|my picky eater, eating a zucchini spear|
When he was 2 years old, Nate (now 4 1/2) couldn't be reasoned with. I focused on making sure he ate enough calories and gave him vitamins. Still, he didn't gain weight at all for several months. After he turned 3, Nate was more reasonable and had started eating a little more variety. It was a window of opportunity. We used it.
- I identified that trying new things was scary for him. We encouraged bravery (doing what you need to do, even though you are afraid), started with just 1 bite, and celebrated that bite!
- He wanted to be in control, so he was allowed to choose when he would eat his new food, but he had to eat it or he gave up second helpings of what he liked at supper and couldn't have his usual bedtime snack.
- I focused on vegetables because that is the main food group he has trouble with, and it was a huge hole in his nutrition. I choose my battles, in all things parenting. One I don't fight, for example, is potatoes. If he never eats potatoes (besides the fried variety), he's not missing much. He knows this and enjoys the control. He voluntarily tried roasted potatoes recently, liked them, but chose not to eat them the next time they were served. Fine by me. My battle is veggies.
- In the beginning, I served the same vegetable for supper every night for a week. The first 2 days, he had to eat 1 bite only, then 2 bites for 2 days, then a full serving until the end of the week.
- The next week, I still served the previous vegetable once or twice (now a welcomed old friend), but added a new every-night-veggie, and we repeated the process until we worked through all of our usual vegetables.
- When we are not at home, we take a break from the rules. Sometimes when we're at a restaurant, he wants to eat nothing but a plate of french fries. Hey - it's a special occasion! Why not?
Now, he knows he is required to eat the veggies on his plate, and if he doesn't, there are no seconds or snack. I don't fight him about it because the conflict makes him more resolute and me more grumpy. I just remind him of the consequences. Two nights ago, he chose not to eat his veggies, and we held to our consequences. Last night, he apologized and told me, "I will eat my vegetables tonight so I can have a snack." And he did.
My advice to parents dealing with a picky eater:
- Determine why. Do they genuinely not like the taste of many foods? Are they afraid? Do they just want control? (If said picky eater is a toddler, you may just be dealing with toddlerhood.) Then address it from that angle.
- Choose your battles.
- Have consequences and stick to them.
- Give the kid a break sometimes!
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