – and help your child grow into a confident eater who has a great relationship with their body. You can learn many more parenting tools that have a wider application than just body confidence over in the Raising Body Confident Kids online course. It’s the place for making sure everything you learn in the workbook gets put into practice at home.
I’d love to see you there.
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