Ever come across one of your child’s friends who is a super picky eater? Or a niece or nephew? They come with an instruction pack from their parents about what they will and won’t eat, which of course out of respect and so that you don’t trigger a meltdown, you comply with.
Do you wonder how it came to be that way? That the child’s diet is limited to five or six elements, in some cases easy to eat minus cutlery, or soft smoothly style. They may be easy to source but lacking in nutritional balance.
Or is the issue closer to home and it’s your child?
And to compound the complexity of all of this, the child is energetic and all outward signs about growth and behaviour seem fine.
If it isn’t tackled, the problem doesn’t disappear and the underlying reasons can continue into adulthood. Let’s be clear some children can’t eat certain foods because of digestive issues or allergies so let’s exclude these youngsters. We are focusing on children who make the challenge of feeding them exhausting and impactful on everyone else at the dinner table, to the point when it’s been decided to avoid the problem for the sake of calm. Better a few forkfuls rather than another explosive and strained meal.
There is no time like the present. Don’t put it off, literally draw the line in the couscous now. Next meal.
Start by working your way through all the possible rebuffs in advance, how you will approach them and agree the strategy with other adults at the table. There is not room for a wafer thin element of mixed view or buckling under pressure.
Plan meals in advance to include the ‘no-no’ list. If your child hates greens start by offering one green bean with the rest of a typical meal. Or one spoonful of soup. If they want a second one obviously go for it and keep going, but if they don’t ask and just eat the one bean or one chunk of apple just stay chilled and tick the box of success. Don’t offer the same thing tomorrow. Choose another food. Same strategy, keep going, keep it relaxed. A few days in, offer the first ‘new’ item again. Do praise each time a new item is eaten. Make a deal of it and say “well done!”. And if they are hesitant say “go on, try one mouthful and that’s it, no more available there’s no more left”. That cuts out a child thinking there’s a whole plateful arriving in a minute. That’s the unexpected element. And do this for everyone, yourself included, make it part of ‘we’re all in it together’. You hate olives? Add one on the plate. You can even wrinkle your nose and say “yay I did it!”. And then the next time it’s hmmm think I like that. In tandem make a note of snacks consumed, see the pattern. It’s entirely understandable why someone might offer snacks ‘to make sure my child eats at least something’ but admit to yourself, this is part of the problem and scaling them back is part of the cure.
The earlier you start this process the easier it is to crack it.
The key is perseverance with this new strategy if it doesn’t work at first keep going, it can take weeks or even months but it will work. Remember a child may need to be offered something at least 20 times. Once you crack the nut and get going it becomes easier and your child getting to get to be a brave food warrior gets more commonplace.
Remember, there’s no need to go it alone, join Riverside Cares’ mailing list for updates, events, training, collaborations with the Child Feeding Guide for families and professionals, and posts on topics related to feeding children. Do you prefer individual support? We have a one-to-one consultancy service, contact us at http://firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more or check out riversidecares.wpengine.com
Ps Ohhh and btw we can also help your find professional childcarers for your home or early years setting, and offer classroom and on line training too.