It’s common in business for managers to look for “autonomous problem-solvers.” Why? These are people who can assess most problems or situations that come their way and find some kind of solution without the need for another to lay it out for them.
This doesn’t mean they don’t need help from others. On the contrary, the best problem solvers are those who know how and where to find an effective answer to a problem and then implement that solution. It often involves a combination of applying their own knowledge, asking questions, and seeking advice before reaching a solution.
As parents, our goal should be to equip our children to become autonomous problem-solvers. This isn’t something that happens overnight, nor is it something that they typically fully achieve until adulthood. However, it is a process and should be an intentional part of what we do as parents.
How Does This Apply To Nutrition?
While it’s true for many areas of their life, let’s focus on nutrition since that’s what I do.
When they are very young, we control everything they eat. As infants, they get breast milk or formula. That’s it. No choice. When they start to eat soft foods, again, they eat what we give them.
At this stage, we may start to find flavors they enjoy more or less than others. In some sense, they are starting to make some choices based on preferences but as illustrated in the reverse funnel in the image below, we still do not give them much freedom.
They may not like one vegetable but that doesn’t mean they get fruit instead. They still get a vegetable but we may choose another for them.
As they grow a bit more we allow them more choices and more freedom in what they eat and how much they eat. Or, at least we should. Still guiding their choices to ensure proper nutrition, but allowing them to essentially practice making choices on their own to a degree.
Importance of Education
Education plays a vital role in all of this. A proper understanding of the fundamentals of nutrition allows them to make informed decisions as they grow in their capacity for solving problems.
For example, when a child or teenager understands the importance of food as fuel for their bodies, they can solve the problem of lack of energy when they are not eating enough by eating more. When they understand the role protein plays in recovery they can solve the problem of feeling sore and rundown after football practice by making sure to get protein at each meal.
The important thing is that by the time they reach adulthood, they should begin to become autonomous problem-solvers when it comes to managing their health. They should be capable of making choices with regard to their nutrition and health without their parents giving them the answers. They should have a foundation of knowledge to take care of the basics and enough wisdom to know when and where to seek help when needed.