About half of all parents would say they have a picky eater.
Here are some tips to help take the pressure out of mealtimes and make mealtimes more enjoyable.
You Work So Hard On Dinner
It can become frustrating when you work hard to make a meal and your little one says, “yuck” or refuses to eat the meal. It’s common to feel as if you wasted your effort and money on food no one eats.
Your Child Can Sense Your Frustration
Try to change your perspective and have fun at meals, even when your little one is throwing food or pushing it aside or saying “yuck”.
Sometimes I pretend I’m on candid camera. In our home, mealtimes can get pretty ridiculous since my twins feed off each other’s bad behavior. If one throws food on the ground the other one will throw her whole plate. it’s almost as if one has to one-up the other one’s bad behavior.
Kids feed off your energy so find a way to re-center yourself before mealtime so you go into it with the right frame of mind.
A lot of kids seek out attention, even if it’s bad attention. The dinner table is a great place to get a lot of attention for misbehaving. So if your little one is misbehaving or throwing food around, do your best not to feed into it.
Ignore the behavior or follow through on time-outs just as you would for any other bad behavior.
Above all, make dinner times a fun and social time for the whole family. This is one of the most important rules to follow.
Check Out More Kids Recipes Here:
- Cooking with Kids: Creative Ideas to Get Your Kids in the Kitchen
- Fun Recipes for Kids. 20 Recipes Your Kids Will Love to Make
- 16 Healthy After School Snack Recipes. Keep Your Kids Full Until Dinner Time
Serve New Foods Paired with a Food He or She Knows and Trusts
One of the best ways for a child to expand the number of foods he or she eats is by exposing a child to a larger variety of foods.
A child can need to be exposed to a new food 15, 20 or even 30 times to a food before he or she can feel comfortable enough with the food to try it. It can take even more times for your child to learn to appreciate the food. So don’t give up!
By serving at least one food your child is already familiar with and enjoys eating, will take the pressure off your child to have to eat the new food.
This way you are offering a safe food at each meal.
The goal is to expose them to the new food, but it can take countless exposure points before he or she is ready to try the food.
The ultimate goal is to get your child to eat the new food, but all in good time. Since when do kids ever do what we want them to do when we want them to do it? It’s through repetition that your child will learn to like the food, so keep exposing him to it!
A Yale child psychologist always told parents of toddlers that, “one good meal a day is better than three awful ones.” –Louise Bates Ames
What the psychologist is trying to say is that your child might not eat a lot at breakfast or lunch, but might may eat a decent dinner and that is ok! A child’s stomach is the size of his or her clenched fist. It’s more important you help your child develop life-long healthy habits than it is about how much your child eat at any one given time.
Do you have the right expectations for how much your child should be eating?
Don’t Demand Or Pressure Your Child to Eat. Be Neutral.
Be completely neutral about food. It’s your job to provide your child with healthy options to eat, and it is your child’s job to eat it.
Free yourself of the guilt! Your child has his own job to do and you can’t do it for him.
Don’t demand or pressure your child to eat. It only backfires.
The Research Supports Not Pressuring Your Child to Eat
Penn State did an experiment where they separated 27 preschool kids into two separate groups and served two different kinds of soups to the kids. The researchers pressured the kids in each group to eat one of the soups, and in both cases, the kids ate more of the soup that the researchers did not pressure them to eat. In order to remove bias, they flipped the soups that they pressured the kids to eat. Plus, the preschoolers made less negative comments about the soup that the researchers did not pressure them to eat. Now if that isn’t reason enough to lay off the pressure, I don’t know what it is 😉
Emotional Eating, It’s a Thing, Even At a Young Age
Make mealtimes a positive experience and your child will carry this relationship with food through the rest of his or her life.
Try putting yourself in your kid’s shoes, and think when someone pressures you to do something, you might put your defenses right up and you dig your heals in. Then, the more you dig your heals in the harder it is for you to be open minded because you don’t want to lose face. Well, that’s what is happening over asparagus <or insert another food>.
Your child is exerting control and it generally rears its opinionated face at mealtime. Kids get to make so few decisions in a day that he or she will use food as a way to exert control. And, it can be maddening for us- parents.
Offer Rewards, But Don’t Negotiate Over Desserts
If you catch yourself saying if you eat a few more bites of green beans then you can have a cookie, you are teaching your child that the green beans are bad and the cookies are good. Crazy, I know!
This can cause your child to like green beans even less. So you are going in the opposite direction, long-term, with the dessert deal.
Have you tried setting up a reward system for trying new foods? Instead of rewarding your child with food, (as in the dessert deal), try rewarding him with non-food related rewards like stickers or more park time.
Watch this Video About Why You Shouldn’t Use Food as a Reward for Kids
This reward system can help your child associate these foods with good outcomes and not punishments. This also helps him or her get acclimated to the food by positively rewarding the behavior and not by taking something way.
Keep Exposing Your Child
There are a number of studies done on child eating. Many of these studies show that a child’s taste buds are still developing, so it’s essential to get him or her exposed to all different kinds of foods. Over time, the hope is for your child to learn to like the food, if exposed to it enough times (upwards of 30+ exposures). So don’t give up!!
Have you ever wondered how kids from other countries eat the exotic cuisine of their home country? In Vietnam or Russia, they are not being served mac and cheese and chicken nuggets. My parents are Russian and I love a good borscht soup.
Model Eating Vegetables
Don’t forget to model the behavior you want your child to do. If you want him or her to eat vegetables, make sure you are eating your vegetables in front of them.
Check out the article on how to get your kids to love vegetables and even ask for seconds.
No one tells us how hard this is going to be! Don’t get discouraged. It’s hard for most of us. Don’t be fooled by those Facebook posts showing those kids who eat everything. A huge percentage of parents are struggling with mealtimes too. You’re in good company.