Ways to Boost Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence

Help your child become happier, more confident, and more empathetic by teaching them healthy ways to express their feelings. 

Amid worrying about our kids’ academic success, it’s easy to lose sight of their emotional development. But research suggests a child’s emotional intelligence is every bit as important as reading, writing, and ‘arithmetic. Why? Because kids with a high emotional intelligence have mastered the other three Rs: responsibility, resilience, and respect. 

Since they’ve developed more coping skills, these kids are more able to control their emotions and behavior when things don’t go their way. This in turn makes them happier, more self-confident, and more respectful of others. Not surprisingly, children with a high EQ (or emotional quotient) also tend to do better in school. They pay attention, easily take in information, stay motivated, and get along with teachers and classmates. 

Is this just a matter of inborn temperament? Perhaps in some cases, yes. But research shows emotional intelligence can be taught. Students who have gone through school-based EQ training average 11 percentile points higher on academic test scores. As a parent, you can also teach your kid to handle challenging emotions like anger, sadness, and frustration. From books and toys to family games, here are five creative ways to help your child become an EQ whiz kid.  

👉 Play the “What-if” game 

During family car rides or as a conversation starter at the dinner table, the “What would you do if…?” game gets kids thinking about ways to respond to different situations. Ask questions that encourage your child to behave with more emotional smarts: “What would you do if you saw someone grab a toy away from your friend? Or if I blamed you for something you didn’t do? Or if your brother hit you for no reason?” 

Asking these questions when emotions aren’t running high gives your child a chance to come up with ideas on how to best respond – and for you to offer some ideas of your own. Since you can tailor questions to fit your child’s age, this works for younger and older kids alike.  

👉 That’s emo-tainment! 

Don’t tell the kids, but books and movies can be more than just entertainment. San Francisco-based childhood social skills teacher Dominique Baudry says that reading books and watching movies with children present ideal opportunities to talk about emotions and behavior. ” When reading together, ask your child, ‘What do you think he’s feeling?’ Talk about a character’s motive and intention. ‘Why do you think he did that?””  

Similarly, after watching a movie together, ask your child why a character was angry, frustrated, sad, or excited. These conversations all present an opportunity to expand “emotional literacy,” so that children get used to talking about why people behave the way they do and how they might have responded differently. What’s more, doing this with make-believe characters makes it that much easier for kids to be emotionally fluent when talking about their own emotions – which is the whole idea.  

👉 Read it with feeling 

Not only can you use stories as a launching pad to discuss feelings, but you can also get books that address emotions directly. One of the best “I’m feeling bad!” books for young kids: When Sophie Gets Angry – Really Really Angry. As happens with many children, Sophie’s anger is too much for her and her family: She rages, kicks, and screams. To find her way out of her overwhelming emotions, Sophie takes time to be alone and calm down, then returns to her family more cheerful and encouraged. 

👉 Give everyone a do-over 

Admit it: When parents – and kids – get angry enough, they yell or throw tantrums. Angry outbursts make everyone in the family feel terrible and usually solve nothing. It is recommended that all family members should be allowed a chance to have a “do-over.” 

Anyone in the family is allowed to say, ‘That came out really mean. I’m going to do a do-over. Here’s what I wanted to say.’ Do-overs allow kids and grownups a way to gain more self-awareness by practicing less hurtful ways of expressing difficult emotions. Allowing for do-overs lets the whole family help one another try again in a kinder, better way. It’s also a very kind way to cut each other some slack. 

👉 Work on playing 

With less free playtime at and after school, kids today have fewer chances to practice the social skills that are important for learning emotional intelligence and dealing with difficult issues like bullying. Give your child as many opportunities as possible for unstructured, cooperative and imaginative play with siblings and other kids. Building a fort, putting on a play or a variety show or playing ‘restaurant’ or ‘barber shop’ together give kids lots of opportunities to practice communicating their desires and resolving conflicts. 

