Finish Up!

If there’s one thing that almost all of us have heard while growing up, it has to be this sentence, “Finish up your food. Don’t you know that there are so many children starving in this world?” or the equivalent but no less common, “That plate better be clean by the time I get back, or else!!” leaving you with images of all kinds of torture that would follow the ‘else’, even though you were tempted to ask, “How is me being overstuffed going to help the starving kids?”

Finish Up! - Force Feeding Children - Forcing Kids To Eat - Kids Eating Habits

Now that most of us are parents, it is unlikely that we haven’t mouthed the same dialog to our hapless kids, logic notwithstanding. But considering all the research that’s pouring in today from everywhere, I suppose it’s time to take a step back and actually analyse what we’re doing here.

And this isn’t even just an Indian phenomenon. Globally, parents force their kids to ‘clean their plate’ and this is a practice that’s crossing generations. In India, considering that more people couldn’t afford basic meals in our parents’ time than in ours, the idea of wasting food was more blasphemy than bad manners. Also, it probably gave a parent a certain sense of satisfaction, knowing that his child was well fed and nourished.

But the truth, according to experts, is that this gives rise to an ‘over-fed’ generation, one that cannot recognise its own hunger cues. By not letting a child to stop when she feels full, we are destroying her body’s natural ability to recognise fullness or satiety. So, by the time she’s a teenager, her body has lost its internal mechanism to regulate food intake. And there you have one of the causes of all the eating disorders that plague us today.

So parents, the next time your kiddo says he’s full, don’t force him to ‘clean his plate’ and you don’t do it for him either, unless you want it to sit on your waist!! Worse, don’t ever bribe him with candy in return for ‘plate-cleaning’. Another problem in some Indian households is force-feeding guests even if they protest and then feeling offended if they leave behind food on the plate. If you want to avoid wastage, control the amount being served; rather than stuff down whatever has been put in front of you. If we leave our kids to do what comes to them naturally, they won’t need to struggle to control portions in the future, the way we’re doing today. Bon Appétit!!

Fabida Abdulla is a former software engineer turned stay at home Mother Lion to her four-year old son, whom she calls ‘The Cub’. She blogs about her crazy life at Shocks and Shoes.

  • Hey this is so true. Babies and children come with a natural instinct of stopping eating when full, an instinct we lost as we become adults and binge eat due to food becoming reward or eating when sad , eating when happy etc.
    The best thing a parent can do is teach the child to listen to his or her own body

  • disqus_UG3GsKP97s

    Force-feeding small children is a very uniquely Indian phenomenon. I am a
    U.S. raised Indian who has studied early childhood education and am
    currently working as a toddler teacher at a well reputed day care
    center. The room that I currently work in is for children from 15 to 24
    months old. Most non-Desi kids LOVE to eat and will run to the table at
    snack time. We let them eat as much or little as they want and also
    give them a choice of stopping whenever they want to to go and play but
    they actually will choose to eat their meals and snacks than have free
    choice of any play activity in the classroom. When the teachers set out
    the toddler chairs for snack/meals, they will RUN to the tables all
    excited about eating. Most will feed themselves completely but we will
    spoon feed if the child hasn’t mastered self feeding eat (most non-Desi
    kids master finger foods self feeding by 9 months and spoon feeding by
    18 months!). Non-Desi kids look at eating as a pleasant sensory
    experience of picking up food and putting it into their mouths to fill
    their tummies.

    I know Indian moms take pride in being more
    “hands on” and disapprove of the early independence that Americans
    mainstream childrearing promotes. HOWEVER, is it really worth having
    your kids scream, cry and throw up over something as natural as eating
    while non-Desi kids really enjoy eating? It doesn’t even leader to
    greater nutritional intake as the child will naturally vomit food that
    they don’t want to take. You all need to sit and watch non-Desi kids
    eating at an American Day Care center. Some will more than others. Some
    will eat everything while some are picky and only eat certain foods
    (while many Desi kids learn to HATE ALL FOOD due to the experience of
    force feeding) but all will eat something and most will happily choose
    to eat over play when food is set in front of them. We NEVER force a kid to finish their food; we trust their bodies to eat enough for them. End result is that each child because a happy, healthy eater. You all need to come watch a group of toddlers eating at an American Day Care Center. Mealtime is the happiest and calmest time of the day because each child is sitting down doing something they love!

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  • sasboy

    Indian parents try to force feed their children. Their concept of parental love involves force feeding children which is intensely annoying.
    Indian family members and hosts do the same to their guests.