Saturday, May 06, 2006

Picky Eaters...There's One in Every Home

A commentor asked this question:

If you have any tips on getting kids to stop being picky eaters I would love to hear it…I am trying to stop making them special dinners. So far if they refuse to eat what the adults are eating they are free to serve themselves cereal, a piece of fruit or a healthy type granola bar. This isn't working well, though; they still aren't eating what my husband and I eat. The two Pediatricians are not giving us any ideas, either.”

That’s a good question that all parents have to answer to their satisfaction sooner or later. I don’t believe in forcing a child to do anything, but I do believe in putting circumstances in their life to help persuade them to make wise and right choices. We want our children to eat healthy food even when mom is not around. We want them to be able to go to someone else’s home whether it is the president or the next-door neighbor and not be embarrassed because they hate the dinner fare. In short, we want our children to grow up and live happy lives.

I try to allow my children to make their own choices as much a possible, but I narrow the choices down to just a few. For example, if my child doesn’t like the meal being served, he doesn’t have to eat it. But he will not get any substitutes and he will not get dessert. And I tell him, “ You may choose to eat your supper and have dessert, or you can skip supper tonight, but you may not have anything else until the next meal. What do you decide?” In this way, the child is given the freedom to make a choice. I’m not forcing him to eat his dinner, but IF he chooses not to, it will not be very pleasant for him.

So, he thinks it over and says he’s not hungry. Okay, that’s fine. I don’t show any exasperation with his choice. We just go on with our family mealtime. What usually happens is my young child whines and begs for something else, but I do not give into this manipulation. (yes, he’s a genius-all kids are) He then chooses to leave the table a little bit hungry and tries to wear mom down another time. I don't give in but leave his plate out for him just in case he changes his mind. I do not give a snack either or I am prolonging the whole process. After a few days (or weeks depending on the child) of this, he realizes that eating a little bit of the nasty stuff maybe isn’t such a bad idea, after all, since mom is not going to give him anything else. He MAKES THE CHOICE to eat it.

If I prepare a special meal for that child, he will never learn to broaden his taste buds…and they certainly can be changed. I have done this with all my children. They are all very good eaters now and love just about anything served to them. This was not always so, however. They learned gradually to like various foods and now love to try exotic dishes. (It helps that my husband raves about any kind of food out of the ordinary.) My three year old is going through this time of ‘taste bud enlightenment’ and usually ends up eating his meal because he knows he can’t change my mind and he really wants that dessert (an apple is considered a dessert in our home and it is quite a motivator).

There is no need for harshness, no need for a scene at the dinner table. Put the choice in the child’s lap and let him govern himself. I usually do try to make meals that my children will like. I don’t cook a lot of food smothered in peppers and onions. If I make pizza, I make a variety of toppings. When I cook vegetable soup, I often puree it with a hand blender, knowing the kids love it this way, etc…. The point being made here is that even though we are trying to help the child strengthen his will to eat what he doesn’t care for, we do it with mercy and tenderness.

1 comment:

  1. previous commentors3.1.07

    May 6, 2006 - Untitled Comment

    Posted by Leigh2

    This is exactly what I am trying to do. Sadly, I did not do it for my oldest and she is HORRIBLE about not wanting to eat what I serve...and years ago I started letting her fix herself something else. she's fourteen, and if I let her fix herself something else, then the littles want something else, I've been saying no. It is not fun to say no to a fourteen year old when you've foolishly said yes to them for years. Ugh.

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    May 8, 2006 - Hello form Canada

    Posted by Canadagirl

    I am so glad you stopped by my web site and you are such a fresh breeze. It is always such a treat to find others who like Charlotte Mason. I was looking at your pictures in the middle east. I can't wait to show my boys your pictures, we spent a long time studying the ancient civilizations. My oldest son loved reading about the greeks. About eating with fussy eaters. What you suggested I totally support. That is exactly how I got all my boys to eat almost anything, like squash.( which all four boys has to grow to like ) Your web
    page is amazing would you give some suggestions on how to add pictures and customize?
    I will definitely visit your web page often.

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    May 8, 2006 - for Leigh2

    Posted by lindafay

    ...but you recognize the problem and are dealing with it! That's wonderful. Sometimes hindsight is a very good teacher, isn't it?


    PS. Loved your embarrassing moment story!

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    May 8, 2006 - to Canadagirl

    Posted by lindafay

    Thanks for visiting. I answered your question on your weblog.

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