As your child grows older, talk about real-life situations—whether it’s things they’re encountering in their daily life or it’s a problem you’re reading about in the news. Make it an ongoing conversation. Use your child’s mistakes as opportunities to grow better. When they act out because they’re angry or they hurt someone’s feelings, take time to talk about how they can do better in the future. With your ongoing support and guidance, your child can develop the emotional intelligence and mental strength they’ll need to succeed in life.  

Treat Your Children as You Would Like to Be Treated Yourself

Snuff out their fears, give a name to those emotions that they do not know how to express, dedicate time to them, let their dreams take off, and make them feel who they are: the most precious people in your world. 

A child does not want to be yelled at and does not understand reproaches; your child deserves to be treated with the art of listening, patience, and the grandeur of affection, because children are not there to be “dominated”; they are there to be loved. 

A mother’s instinct or a father’s natural ability to intuitively know the needs of their own children is doubtlessly the best strategy when it comes to educating them. Children come into the world with innate kindness, so they deserve to be treated with respect. 

A child must be treated with affection and without fear. There are mothers and fathers who are afraid to fail in their role as parents. They think that they are failures if they don’t get them a place in the best schools or buy them the same brand-name clothes that their friends wear at school. They aspire, in some way, to offer their children what they themselves never had. 

Everyone is free when it comes to choosing how to educate a child, but we often forget what children are like and everything that happens in their heads. We hang onto the thought of everything that we have to offer them without first finding out what they really need: us. 

Our children do not really need brand-name clothes or electronic toys that they can play with alone. They need your time, your example, your good night hugs, and your hand to hold when they cross the street. 

Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.   

More articles on www.MrMizrahi.blog 

Strategies That Help Improve Executive Functioning Skills

When we practice using our executive functions, it helps them to develop and get stronger over time. Executive functioning is essential for social and emotional intelligence. 

As a parent, you can encourage your child to use these skills every day in order to promote strong executive functioning skills. 

1. Decision Making 

Give your child choices throughout the day. For little ones, this can be as simple as “Do you want to wear your pink shirt or your yellow shirt today?” 

Older children should have the chance to make more complex decisions. As parents, it can be instinctual to make the “right” choice for our kids, because we don’t want them to make mistakes, but this is a learning experience for children and necessary for them to have strong decision-making skills down the road. 

The natural consequences of your choices can be the best learning experience. 

2. Practice Problem Solving 

If this is an area your child struggles with, try the problem-solving wheel to help teach effective problem-solving skills. Give them hypothetical scenarios and ask them to choose the best option(s) for solving the problem. 

Practicing frequently will help them to be able to apply these skills in real-life situations. You can even act out different scenarios and use pretend-play to practice social skills and problem-solving at the same time. 

3. Play Physical Activities That Require Attention 

Kids need to pay attention to instructions and use their impulse control to play certain games. These games are also great ways to provide kids with proprioceptive input and is great for motor planning. 

  • Freeze dance 
  • Musical chairs 
  • Simon Says 
  • Duck Duck Goose 
  • Mother May I? 
  • Red Light, Green Light 

4. Play Sorting Games 

Getting children to sort objects by changing rules, such as first sorting by color, then mixing them back up and asking them to re-sort by shape helps improve cognitive flexibility. 

Cognitive flexibility is the ability to adjust your thinking from an old situation to a new situation. 

5. Play with Building Materials 

Children learn best through play and through doing. 

Give your child the opportunity to play with building toys, including blocks, mag snaps, train tracks, and racetracks, Legos, marble runs, etc. 

It might seem like they’re just playing, but it takes strategic planning to build things with these toys. Planning, organization, and decision making goes into every creation. 

If your child is building a train track, they’ll need a strategy to make the tracks connect at the end. 

Likewise, if they’re building a tower from blocks, they’ll learn that you need bigger blocks at the base of the tower, or else it will fall over. 

This building can evolve over time. As your child gets older, they can focus on building more complex Lego sets, or model airplanes, robots, etc. 

