Eating and nutrition is always on the minds of parents. You can’t help but wonder if your child is eating enough, or if they’re getting enough variety, or if they’re getting all the right nutrients. In my house, we’ve always had many different meals and food arrangements. But we don’t make different meals for each child.
Although my kids were all raised with the same parents and parenting style, they all developed very differently around food. And in my experience, forcing my children to eat was not the answer. Our motto at home regarding picky eating remained the same as my stance on many other topics – “You get what you get”.
You can’t change who your children are, you can only encourage them to be the best they can be. With food, that meant offering them choices and then sticking to our guns. Making a huge deal out of eating can create a power struggle and backfire. The issue is no longer the food, but a contest of wills. So if you have a little picky eater in your house, here are a few tips to help encourage them – without starting a war.
Tip #1: Offer them what the family is eating. If they choose not to eat it, that’s okay. Sometimes a child or two walked away hungry from our dinner table. They were not allowed extra dessert or late night snacks if they chose not to eat dinner. Though they may choose to skip a few meals, children won’t starve themselves. Sooner or later, my children decided to eat what was given to them (or at least try it and, eventually, eat most of it).
Tip #2: Follow through on tip #1. If your child knows they’ll get a bowl of cheerios or popcorn later in the evening, the lesson is lost.
Tip #3: Let children serve themselves. Give them the power to decide their portions as soon as they are able to hold a spoon. Yes, this can be a pain. Yes, there will be more spills. But, it’s worth it. If they don’t want any, ask them to say a simple “No, thank you”. At our house, “Yucks!!!” are met with polite reminders that everyone has different tastes in food, and someone might feel bad if you say their food is yucky.
Tip #4: Have them eat with other children as much as possible. My kids were much more likely to eat something new if their friends or siblings ate it. Especially their friends! If your child has a buddy who is a good eater, invite him or her over for snack time or lunch as much as possible. Don’t make any other comments about the food – just let your child observe. This is way more powerful than anything you can say.
What are some of the issues you’ve faced with food? Sharing stories is sometimes the best way to find the answer you’re looking for!
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