Problem Behavior . . . or Food?
By Brenda Nixon

Ever wonder why kids act the way they do? Often it's theirt emperament, sometimes it's our parenting style, and occasionally it's the food they eat.

Got a tot who seems fidgety? It may be too much red food coloring or sugar in his system. Traces of these additives are everywhere, even in margarine and toothpaste! Manufacturers put a red coloring into margarine to change it from drab white to eye appealing yellow. Sweeteners are put in most toothpastes. Read ingredients listed on the package and try to decrease these non-nutritives from food sources. Then increase your little one's B vitamins and see if his jumpiness subsides.

Bed-wetting accidents make you and your child fretful? That yummychocolate cake and sips of soft drinks may be the culprits. Caffeine, found in chocolate and many beverages, can trigger urinary incontinence. Combine this with a youngster's immature bladder -- about half of the 3-year-old population wet the bed and 12% of 6-year-olds still do -- and you have additional problems. During the early years when little muscles are still gaining control, ease off giving your child caffeine.

Constipation causing calamities? It may be a power struggle as many hygiene issues are between parent and child. But it may be the type food your child is consuming. Restrict high-fat foods like French fries and pre-packaged lunches. It's not a convenience item if it creates bathroom battles. Instead load up your lad with high-fiber fruits and veggies. Many parents tell me their child hates fruit or is picky about which he will eat. Find creative ways to camouflage nutrition and loosen the bowels.

Are nighttimes a nightmare? If you're worn out with a child whoconstantly wakes in the night, discuss it with your pediatrician. Frequent insomnia could be a medical issue. Your pediatrician can rule out annoyances that cause nighttime waking such as pinworms or breathing problems. Studies suggest that the stress of allergies cause frequent wakings. If your child gets a clean bill of health, then consider your response to nighttime wakings. Are you inviting it by giving your child attention? On the nutrition side, offer more protein and calcium near the bed hour. Protein and calcium may produce relaxation or reduce allergy-related wakings. Try a slice of cheese or cup of yogurt as a healthy snack. Then you and your wee one enjoy some much-needed zees.

Does your kid say she brushed her teeth but you smell a lie? Ratherthan argue, know that chronic bad breath may be a throat infection or poor dental health. First, talk with your pediatrician about these two reasons. If there's no cause, then consider a food fermenting in the intestines. In youngsters, food that isn't being digested correctly may ferment and the odor escapes out the mouth. To keep halitosis out of your house, start a dietary diary to identify the "problem" chow. If you can isolate and eliminate it you may end the bad breath. Also increase vitamin-rich B, C, and E foods, which may help the body detoxify. It's vital that we watch our children's behavior and detect if what they've eaten is eating us. Regulating the foods in your home and lifestyle could help avoid some problems in behavior. Then you and your child will enjoy a more understanding and better relationship.

Copyright 2000, Brenda Nixon.
*some information for this article was adapted from Dr. Lendon Smith's book, Food for Healthy Kids.
Brenda Nixon is a speaker, writer, and coach on parenting. Her book Parenting Power in the Early Years is a top resource on many issues in living/working with young children. To contact Brenda about ordering her book or speaking at your next event go to


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