These tasks require working memory, the ability to follow multi-step directions, focus, and concentration. 

6. Play Board Games That Require Strategy 

Strategic board games give your child a chance to practice planning and keeping it in mind for several moves. They must also adjust their strategy in response to the other players’ moves. 

Through strategizing, a child’s inhibitory control, flexibility, and working memory need to work together, practicing many executive functions together. 

7. Improve Empathy 

It’s a myth that children with autism lack empathy. 

They are very empathetic; the problem is that they have trouble reading how other people feel. They don’t pick up on body language and slight changes in tone of voice or facial expression as easily as others. 

You can help improve your child’s ability at recognizing others’ feelings by drawing their attention to them regularly. 

For example, when you’re watching their favorite TV show together ask your child how they think the character feels. 

Over time this will help your child form connections between actions and feelings and help grow their understanding and they will become more empathetic. 

This will also help your child to better identify their own big emotions and improve their perspective-taking abilities. 

8. Give Executive Functioning Time to Develop 

Finally, you just must give your little ones some time. As I mentioned earlier, the part of the brain responsible for executive functions doesn’t completely mature until the mid-twenties. 

A child with ADHD usually is delayed by about 3 years in their level of executive functioning. As a parent just keep facilitating opportunities to learn, being patient and nurturing during meltdowns, setting boundaries when you need to, and playing lots of games together. 

Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.   

More articles on www.MrMizrahi.blog 

Help Your Child Make and Keep Friends

Help Your Child Make and Keep Friends 

Children with ADHD often have trouble making friends, but it turns out that parents can help. Learn why solo time with your child and planned playdates can help you take a more active role in how he makes new friends. 

It’s common for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to have trouble making friends. How can parents help? 

Where do you start? 

Start by listening. The more positive and trusting your relationship, the more likely it is that your child will accept your guidance. If he’s upset about a friendship problem, be empathetic. Give him a chance to express his feelings before saying what he should do differently next time. 

Spend some time doing fun things together, just the two of you, without directing or criticizing his behavior. Building a relationship with your child pays off. Parents in my study groups have said that when they work on relationship-building at home, they see better behavior in their child’s peer relationships right away. 

Look for the positive, even if it’s hard to find something to praise 

For example, you see your child with another child, and almost everything she does seems wrong. She goes up and says, “Hi,” introduces herself, and says she wants to play. Then she treats the other kid as a play-slave, and says, “We’re going to do this. I go first. You stand here.” 

There’s a lot to criticize. But you can praise what she did well: walking up and introducing herself in a friendly way. As for the rest, there may be 20 behaviors that you’d like to change but be selective. Pick the most important one or two-and be specific in what you say: “When you play a game, you get to move your pieces, but you have to let your friend move hers.” 

Parents take a more active role in promoting friendships 

You can help your child make better choices – for instance, a friend with the same interests who’s also a good personality match. 

A great way to find the right playmates is to volunteer at your child’s school and for extracurricular activities. You see other kids, and you get to know other parents. It’s an opportunity to network and to suggest playdates. 

Made playdates go more smoothly 

Planning. Before the playdate, put away anything that might cause conflict, like a favorite toy that your child wouldn’t want other kids to touch. Plan enough activities so that you leave little or no unstructured time. If your child has repeatedly acted in a way that’s likely to cause trouble, caution him in advance about the most appropriate behavior.  Be on hand with snacks or another distraction in case the kids start fighting – especially if you don’t know the other child well. 

How closely should you supervise? 

It depends largely on the age and on the child. You might want to be in the same room with a six-year-old, so you can head off a tantrum if you see it coming. For a 10-year-old, stay just within earshot and check in from time to time to see if the kid’s friends need your attention. If it’s too quiet, your child may have lost interest and may be ignoring her friend. 

