I enjoy the messages embedded in Aesop fables. There is one called ‘The Wind and the Sun’. It describes a competition between two of nature’s elements – the Wind and the Sun. They each set out to prove that they can make a passing traveller remove his cloak. Their methods are analogous to using restrictive feeding and normal feeding with children.
The Wind and the Sun
The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger.
Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road,
and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute.
Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak
shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.”
So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow
as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew
the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him,
till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun
came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller,
who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.
The Wind and the Sun go about getting the traveller to remove his cloak in very different ways. You would expect the Wind to win the battle – to be able to simply blow the cloak off the traveller’s back, wouldn’t you? The Wind goes about it with a lot of coercion, pushing, pressure. However, it makes the traveller wrap his cloak tighter to keep warm. The Sun, however, beams down on the traveller, gives its warmth and puts its trust in the process. In time, the traveller gets hot and instinctively removes his cloak.
Their methods are analogous to using restrictive feeding and normal feeding. When parents severely restrict access to forbidden foods they essentially have the same effect as the Wind – they drive their kids to cling to forbidden foods. This creates further obsession for restricted foods. When parents have a healthy relationship with food, they have the same effect as the Sun. Normal feeding gives our children permission to ‘be’ and decide when they have had enough. They needn’t be coerced to stop eating.
This is not permission to let our children eat what and how much they want. As parents it’s our role to feed our children well and trust their innate ability to take care of the eating.
Being overly restrictive doesn’t work, being ‘hot and cold’ doesn’t work and being lax about what our kids eat doesn’t work. Feel free to leave your comments and questions below. Or, call Eatwiser if you need help with the style of feeding to use with your children.