Picky eater on your hands? Perhaps you are making this one common mistake that can be a hindrance to breaking this common struggle.
As a mom of seven, including two picky eaters, I am no stranger to mealtime battles. Actually, calling issues with eating a battle is the common mistake that we as parents so easily make.
Meal time issues and picky eaters can be difficult to deal with, and because they are fighting us on eating the food that we have paid for and then taken the time to prepare, it can really get under our skin.
While there is no way to avoid feeling frustrated when our kids want to fight us on eating, we can avoid making the common mistake of turning it into a battleground.
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Over the past 15 years, I have found the greatest success in overcoming picky eaters in not making it an issue at all.
Most kids like to feel in control (don’ we all?), and kids are very observant when it comes to knowing how to push our buttons. With these two things combined, our kids can be quite powerful, can’t they?
This is why when we are discussing dealing with picky eaters we must start with tip number one:
Don’t fight with your picky eater kid
In fact, don’t respond or react negatively in any way. When they want to dig their heels in the sand and say “no!” when it comes to eating a certain food, you must remain as cool as a cucumber. You must appear to your child as though it is completely fine with you whether they eat it or they don’t, and they must feel as though the decision to eat or not to eat is their decision – there will just be consequences to that decision.
Now that we have established this sense of calm as our ground zero, let’s move on to the other nine tips.
Recognize that you may be extra sensitive to issues with a picky eater
If you are a picky eater or if you have lived with a picky eater at some point in your life, you will be more easily set off by kids who don’t want to eat something. For instance, my husband is a picky eater. This has made me more sensitive to my kids and any food issues they may have. Recognizing this about myself, I know that I need to take an extra step back and give some grace when my kids exhibit picky eating tendencies. Maybe this is something you need to be aware of, too.
Realize that kids may refuse to eat something for a variety of issues – some of these may have nothing to do with food
Some kids are just strong willed and will look for ways to fight you. Other kids enjoy controlling you in any way they can, and food is a pretty easy way to accomplish this, especially if you are very reactive to it. Sometimes kids really do not like the flavor of a food, but other times it is a texture issue. This is where my husband and son fall. They don’t mind the flavor of things like cooked onions, tomatoes, or mushrooms, but they can’t deal with anything mushy and slimy, so these things are foods that they just don’t like.
Have you ever tried having your picky eater help in the food preparation?
This can be a great way to avoid battles over foods. Kids are so much more likely, and even excited, to eat things that they help prepare. Sometimes just taking the mystery out of what is in something like a casserole can be all they need to decide that eating it really is ok. Even little kids can help with basic things like dumping cans into a pan, ripping up lettuce for a salad, or stirring something.
Always give options at each meal
This is always a good thing, but I pay special attention to making sure that my picky eater will have something that they like to choose from when we are eating something that I know they don’t like. They still have to abide by our “three bite rule” of the food they don’t like, and they can’t fill up only on the things they like since there has to be enough to go around, but they will not go completely hungry by only eating three bites of something because they have other things to choose from.
If your kids are giving you problems with eating, it could be because they are just not hungry enough to eat foods that are not their favorite. If they don’t come to a meal hungry and know that there will be a snack at some time in the near future after the meal, they often don’t see the point of eating something they don’t like. Hungry kids are more likely to eat what they are given.
Reintroduce foods several times
Don’t expect that a new food will be immediately received. In fact, it may take ten or more times for kids to develop a taste for something – or at least a tolerance. If they have only been given something a few times to try, don’t automatically assume them to be picky about it. Down the road they may decide that they actually like it!
Make the things they don’t like fun
The sky is the limit here, really. You can serve their food on a special plate of their choosing, you can put their food in a muffin tin, like these, Keliwa 12 Cup Silicone Muffin & Cupcake Baking Pan / Non – Stick / Dishwasher – Microwave Safe / 21 FREE RECIPES, silicone baking cups like these, Ipow Silicone Cupcake Baking Muffin Cups Liners Molds Sets,24pack can make mealtimes really fun, too. My rule is that I will do what I can to make meals fun if it really doesn’t take extra time or effort. As moms we are often willing to do what we can for our kids, and this is a way that we can apply this same principle to food.
Only require that kids eat a small amount of a food that they don’t like or are still trying to get used to
This is where our three bite rule comes in. They must be decent bites, but three bites is all I require at a meal. Those are three bites without complaining, too.
Establish regular mealtimes
Schedules and routines are helpful for kids in so many ways, and regular mealtimes are no exception. Regular mealtimes just give way to the “this is just the way things are” part of life that is so valuable for kids to learn. Regular mealtimes are just a way that you can lessen the chances and severity of having an eating issue on your hands.
If you’ve got kids, chances are that you will have kids who don’t want to eat something that you’ve set before them at one time or another. Paying attention to these 10 tips, especially the first one, can help diffuse these issues or even head them off at the pass.