Recently I noticed that whenever my two year old is upset he asks for a “treat mommy.” I have made an effort since he starting eating solids to not use food as a reward, punishment or comfort as this is an issue that nearly every adult struggles with in life. So I asked myself, why does he have this food association? Where did he learn this?
It wasn’t until I dropped him off at daycare this morning that I figured out where he could be learning this. You see, my little guy often gets upset when we drop him off at daycare and today was no exception. He started to cry and right away one of his teachers ran over and asked him “T, do you want to come have a cracker?” I knew that it came from a good place, the teacher genuinely wanted to comfort him but it broke my heart to see that he was already learning to comfort his feelings with food.
This is an example of why comfort and emotional eating are so common among adults. It has been engrained into us since we were just little toddlers running around. So what can we do as parents? Try your best to not offer food to your child when he/she is sad, hurt, upset or as a reward for good behavior. Keep food neutral, enjoy treats whenever you feel the need to have one and learn to use your words and touch as the comfort or praise that your child needs.