4 dangerous types of ‘forced feeding’ that are commonly seen in Vietnamese families

Many families go through great lengths to try to force their children to eat a little more. However, doing so not only makes the child even more reluctant to eat, but also causes emotional damage that is difficult to heal.


Jennifer Anderson is a licensed nutritionist with a Master’s degree in Community Health Sciences from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In 2019, she founded Kids Eat in Color, a resource to help families from the start of feeding to grade school.

One of the challenges many parents face is getting their children to eat healthy foods. Jennifer has helped parents create a happy and enjoyable eating environment where their children can learn to enjoy new foods.

In particular, to help children develop a healthy relationship with food, avoid these 4 harmful phrases:

“You can have dessert after you eat your vegetables.”

When parents use sweets as a bribe to get a child to eat something like vegetables, the child may understand that the vegetables are not good enough to eat on their own.

Children need a balanced perspective on food, and comparing different types of foods to each other does not encourage them to make healthy choices. It’s better for parents to say, “You can eat vegetables whenever you want.”

This approach often works better than using sweets as a bribe. Additionally, making meals fun can also help children become interested in foods they didn’t previously like in their own unique way.

For example, you can pretend that a spoonful of soup is a microphone and sing into it before eating.

“Clean up and then you’ll get a treat.”

This type of phrase can make a child always want sweets more than other types of food. The child may also associate sweets with a comfortable feeling and always expect sweets when they want to improve their mood.

It’s better if parents say, “If you can keep things tidy, we’ll play a game you like today.”

Parents should choose rewards other than food and enjoy treats together with their child when they want to eat.

“Eat one more bite and then you can take a break.”

This is a method of forcing a child to eat according to a parent’s desire, without allowing them to refuse. A child who is pressured to eat may eventually stop paying attention to feelings of hunger and fullness. As they grow up, they may also not feel comfortable saying no to things they don’t want.

It’s better for parents to say, “If you don’t want to eat anymore, say that you’re full.” Teaching children to decline food in a respectful manner is better than making them eat a few more bites.

“Eat more to make Mom and Dad happy.”

Many people use this phrase because they are concerned that their child is not eating enough to get the proper nutrients.

However, this type of phrase only teaches children that they should develop good eating habits to please their parents, while they should actually understand how nutritious foods benefit their bodies.

It’s better for parents to use phrases like, “Carrots have a lot of vitamin A, which is good for your eyesight and helps you see better.”

Explain to your child the benefits of healthy eating for their body. Providing children with factual information will help nurture their desire to explore and eat new types of foods.

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