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My son has a problem with eating. He can eat all the junk like KFC, McDonald's, or rice and sweet yogurt, but starts crying when I ask him to eat more healthy food, or when I ban his TV or iPad.

Part of the problem I feel is I live with my wife's brother and one was/is very demanding with what he thinks is right and that might have attributed to my son's diet. I am visiting my family after 7 years and no one except my mom had met my son, he is almost 6.

Since I have been here, I am hearing, "he is skinny" (have his blood test), "he looks depressed", "he is too suppressed", "you guys have pressured him much", etc.

I start to feel like a bad parent, but what can I do to make my son eat more as mentioned? He cries every time we tell him to eat or just want to eat junk food.

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    What culture is this? Is your son within normal weight ranges?
    – nick012000
    Oct 25, 2021 at 7:27
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    Do you consider rice a junk food?
    – Enguroo
    Oct 26, 2021 at 4:09
  • Is your son "meeting milestones" (i.e. developing normally for his age)?
    – Pam
    Oct 26, 2021 at 22:05
  • Does your son have the problem with his eating, or do you have a problem with his eating, or do your relatives/in-laws have a problem with his eating? If it's the last one, tell them they are not the parent and they are not to push their nutritional or medical advice on your son." Oct 20, 2023 at 21:43
  • @localhost, you write that your son "starts crying when [...] I ban his TV or iPad." Are you really surprised that your son dislikes when you forcibly take away what he likes? And how exactly would that change his eating habits? Oct 21, 2023 at 18:55

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I think it has to do with dopamine receptors. Your son may be experiencing some kind of stress, or it may be a feature of his body, meaning that he needs to constantly receive dopamine. And this means watching TV for several hours, eating fast food, eating sweets, etc. It's an easy addiction to fast dopamine. Of course, you need to gradually switch to sports and proper nutrition, otherwise it will lead to diabetes and obesity. Visit or consult nutritionists, psychologists and other doctors. I say this from my own experience, because I suffered from this as a child and was able to overcome it on my own only at the age of 19. The earlier you help him, the easier it will be.

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  • People aren't hormone machines. The appropriate concepts to invoke here are preferences and ideas and minds. Oct 21, 2023 at 18:56
  • +1 constantly feeding a child junk food and allowing screen time all the time will mess with his dopamine, and will lead to health problems later on. The fix will be to change everyday routines in the household and just to eat healthy meals. This is difficult in some children, but you just have to keep trying.
    – Koinc
    Oct 24, 2023 at 5:58
  • @Koinc The child should eat what he wants to eat. If you think his preferences are bad, try to persuade him. Don't force him to eat something he doesn't want to eat. Consider once more what Daniel Shaw wrote: he only overcame dietary problems at the age of 19, ie after his (presumably conventional/coercive) upbringing was over. What does that tell you about the efficacy of conventional parenting when it comes to healthy food choices? Dec 31, 2023 at 1:13
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Here is what we do with our kids, which seems to work well for the most part.

They eat whatever we are having for dinner, no special portions or requests. We put a very small portion of everything on their plate. This is the next thing they eat. They are not required to eat it at that meal, but they need to sit and follow the usual table rules and be with the family for while. After that they can be excused, and we'll put their food in a container for the next meal. They are not allowed to make negative comments about the food, but get to simply vote "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" after they've tried it. Sometimes if they eat the portion that they've been given, if they still do not like the food we allow them to have something simple, like toast or yogurt.

You didn't say what age your son is, but young children really don't require many calories. If he is eating junk food, especially between meals, he may just not need more calories.

We've found these rules to be effective. Instead of coaxing them to eat each meal, we simply say "that's fine if you're not hungry right now, but that will be the next thing you eat".

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  • "Instead of coaxing them to eat each meal" That is exactly what you're doing, even if you've successfully fooled yourself into thinking it's not. I feel sorry for your children. Oct 21, 2023 at 18:58
  • What I mean is that we don't take up all of our dinner time discussing whether or not the food will be eaten. Our children have learned to eat a wide variety of healthy foods without complaint. I feel sorry for children whose parents let them steer the ship.
    – A. Miller
    Oct 23, 2023 at 13:43
  • 'What I mean is that my wife and I don't take up all of our dinner time discussing whether or not the food will be eaten. She has learned to eat a wide variety of healthy foods without complaint. I feel sorry for wives whose husbands let them steer the ship.' Oct 23, 2023 at 14:02
  • @DennisHackethal parents are responsible for their childrens health and for teaching them to eat healthy food. Spouses - not so much.
    – Koinc
    Oct 24, 2023 at 6:00
  • @Koinc My comment was about how Miller treats children with the same sort of authoritarian, pre-enlightenment disrespect that husbands used to have for their wives. Regardless, manipulating children into eating things they don't want to eat produces a terrible relationship to food that is antithetical to maintaining a healthy diet. You don't need to choose between force and neglect. Nov 8, 2023 at 1:37

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