Q: I have two boys who eat great but they have completely different body types (one small for his age and the other heftier.) The younger, more hefty boy has a sweet tooth and I have concerns about his weight. Do I continue to feed them the same way?
A: Yes. Continue to feed your boys the same way. To explain why this is my answer, let’s consider what would happen if you fed them differently.
If you started singling out your heavier child, he might get the idea you don’t approve of his body size (even though that’s not your intention) and this could negatively affect his self-esteem. Additionally, seeing his brother eat different foods – and allowed to have seconds – could make him preoccupied with foods and eat more when he gets the chance. Research shows that restricting food intake is counterproductive.
Another problem with giving your smaller child more leeway when it comes to eating is that he won’t learn the healthy habits he’ll need as he gets older. Healthy feeding strategies help all children grow into weights that are right for them. Some kids will be bigger and others will be smaller and many will be somewhere in between. What you want to avoid is dysregulation of eating — eating more or less than what the body needs.
By helping both your children self-regulate their eating, they both can grow into a weight and size that is right for them. After all, it’s not in a parent’s power to control a child’s body size.
For more on helping children self-regulate their eating, check out Maryann’s book How to Raise a Mindful Eater: 8 Powerful Principles for Transforming Your Child’s Relationship with Food