Whisper to your child if something’s wrong. If it’s the kind of behavior you discussed beforehand, a reminder may be enough. If it isn’t, or if the misbehavior is serious, talk to her in another room. Unless the situation is out of control, don’t cut the playdate short. 

What do you do after the playdate’s over? 

Debrief your child. Give him feedback, particularly on how he handled the behavior you focused on before the playdate. You might say, “It was really nice of you to congratulate your friend on winning the game, like we talked about.” 

Use the experience in planning the next playdate. If you stay focused on improving trouble behaviors, you should see progress. It often happens that way in my study groups. 

Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.   

More articles on www.MrMizrahi.blog 

Make Time for Unstructured Play

Weekends are the perfect time for some unstructured play!  

But why is it so important? 
 
Unstructured play encourages creativity and imagination. 
 
Children learn through play. This is how they work out problems, practice important social skills, and process emotions. 

Unstructured play increases confidence. When children are able to think and create, using their own cognition and creativity it increases their confidence in themselves. 

 Attachment and bonding with your child are increased when you join in unstructured play with them. 

Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.   

More articles on www.MrMizrahi.blog  

https://mrmizrahi.blog/2020/10/01/6-ways-to-show-faith-in-your-child/

Temper Tantrums VS Meltdowns

There are significant differences, neurologically, between a temper tantrum and a meltdown – those differences come down to which parts of the brain are in control during a meltdown or a temper tantrum. 

Tantrums 

As awful as tantrums can be, it is an indicator that your child’s executive functions are developing typically. So, in a strange way you can be proud of your kiddo for that fit they’re throwing. 

A child having a tantrum is acting out in order to get their way or push your buttons or get some attention. They’re likely operating with the forebrain and midbrain – the thinking and feeling brain. 

They may appear out of control but are able to stop the tantrum abruptly (for example, when they get what they want) and return to making logical decisions and behaving calmly. 

Parents are taught to ignore tantrum – because if your child’s tantrum doesn’t get them what they want or get a reaction out of you, they will learn that this strategy is ineffective and over time, will stop. 

You may notice a child who is throwing a tantrum will look over at you to see if you’re watching them. 

Young children use tantrums because they don’t have the communication skills yet to communicate their wants and needs. Learning about their feelings, and positive ways to communicate, will drastically reduce the frequency of tantrums. 

Meltdowns 

A meltdown is completely different. 

When a child is having a meltdown, thanks to their amygdala causing fight or flight to kick in, the prefrontal cortex responsible for executive functioning completely shuts down. 

Stress hormones flood their tiny body and, temporarily, they are literally incapable of controlling their actions and emotions, or using any executive functions like considering consequences, problem-solving, or listening to reason. 

When your child is having a meltdown, they do not need you to set firm boundaries or ignore their outbursts. Your child needs you to be nurturing and comforting until the meltdown is over.  

The best approach to take will vary depending on your child’s temperament and what the trigger of the meltdown was. Just remember that this is an emotional reaction and not a behavior choice. 

When your child is having a meltdown, trying to talk to them about consequences or appropriate vs inappropriate behavior will not help, and may in fact make things worse. 

The executive functions of the brain need to be up and running for any of this information to be processed. 

When their emotions are regulated again, and no longer rushing with emotions, you can talk about appropriate vs inappropriate behavior with them. 

It’s better to talk to your child using compassion and understanding than to be punitive. The best strategy for meltdowns is to be proactive. 

Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.   

More articles on www.MrMizrahi.blog 

Teach Your Kids about Failure

Not learning to tolerate failure leaves kids vulnerable to anxiety. It leads to meltdowns when the inevitable failure does occur, whether it happens in preschool or college. And perhaps even more importantly, it can make kids give up trying—or trying new things. 

How do we avoid messing up? By spending as much time as possible with our kids and making them a priority. We do it by loving them, using encouraging words, and hugging them whether they feel comfortable with it or not. Here are the 10 things to teach your kids about overcoming failure. 

