Q: I’m worried that my six-year-old son thinks about junk food all the time, even right after a good meal. I limit treats to once or twice a week at home, but he’s realized he can eat whatever he wants when we are visiting. We’ve tried grounding him from junk food for that kind of behaviour, but it doesn’t work. What’s going on?
A: This is a common problem these days as children are bombarded with junk food advertising. Kids your son’s age are especially vulnerable because they can’t understand that ads are created to convince people to buy stuff, and they can’t sort out healthy from unhealthy food. This is also an age when kids experience increasing peer pressure to eat junk.
The most effective way to influence your son’s choices is to model healthy eating for him. But don’t go overboard with restrictions and punishment — it can backfire and make the forbidden seem even more enticing.
Ask yourself if your son may be resorting to junk food as a comfort. Be sure you don’t inadvertently reward him with food in place of a hug, smile or verbal praise.