➕We are all naturally reinforced by positive rewards…but let’s talk about why they may not be appropriate at the table.
🚫 Eating is instinctive, easy, and we will all eat if we are hungry enough; right? Wrong! It is not true that kids will “eat when they’re hungry” and that “it’s their number one instinct.”
🤔 The when, how, and what we eat is strongly influenced by a variety of factors including what has been mentioned above. When a child is not eating often or enough, it can be tempting to seek to provide rewards (ex: “If you eat broccoli tonight, I will buy you a new toy.”) While this may be a short-term solution, it is not necessarily a long-term gain. Our goal is to help you as a family create a joy for eating within a comfortable, safe environment. If children are consistently performing for tangible rewards, they are not developing a long-term relationship with food that is sustainable.
💡 Note: Reinforcement can also occur as a social action (clapping, high-5s, cheering, etc.) This is another area that we want to avoid sticking to. Your child will have success at the table and we want to make sure we are not over-providing positive reinforcement such as loud cheers and hollers. Your gut reaction may be to jump up and down because they consumed their first bite of spinach, but instead try, “I see you tasted spinach; these leaves are so fresh today” in a calm voice.
Does this sound different than what you have been told? We may utilize a different philosophical approach to feeding therapy than the program your little one is in! Let’s clear the air in saying that there is not any one ‘right way’ to do feeding therapy, there are many different options and it’s always family preference as to what will work best for your little one. However, our goal is neurodevelopmental learning ! We always aim to stay as close to neurotypical learning as possible which via philosophy does not utilize external reinforcements, not saying this approach is wrong to be clear, it is just not one that we utilize! Many intensive programs that are more behavioral based will use external reinforcements or “rewards” to encourage and cue eating. We base out of a sequential oral sensory approach to feeding to address feeding as a fun but functional skill! (See The Sequential Oral Sensory Approach to Feeding for more ♥️ ) Our goal is to teach this skill to be generalized to all areas, and sometimes that can be difficult with cue based strategies because the child seeks a reward for each interaction, which sometimes can be more pressured based and not self initiated/intrinsically motivated!
❓Questions? Let us know below!