1. Not Everybody Gets a Trophy 

Losing is every bit as important in human growth as winning. Rewarding your child for doing nothing will teach him just that. Nothing. 

2. Everyone has Different Talents 

There are just some things we aren’t cut out for. It’s best to learn that at an early age. The good news is that your children are all champions at something. Guide them toward their gifts. 

3. Have Class 

Are you teaching your children how to fail with dignity? How a person accepts failure is an easy indicator of the character within. It also almost guarantees future success. Respect is gained outwardly and inwardly.  

4. Learning from Mistakes 

Mistakes humble you. They can hurt. Yet without them, we are stagnant. Every mistake we make is an educational experience. Every success is built upon a foundation of errors and corrections. 

5. Teaching Others 

When we fail, we gain experience. It’s important to share that knowledge. Use it to mentor others experiencing similar difficulties. Instill in your children the responsibility to share their mistakes in hopes to save another from making the same. 

6. Leave it All on the Field 

Explain to your kids to never cheat themselves on effort and they will always gain from it. No matter the outcome. 

7. Perseverance 

Determination wins many victories. We should not allow our children to give up on themselves. Perseverance eventually will lead to positive results and a lifelong lesson never to be forgotten. 

8. Know How to Win 

It might sound obvious but knowing how to win is the easiest way not to lose. Game planning is an essential part of a successful life. 

9. Definition of Success 

Looking into the future, what do you wish for your son? Society teaches shallowness to be equal to success. As a parent, it is up to you to define success. 

10. Sense of Humor 

The ability to laugh about mistakes sure makes those moments a lot easier to deal with. When you make mistakes in front of your kids, set that example. Don’t curse and scream at the sky. Just shake your head and laugh. It happens. 

Common Ways Parents Cause Confusion and Instability for Kids

Kids tend to have the ability to pick up on cues and details that we, as parents, are blind to. 

As parents, our priority lies with the well-being of our kids. It is no surprise that we don’t always follow through on what we preach to them. 

The reason for this is simple: 

We have higher standards for our kids than we have for ourselves. 

With parenting, consistency is key. To provide a stable environment for children, we have to stop holding them to double standards. These are 5 common things parents do that can cause instability for children: 

1) Unbalanced Screen Time Rules 

You may have strict screen time rules, or relatively lax views. Regardless, it should be standard across the board for the family. It is important to develop standards for the entire family to follow.  

Obviously, you may have to take an emergency call or text back a friend but limit the mindless games and social media-ing while you are spending time with your family. 

2) Don’t be a Gossip Girl 

As parents, we must demonstrate this by avoiding any gossip in front of our children. Initiate open discussions with your children about the harmful effects of rumors, bullying, and gossiping. 

3) End Threats and Empty Bribes 

Children don’t learn lessons from bribe-threat parenting. It is ineffective and causes confusion with children. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends disciplining with natural consequences. 

Although it may feel like more work in the beginning, children learn true lessons through natural consequences that they can rely on. 

4) Complaining About Responsibilities 

You can’t expect your children to jump out of bed every Monday morning with a rainbow of joy trailing behind them, eager to go to school if you express hatred towards your job. 

Similarly, you most likely won’t see their faces light up when you ask them to take out the trash if you talk about how laundry is the bane of your existence. Speak about your duties and responsibilities in positive ways.  

5) Respecting Family Members 

Kids will fight; however, as parents we are responsible for ensuring they respect each other, apologize, and find a way to work it out between them. 

To create a stable and consistent environment for your kids you must model the positive behavior that you want to see in them, open the lines of communication, and provide positive experiences to them. 

Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.   

More articles on www.MrMizrahi.blog 

Provide Consistent, Loving Care

Consistency and predictability are integral parts of the foundation of trust in a relationship between parent and child. When our babies and children know that they will be cared for in a consistent and loving manner it sends the message that we are safe and trustworthy. As they grow, they are able to use that trusting relationship with us as a framework for other relationships, trusting that others will also provide them with safety, consistency, and love. 
 

