Helping parents become better feeders,
so they raise great eaters!

by Your Child Nutrition Expert Jill Castle

What’s Your Feeding Style?

October 14, 2010 | In: Child Nutrition, Feeding, Parenting

Feeding is arguably one of the most time-consuming and grueling jobs of parenthood.  Often thankless, and plagued with parental insecurity and low confidence, parents struggle and muddle through the process of feeding their children. Here is a sobering statistic:  throughout an 18 year childhood, a parent will feed their child over 28,000 times (assuming age-appropriate meals and snacks). The effort to feed a child can be overwhelming…planning, procuring, preparing, serving, and cleaning up.

Parent feeding styles, and their impact, warrant attention, particularly when you look at the magnitude of feeding interactions throughout a child’s life.

Researchers suggest that feeding styles, or the attitudes and actions a parent uses in the process of feeding their child, closely mirror parenting styles.  Did you know that each parent has a style of their own when it comes to feeding?  And while one style is generally used most of the time, all the parenting styles can overlap and mingle.

Our feeding styles also tend to mimic our own experiences as a child;  they are deeply ingrained, and our “go to” method for feeding our own children.  In other words, parent feeding styles reflect childhood experiences with food and eating.  In the current climate of childhood obesity, it is sobering to think about the feeding styles that our current generation of children may be using with their future offspring.

There are four parenting styles and as an extension of this, feeding styles (be sure to read to the bottom!):

Authoritarian, also known as “parent-centered” parenting.  In the realm of feeding, this style is associated with “The Clean Your Plate Club”, where rules about eating predominate, from trying foods to completing a meal. Dessert is contingent upon eating dinner.  Parents plate the food for their children.  Eating is directed by the parent, rather than self-directed by the child.  A child’s true feelings and subsequent actions about food and eating may be hidden, while potential animosity and compensatory behaviors build around eating.  Weight problems, both underweight and overweight, are correlated with this parenting style.

Permissive, also known as “The ‘Yes’ Parent”.  A parent with this parenting style feeds their child in a similar fashion: even though “no” or limitations may be the first response, “yes” ultimately reigns.  The classic example of this is the mother who is attempting to manage the vocal child in the grocery store who wants candy at the checkout stand.  He begs and begs, hearing, “no, no, no…well….okay, I guess so.”  Children of permissive feeders may become overweight, as research shows that the limits on calorie-dense foods may be unlimited.

Neglectful parenting, when aligned with feeding, often produces the ill-prepared parent: irregular shopping, empty cabinets and refrigerators, and no plan for meals. Food and eating may lack importance for the parent, and that may transcend to feeding their child.  Children who experience this feeding style may feel insecure about food and eating, and unsure about when they will have their next meal, if they will like it, and if it will be enough.  These children may become overly focused on food and frequently question the details around mealtime.

Authoritative, or the “Love with Limits” parenting style, promotes independent thinking and self-regulation within the child, but also sets boundaries within which the child is expected to operate. The authoritative feeder determines the details around the meal (what will be served, when it will happen, and where it will be served), but allows the child to decide if they will eat what is prepared, and how much they will eat.  Trust and boundaries are the basis of this parent feeding style.  Children who have authoritative parents in the home tend to be leaner, good at self-regulating their food consumption, and feel secure with food and eating.  The most current research advocates this style of parenting/feeding as an effective childhood obesity prevention approach.

So, mom and dad, what’s your feeding style and how is it affecting your child?

Stay tuned for How You Can Become an Authoritative Feeder….

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32 Responses to What’s Your Feeding Style?


Maryann @ Raise Healthy Eaters

October 14th, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Great article Jill!! I think you know my feeding style ; )



October 15th, 2010 at 11:55 am

Oh yes…your a great mom and provider/feeder!


? “Authoritative” parents help children learn good eating habits - Pediatric Medical Associates of Sacramento

October 15th, 2010 at 1:18 pm

[...] helps children tend to be leaner, good at self-regulating and secure with food and eating habits. (10/14) Food, General, Handouts and information, weight loss [...]



October 18th, 2010 at 8:12 am

Great post! I think this is such an important topic for parents and many don’t even realize how their actions affect their children. So great to have experts in this field educating the masses!



