Post # 1
I’m looking for some parenting advice to see if there is a practical way for my spouse and I to find a middle ground on our children’s eating philosophies. He was raised with a strict “clean plate club” rule. Meaning, he was expected to finish all of the food that was served to him and was not allowed to get up until it was finished. I, however, had a much more lienient upbrining in terms of meal time and was allowed to be “done” when I was full – whether there was food left or not.
I believe that “forcing” a child to eat everything in front of them past the point of natural hunger creates over eating adults who don’t listen to their body for when they should stop eating. I’ve tried explaining this to my spouse, and have even asked if he stops eating when he is full or when the food is gone and he doesn’t even know the answer LOL
Is there a middle ground here? I cringe every time he tries to force our older boy into eating when he’s moaning and groaning that he doesn’t want anymore. I’ve thought about giving the kids smaller portions as servings so it’s “finished” in my spouse’s eyes but…really?
Post # 2
Tell your husband this is outdated parenting linked to eating disorders? If you google anything related to what you are suggesting all of the modern advice is against trying to exert this kind of control over a child’s eating. If your child is not eating and then wanting snacks a short time later you could re-serve the meal. My older child is only two so we’re still working on food issues but there is so much obesity in my family I definitely don’t try forcing more eating if he’s at least tried the food.
Post # 3
So growing up my dad was the one that cooked all our meals and he also plated all our food. And we were expected to clean our plates. The problem was: he put so much food on our plates! It was so difficult to eat everything! Even when we liked the food and were hungry! But all it did was lead to fights and my brother (a very picky eater) sneaking food onto the floor or sitting at the table looooong after everyone else was done. Eventually we came up with the agreement that we still had to clean our plates but we were allowed to plate our own meals. So I could give myself a portion I felt appropriate. It helped a lot.
I don’t know how old your kid is but I think the “clean plate club” idea is really a thing of the past. A quick Google search will give you lots of articles to share with your husband as to how that fosters unhealthy eating habits in children so that could help with your argument.
Post # 4
What your husband is doing is potentially very harmful and can absolutely put children at risk for eating disorders. It’s healthy and good for children, and people in general, to eat until their body tells them to stop, and then stop! Forcing children to “clean their plate” serves no purpose other than for adults to exert control over childrens’ bodies.
When I was a child, as young as kindergarten, my parents wouldn’t serve me food, they would have me serve myself. So if we were having grilled chicken and rice, for example, I would scoop however much rice I wanted onto my plate and then take however much chicken I wanted. And if I wanted more, I was free to get up from the table at any time and serve myself more. My parents would encourage me to eat what I took, but there was no requirement to finish everything on my plate if I accidentally took too much food. Over time, I learned what good portion sizes were for me and started taking the right amount of food, so I rarely had leftovers on my plate after dinner. Maybe that would be a good “middle ground” for you and your husband.
Post # 5
I tend to agree with you. And as you get older you learn better how much food to take that you can finish. I have a lot of stomach problems so I’d not want to force feed someone else. Perhaps a good in between is if your child takes way too much food and cannot finish thrm the leftovers get saved to be finished when you are hungry later? That way the food waste is addressed but not to the point of overfeeding. But if there are one or two bites left then I’d ignore it.
Post # 6
Sorry, there is no middle ground. You’re right and he is wrong. Have him ask your kids’ pediatrician. This is a hill to die on. His harmful outdated view leads to unhealthy eating habits, and even worse, undermines their bodily autonomy. It teaches them that someone else has control of their body and that someone else is allowed to make them feel uncomfortable just because they want to. Gross. He needs to follow your lead here. I hope you can convince him.
Post # 7
My SIL does not subscribe to the clean plate theory. However, she wants our niece and nephew to learn gratefulness that a meal was cooked and served to them, and also to eat a variety of healthy foods. So if they say they are full after leaving part of an “average” helping on their plate, she will say “okay, we’ll package the rest of your dinner up, and you can have the rest as a snack if you’re hungry later.” This is to keep them from thinking they can say they’re full and ask for chicken nuggets or a pudding cup later because they didn’t want to finish their green beans, which she prepared for them and served to them.
It’s a nice balance.
Post # 8
I was raised in the clean plate club as that’s how both of my parents were raised as well. My husband ALWAYS leaves at least one bite of food on his plate and it drives me crazy. My parents have even jokingly commented on it if we eat with them. However, I do have issues with overeating and stopping when I’m full, and I think this has a lot to do with it. My husband is fairly fit and I am not (technically obese but I carry it well… not that that matters health-wise). His brothers are also skinny/fit but my sister has also struggled with her weight a bit and now our brother has started to pack on some pounds. I would say no to the clean plate club!!