 
Working parents can help their child to form solid, healthy relationships with other caregivers, such as grandparents, family members, nannies, or daycare providers by ensuring that there is continuity of care. The predictability helps a child to feel safe and secure when in another person’s care. Parents who have caregivers that will respond in a timely manner, and provide nurturing care set their child up to have healthy, secure relationships with other caregivers. Ensuring that the people your child is around when not in your care are responsive, nurturing, and consistent is an important aspect of helping your child to develop secure attachments with those who are looking after them. 
 

Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.   

More articles on www.MrMizrahi.blog  

https://mrmizrahi.blog/2020/10/01/6-ways-to-show-faith-in-your-child/

Our Kids are Allowed to Feel Their Feelings

We know that no one feels happy and energetic all the time and we don’t expect them to. 
 
Hopefully the people in your life support you well when you’re feeling blue or angry or anxious. 
 
Think about what helps you feel supported when you’re having big emotions.  
 
It’s likely that you just want someone to listen to you without judgement or without trying to fix you. 
 
You might want the presence of a comforting person you love…or you might need some space. 
 
Our kids are the same way. 
 
Oftentimes we don’t allow them to have crappy days or moments to feel angry or upset. 
 
This might be because we’re still learning that it’s ok to have our own emotions and we’re afraid we won’t know what to do to help them. 
 
So, we try to shut it down and don’t give them space to feel. 
 
Can you imagine what it would feel like if someone did this to you when you were feeling sad or angry or worried? 
 
We must allow our kids to feel their feelings. 
 
We can hold space for them by being present, listening, and not judging.  
 
It’s really that simple. 
 
Support your kids the way you would want to be supported. 

Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.   

More articles on www.MrMizrahi.blog  

https://mrmizrahi.blog/2020/10/01/6-ways-to-show-faith-in-your-child/

How to Make Children Feel Safe & Go to Sleep

When bedtime is approaching, some children have a hard time separating from parents and going to sleep without a struggle. If your child resists bedtime, it’s important to help him feel safe so he can go to bed happily and sleep well. A child’s fears and anxieties are very real to him. By being empathetic and supporting him positively, you can provide loving reassurance to help him overcome bedtime issues. 

Create a calming and restful bedtime routine to ease your child from daytime activity to more low-key bedtime activity. The routine may include bathing, a snack, snuggling in bed with a book or a story, prayers or a song and then tucking your child into bed with kisses and hugs. 

Provide your child with a security toy that might help her feel more comfortable and relaxed as she’s trying to go to sleep. This is usually a stuffed animal, doll or a special blanket, but whichever toy is most comforting to your child can work. 

Turn on a night-light and leave the bedroom door open a crack if your child has fears associated with bedtime. The night-light allows him to see that his room looks the same as it does during the day, and the open door may help him feel a bit less “alone” in his bedroom. 

Empathize with any anxiety or fears your child communicates with you, but remain firm with the bedtime routine and continue to lead your child toward falling asleep independently in his bed. You might say, “I’ve checked your closet and under your bed, and there is nothing scary in your room. It’s time to sleep now, so that you’ll feel good and rested in the morning.” 

Remain calm, even if your child becomes fearful and anxious. By modeling the calm and relaxed behavior you want from your child, he is more likely to follow your example. 

Stay consistent in your bedtime expectations, requiring that your child adhere to the routine and stay in her bed. Your consistency should help your child feel more secure and safe in the long run. 

Give big hugs and dry his tears. Explain to your child that even though nightmares can seem very real, they are just dreams and can never hurt him. Tell him that the nightmare is over and assure him that he is fine. Help your child settle back into bed, snuggling with his security toy. Give him another hug and kiss and then tell him it’s time to go back to sleep again, and this time he’ll dream sweet dreams. 

Avoid activities that energize your child before bedtime. Television, wrestling and tickling may get him excited and make it difficult to settle down to sleep. 