October 18th, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Thank you, Jessica! Yes, if we can influence parents early on, then hopefully we can prevent some of the feeding techniques that may be supporting weight discrepancies.


Ashley Rosales, RD

October 19th, 2010 at 4:02 pm

This is a great post! I have an 11 month old son and both my husband and I are “learning” to be authoritative parents. You hit it right on when you mention the balance between having boundaries yet maintaining trust. Thank you for the wonderful guidance and reminding me how many more meals I get to serve my son before he turns 18 (I probably have 27,000 to go)!



October 19th, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Thanks for your comments, Ashley. Yes, it can daunting when you think about the sheer impact feeding has on a child’s life! Stay tuned for how you can become an authoritative feeder!


How You Can Become an Authoritative Feeder « Just The Right Byte

October 21st, 2010 at 7:39 am

[...] my last post, you know that an authoritative feeding style is most effective at promoting a healthy weight, [...]


Rosaria Madonia

December 8th, 2010 at 12:17 am

Lovely sharp post. By no means believed that it was this uncomplicated. Extolment to you!


Eating Disorders, Part 3: The Parent’s Role in Preventing Eating Disorders « Just The Right Byte

February 4th, 2011 at 6:27 am

[...] feeding style is important.  An authoritative feeding/parenting style is associated with preventing childhood obesity and eating disorders and has a “love with [...]



March 20th, 2011 at 1:37 am

Thank you for your great post


Feeding is Love « Just The Right Byte

May 6th, 2011 at 6:59 am

[...] family meals aren’t always touchy-feely and nurturing. They can be laden with ineffective feeding styles that promote negative eating habits and negative feelings. Or, they can be loaded with parenting [...]


Dai Delaney

May 21st, 2011 at 10:29 pm

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May 22nd, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Thank you!


The 7 Habits of Healthy Kids « Just The Right Byte

June 1st, 2011 at 6:01 am

[...] see their parents doing it first.   Just telling your kids what to do won’t work (that’s the Authoritarian way)—they need to see you choosing healthy [...]


  Parent Feeding Practices: Prompting & Pressuring Kids to Eat by Just the Right Byte

July 27th, 2011 at 11:13 am

[...] to eat. But, prompting and pressuring can be a day-to-day feeding practice that comes from your feeding style and over time, it can be wearing on your child, and on your [...]


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  “Weight Watchers:” How NOT to Manage Your Child’s Weight by Just the Right Byte

April 3rd, 2012 at 8:06 am

[...] to dive deeper. An approach that gives parents insight into how their daily feeding interactions (feeding style and practices) affect their child’s eating, for the better or worse. An approach that is also [...]


  YOYO Meals: A Step Toward Building Healthy Eaters by Just the Right Byte

August 8th, 2012 at 11:31 am

[...] confuse YOYO with neglectful feeding—that is not the intent at all. There are boundaries and expectations with YOYO—it’s not a [...]


For Parents: How NOT to Manage Your Child’s Weight |

August 20th, 2012 at 7:40 am

[...] to dive deeper. An approach that gives parents insight into how their daily feeding interactions (feeding style and practices) affect their child’s eating, for the better or worse. An approach that is also [...]



September 16th, 2012 at 12:42 pm

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  Looking at Childhood Obesity Through a Different Lens by Just the Right Byte

October 2nd, 2012 at 8:27 am

[...] parents interact with their children around food and eating, such as authoritarian or permissive feeding styles, and rewarding or restricting practices, has an impact on how well (or not) kids eat, and their [...]


Childhood Obesity: A Different Take | Fooducate

October 21st, 2012 at 3:45 am

[...] parents interact with their children around food and eating, such as authoritarian or permissive feeding styles, and rewarding or restricting practices, has an impact on how well (or not) kids eat, and their [...]


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November 24th, 2012 at 6:58 am

This is really good post. Extremely good.


  Fresh Baby Review and Giveaway by Just the Right Byte

February 26th, 2013 at 10:21 am

[...] my kitchen island, plastic plates and cups at the ready, and served up their meal. At the time, my feeding style was different, and I would have welcomed a portioned plate with wells for food. Food portions would [...]


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