Dealing with a Child's Eating Problems

By Kathy Rager, executive director, CARE

Q: "How can I get my child to eat?" "My child needs to lose (gain) weight."  "My child will only eat cookies!"  

A: Toilet training and eating are the two biggest areas of conflict for parents of young children.  The eating issue continues into the teen years.

Elly Statter a nutritionist, counselor and author of Child of Mine:  Feeding with Love and Good Sense and How to Get Your Kid to Eat - But Not Too Much, says that there is a division of responsibility in regards to children and food.

"The parent is responsible for what, when and where.  The child is responsible for how much and whether."  

Combining psychology and nutrition, Statter addresses the emotional impact of food and its relationship to social connections.  She says that parents typically are "restrained eaters" attempting to control their own food intake and in this effort, they become over involved with managing their children's eating.  Parents eat everything - because they pay for it and don't want to waste it.  Children do not eat for this purpose.  They eat because they like it today (maybe not tomorrow).

Eating problems later in life can often be traced to the relationships with food as children.  These relationships are often established based on messages and behavior that has forced of them in their early years.

Statter says that children become fat for four reasons:  someone in the family is encouraging them to consistently and persistently to overeat; a child gains weight during a crisis such as the death of a parent or a divorce; the result of restrained feeding - withhold food from an overweight child; and a predisposition to being overweight.

She encourages parents to trust their children.  They can support or disrupt children's food acceptance and food regulation.

  • Children will eat.
  • Children will regulate their food intake.
  • Children generally react negatively to new foods but will learn to like many over time.

Stattler suggests that parents decide when the child eats and provides healthy choices.  The child decides if he/she wants to eat and how much to eat.  It is a parent's job to provide, it is a child's job to decide.

Kathy Rager is the executive director of CARE (Community Assessment Referral & Education) of Fraser & Grosse Pointe Woods.  Visit their Website @  To learn about The Family Center's 2009 Partners In Parenting series visit

The Family Center
20090 Morningside Drive
Grosse Pointe Woods, MI  48236

Please email your questions to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
The Family Center is a 501c3 non-profit community organization that depends on donations.
To volunteer or contribute, visit or call 313.432.3832.

Enriching Our Community Through Stronger Families
The Family Center serves as the community's hub for information, resources and referral for both families and professionals. The Family Center is a non-profit organization founded with a mission to serve our community through programs and resources vital to today's families.

All gifts are tax-deductible.
To volunteer or contribute, visit the 'Get Involved' page, call 313-447-1374.
Email: or write to: The Family Center
32 Lake Shore Drive, Grosse Pointe Farms, MI 48236.