Ways to Prevent Body Image Issues

Parents can follow these steps to instill a positive body image in their children (especially young girls) and help prevent eating disorders. 

Many of their negative associations come from painful memories that go back as early as grade school. From the first time a parent feeds a newborn baby, their attitude towards food and eating can leave an impression. A parent who is anxious while feeding her newborn and doesn’t pay attention to hunger cues can set the stage for problems with food later in childhood. By the time preschool comes around, the attitudes and approach parents have toward food sets the stage for how kids may feel later about food and eating. If a child witnesses her mom or dad express disgust at their image in the mirror, the child may begin to mimic that behavior. 

Mothers, then, are the first and most significant female models in their developing daughters’ lives. They are faced with the difficult challenge of modeling positive feelings toward food, eating, and body image. Here are steps that mothers can take to help their school-age girls and to prevent early eating and image problems. 

1. Model a Positive Body Image 

Be careful not to use words such as “fat” and “diet” around the home. Young kids, especially girls, are impressionable and susceptible, so teach them to be comfortable with their developing bodies. Convey this with phrases such as, “Honey, that dress really flatters your body” and “You are my beautiful child, inside and out.” 

Although parents who struggle with their own negative body image may find this difficult, it’s key to remain cognizant of the language and phrases said in front of children. It’s essential that all parents find the strength within to avoid making bad comments about their own bodies. 

2. Discuss “Sometimes” vs. “Always” Foods 

When it comes to discussing food choices, avoid categorizing foods as “good” vs. “bad” (which can make kids feel as though they’ve been good or bad) or “healthy” vs. “unhealthy.” Instead, talk about “sometimes” foods and “always” foods; this can help your kids understand that some foods are better eaten in smaller quantities and less often. 

Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins, and dairy products can all be explained as “always” foods that are useful and necessary for growth and development. Sweets and fried foods can be seen as “sometimes” foods that taste good but are not healthy or necessary to help us grow. 

When kids do desire “sometimes” foods, they should eat just a small portion and stop when satisfied. Because feeling full and satisfied may have a different meaning for every child, be attuned to your child’s unique nature of fullness. Let your child be the one to say when she is finished eating; don’t make the decision for her. 

3. Practice “Self-Attuned Eating” 

The “self-attuned eating” model, a process of learning to pay attention to and trust feelings of hunger and fullness, can help with making certain food choices. In my own practice, I rely on this model; while it may not work for everyone, I believe it is the best way to prevent eating disorders if it’s taught and practiced with children early on in their lives. This model teaches that feeling satisfied is important, so no food is off-limits and it’s okay to eat all types, whether carrots or candy. This helps them feel safe, comfortable, and open around all foods and promotes a healthy, normalizing attitude toward eating. 

4. Talk About Empty vs. Full Stomachs 

Discuss how food affects the digestive system and the body by sharing how to eat only when hungry and how to stop when full. Talk to your kids about how their bodies feel at the present moment. Try asking if their stomach feels empty and “growly” or if their stomach feels full and “heavy.” Re-enforce this on a regular basis to help kids feel connected to their bodies. 

Allowing children to decide when, what, and how much to eat helps strengthen their self-confidence, self-esteem, and sense of dignity. This also helps kids avoid the kinds of eating difficulties that have plagued many adults for life. 

5. Involve Children in the Lunch-Making Process 

Get creative by having your kids prepare their own lunches. Allow them to choose what they like and also teach the basic food groups. Offer enough options so that kids can choose chocolate milk one day and regular milk another day. Include them when grocery shopping so they are further involved in picking the foods they would like to have in the house. Talk about how their bodies need certain nutrients and vitamins to grow strong; this makes them feel that they have some control over what is eaten. 

As your kids consume a variety of foods, explain the purpose each one serves and the positive effects. For example, “We eat carrots because they have vitamins and help with our eyesight.” Although getting vital nutrients is crucial to development, enjoying the eating experience can have a long-lasting effect on the mind and body.