Picky Eaters: Tricky. Frustrating. Makes you want to scream (loudly).
You scream and I certainly can hear you. Having worked with picky eaters for years I know what parents go through.
The role parents play in supporting their child’s eating behaviours is a big-big-topic. Parents powerfully shape children’s food and eating behaviours. Just like parents act as important teachers in developing their children’s social skills, speech and language development and motor skills, they too develop their children’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours regarding food.
How? Parents are role models.They:
+ Select food for the family to eat. Research indicates that the extent to which fruits and vegetables are present and readily available and accessible in the home correlates positively with the level of consumption in school-age children.
+ Influence the amount of food and types of food available to their children
+ Teach children about food through the direct experience of eating and through their own eating behaviours.
+ Sculpt how children eat and use food: Be it for self regulation- comfort- pleasure- punishment.
5 Strategies To Avoid To Help Un-Pick Your Picky Eater
1. Coaxing. Usually the first trick we try right? I recall my parents trying to feed me meat using the old ‘airplane’ game (my dad made the best airplane noises while trying to land the ‘plane’ in my mouth). But no. It didn’t work. Actually it never worked (and is possibly why I’m a vegetarian!). While games are fun- making food is fun- if you need to spend hours feeding your children, it’s not going to work- for either of you.
2. Disguising. In my Ebook ‘Abracadabra! Feed My Fussy Eater!’ I talk about treading carefully with this. Sometimes this works well and children are pleasantly surprised. BUT- sometimes this falls into one huge, messy and crappy heap. If your child does discover what you have been up to chances are they will distrust you and new food and may even turn away from foods they used to love (because they know you see these as the perfect hiding ground for sneaking in new foods).
3. The ‘one-bite rule’. We have all used this (and likely had this used on us!). The “One bite and you can leave the table” phrase = battle (and one which you ain’t going to win- sorry!). Here’s the line up: one child with nothing to loose but time (and possibly gaining a little extra time before the looming bedtime arrives!) and one exhausted and anxious parent who has better things to be doing (honestly, you do!). I think you will agree with me about who might win this one…
4. Bribing. Again, many of us have- out of desperation- bribed children to eat something knowing they will get something ‘less than desirable’ afterwards aka dessert. This trick works- and that’s the trouble. Quickly, we are creating food associations with children where the ‘undesirable food’ is the reward and the healthy food- mostly vegetables- is the punishment. Yikes! No no no!
5. Threatening. When all else fails we likely turn to threats. Good old ultimatums. I certainly heard a few of these when meat was the last thing left on my plate. Even threats of not getting pocket money to not going to a party just didn’t bother me. Sound familiar? Children learn pretty early on that the punishment is worth putting up with to avoid eating the ‘undesired’ food. The more you threaten, the more they are likely to push back- testing to see how far you will go. Again, this doesn’t end well. You’re tired, they have only a momentary ‘something’ to loose. Threats (parental control and pressure to eat) have also been associated with lower intake of fruit and vegetables for children. See here for some interesting research.
Have you had any experience with feeding picky eaters? If you have any advice to help other parents, please comment below. We would love to hear from you! Know someone who would love these tips? Then share this information with them!
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