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So many times I hear parents say “little Jonny won’t eat anything but macaroni and chicken nuggets”. Little Jonny is only 3 years old. It makes me think that the tail is wagging the dog, if you know what I mean. I have seen parents so afraid that their children will starve that they are willing to serve them almost anything. My wise father used to say “when they get hungry enough, they will eat”. I tend to agree with that.
My goal here is not to scold parents. I know how stressful it is when our children refuse to eat. My goal is only to highlight some ways that we as parents help to create the problem, and how we can help solve it.
It is written all over your face
Our children look to us for clues of what is good or safe for them. This is a survival instinct that helps keep our children stay alive. Every good parent wants their children to be healthy and happy. Part of what makes that possible is good nutritious food, and little bodies just can’t function well without it. So when you serve little Jonny broccoli but you do not put any on your plate, he may be getting the idea that it is not safe for him to eat it. Another good way to make sure he never touches the stuff is to scrunch up your face in disgust when you see or talk about things you don’t like. Choose your words and facial expressions carefully.
Be a good example
As parents we need to set good examples for our children to follow. Children are always more likely to do what you do than they are to do what you say. If you are open minded and adventurous about food your children are likely to be the same. I recommend taking them shopping with you and teaching them about all aspects of the food you are buying. Teach them what makes certain foods better for their bodies than others. Allow them to pick a new vegetable to try, then let them help with the preparation.
Remember that you are the parent
You are the parent, and if your child will eat nothing but junk food, it is on you. Little Jonny can’t shop, pay for groceries or cook his own food. The choices that he has are the ones that you give him. I know it can be frustrating, and making changes can be a difficult but you are responsible for this little human and it is worth it.
He is going to starve!
I think it is pretty rare for a child to “starve” out of pure stubbornness. If your little Jonny is one of those children you may want to consult your pediatrician. If Jonny refuses to eat at a meal, there is always the next meal. I believe that it will only make matters worse if you give the child another option when they refuse the meal they are being served.
Take the power struggle out of it
Only serve the foods that you are ok with your child filling up on. If they love noodles and won’t touch broccoli, do not serve them noodles and broccoli and beg, plead or insist they have to try the broccoli. It won’t happen. Try serving a meal with broccoli and maybe other veggies they enjoy and some protein that they like. Serve it and ask them to take one taste of each thing on their plate. Then drop it. Then next time serve it again. It can take may times of seeing or trying a food before someone accepts it. Just be consistent and do not fight with them.
Who made me the expert
Well, actually nobody, however I raised 3 daughters of my own and had a daycare in my home for 15 years. Over the 15 year I had great success with getting the children to try new foods, and eat veggies that their parents swore they refused to eat at home. There was no power struggle. I was the “parent” and I only provided them with options that I was ok with them eating.
Let them snack all day long
Now I am going to contradict myself. I do believe that there is a snack that is appropriate to make available at any time, all day long. Even for the picky eater. Keep a plate of washed and sliced veggies in your refrigerator at all times. Make it pretty and colorful. When your child who refused to eat even 50 calories worth of food at lunch starts hollering for food, the answer is always yes. Yes, you may eat take the plate of veggies to the table and eat as much and as often as you want. The answer is always yes but the option is always the same.
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