Edited to add- it actually took me until age 25 to realize that when people say “stop eating when you’re full” they mean “stop eating when you’ve had enough”. I always took it as “stop eating when you literally can’t eat any more food”. Not only that, but I tend to eat quickly and therefore might not get the “full” signals early enough. My husband eats slowly (by playing on his phone, which isn’t a great habit either) but I am wondering if my parents encouraged me to eat quickly, rather than playing with my food, talking, moving around in my chair, etc. which could maybe factor into it. And when I was young, my parents tried to bargain with me to eat my veggies by saying “if you don’t eat your veggies, you don’t get dessert” which led me to realize veggies were OPTIONAL (if I was willing to sacrifice dessert). Guess who stopped eating veggies and started eating whatever she wanted as soon as she lived on her own? Ugh! Finally, I have read that forcing kids to eat food they don’t like/want can lead to them being pickier. It’s better to encourage them to try everything at least once but if they really don’t like it, they don’t have to finish it. My mother’s father always said “you don’t have to like it to eat it”. I ended up an incredibly picky child and am still “coming around” to foods I’ve hated my whole life in my 30s. If you eat nasty cabbage as a kid and are forced to finish it, you’ll avoid cabbage forever. Whereas if you tried and didn’t like it, then tried it prepared a different way later on and did like it, you can change your mind on foods more easily.
Just want to say my parents were amazing parents and did what they thought was best! Getting your kids fed is hard and I did not make it any easier. But these are some possible pitfalls when it comes to food and eating habits!
Post # 9
Child care professional here. You are absolutely right. Lots of kids aren’t big eaters; I wasn’t either. Your son is listening to his body’s signals about when to stop. Ignoring those signals isn’t healthy. Maybe as a compromise with your husband, the kids can clean up and refrigerate whatever they don’t eat, so it at least feels like they’re learning a bit of responsibility. I don’t know how old your son is, but when he becomes a teenager I’m sure the situation will be different 🙂
Post # 10
Just another note that sometimes when kids seem picky they could be having an intolerance or food allergy and are unable to verbalize the reaction they are feeling. It comes up a lot in my food allergy groups. And forcing that food down could be a disaster.
I have a lot of food allergies some deadly so I know it sounds scary but your first reaction is very confusing and children don’t always know what’s happening. I used to always have pain eating certain fruits come to find out its an allergy.
Post # 11
our daughter don’t have to finish everything that is served
to her, but if she scoops it herself she needs to eat it. We’re trying to balance teaching her to listen to her body but also not to be wasteful. Sometimes she’ll ask me to give her more right from the start and I say “finish that and if you’re still hungry you can have more” so I definitely think smaller portions and allowing for seconds would be the best middle ground for your situation. For what it’s worth I think you have it right and your husband is wrong.
Post # 12
Obviously it’s better not to put too much on the plate to start, but your husband is just wrong. Would he be willing to discuss this issue with your pediatrician?
Post # 13
My husband and I have this same back and forth. He and his siblings were required to eat everything on their plate AND they weren’t the ones who made their plates (which is a terrible, harmful parenting habit). My Mother-In-Law has mentioned, more than once, that she regrets the impact this has had on her kids, but she didn’t know any better at the time. My mother came from a family where she was forced to eat all of the food on her plate and couldn’t leave the table until she had (and her parents both worked multiple jobs so the food they prepared tended to be hurriedly thrown together and not very pleasurable to eat) so she deliberately didn’t pass that on to us.
For us, it’s a matter of constant conversation. We have an agreement with our son that he doesn’t have to finish all of a food we first introduce to him, but he does have to take a couple bites before he can say he doesn’t like it or doesn’t want any more. My husband really dislikes food waste and I absolutely understand that (From my experience, food stuffing kids is a behavior that is pretty common in parents/families where poverty and food insecurity were significant concerns). However, I’m also not going to allow my husband to act out his childhood traumas on our kid(s) to avoid bruising his ego. Food stuffing is harmful. Forcing children to eat is harmful. Adults who do so are out of line. So my husband knows that he can push to a certain point and then I’m going to override him. Because our household honors each member’s bodily autonomy before we adhere to outdated plate cleaning rules.
At the very least, I’d say that if your household is going to be one where people are expected to finish the food on their plates, then kids should get a say in how much goes onto their plates in the first place and then they should be able to refrigerate any leftovers. Teaching your children bodily autonomy is one of your jobs as parents. Food stuffing violates a person’s bodily autonomy.
Post # 14
I’d recommend looking into Feeding Littles. You can follow them on social media for free advice or take their courses. Super helpful.
Your husband is totally is the wrong and there really isn’t a middle ground here.
Post # 15
would he listen to expert advice on this? Every child nutritionist and psychologist says this is a damaging practice. I’d print of some literature and ask him to read it.
If he’s not the kind of parent who takes expert advice into consideration…. ack. I’d have a very hard time co-parenting with someone like that 🙁