Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Picky Eater Don'ts

It is stressful enough to come up with children friendly meals let alone meals for a picky eater. Not only is my son a picky eater but so am I. I had an advantage over other people because I started working with children when I was young (thanks grandma), and started working as a nanny and in daycares when I was 18. So I have seen people deal with picky eaters and I have seen what NOT to do.

Picky eater, don'ts, single mom, food

Stop hiding the vegetables! So many people say do this and I do not know why. This is one of those things that gets under my skin for three reasons.

(1) Once you start this trend you have to keep doing it. You cannot hide the vegetables and then think when they turn 5 bust them out. You are going to have to fight about getting your child to eat it vegetables still. If that is the case might as well fight with the 24 month old.

(2) You do not know what they like and they do not know what they like. A child cannot tell you they like vegetables if they do not know they are eating them.

(3) Do you really think as adults they are going to CHOSE to eat vegetables? No, they did not see that they eat them when they were young so why eat them now. You have to create a positive association with the vegetables.

If you must hide the vegetables, you still need to have some vegetables visible on the plate.
Children need to see what they are eating, more so if it is not something they would normally eat.

Stop negotiating with the child.  Don’t go back on your word EAT IT means eat it. You do not get cookies (or whatever you give them) if you do not actually eat it. There are many ways children will negotiate, but here are the two I saw most often. 

“If I eat two spoon full can I have it then?” The answer to this should be (something like) “I am going to be proud of you but I gave you four spoonfuls, so if you eat all four you can have it.”
“Can I eat it later/tomorrow?” I do not believe in making children eat so I would never force a child to sit there until they eat it. So the option to eat it later should be on the table but desert is off the table.

Do not feel guilty about saying “no”. Veggies = dessert and no veggies = no dessert that should not change for any reason on any day. My son gets a desert almost every day and it is what got him eating in the first place. He knows the system he has to eat some kind of veggies (he is a little young for the negotiation so I do not have to worry about that) to get some desert.

Do not make the reward for not eating the vegetables better then eating vegetables. By this I mean do not give Pediasure that they like without trying everything you can first, or give them the Pediasure (or whatever supplement you use) but also stress they need to eat (without you stressing).

Have dessert, if you noticed I mentioned desert a lot in this post, which is because children respond to something they can touch (in this case eat). Do not think that you can just tell a child “eat it because it’s good for you” and that is going to do it. Children do not understand the gravity of what is good for them, what children want is gratification and eating vegetables does not do that. There is no large amount of dopamine sent to the brain eating a carrot, but there is when you have a cookie, strawberries, or a little ice-cream.

Do not lose patience with the process. All in all, it is a trial by error kind of thing having a picky eater, have fun with it. Try foods you never would eat and they may love it. Noah loves Mediterranean food and I am so, so about it. Noah also likes ranch but not on a salad then he wants a vinaigrette, just remember you are both learning.

Do go over the same veggies again. Give it a few weeks but try it again children’s plaids change often.

Do try vegetables that even you will not eat, my son likes some weird vegetables like okra (ewww who eats that?).

You need to eat vegetables so they will eat vegetables. You cannot tell them to eat vegetables and you yourself will not touch them. That is not going to work, remember children are more likely to mimic then to listen.

Don’t stress about it, if you stress they stress.

* Do not make the mistake of making food a reward this leads to obesity. It is one thing to give your child dessert it is another to give them candy or something when they behave. Food is not a reward. *

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Shakirah is a single mom to a 5 year old. She is a blogger, teacher, and graduate student. Her goal is to bring a more positive and realistic look into the lives of single mothers.

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