Parents’ Guide to Picky Eating – Phase One

06 December 2016

Nurture versus nature? This is the ultimate perfectionist parents’ question to almost any ‘off the beaten path’ behavior that their children exhibit. Whether it’s calling out an answer in class without raising their hands, or being terrified to say goodbye to mommy on the first day of school, some kids have more mischievous tendencies, while others demonstrate endearing idiosyncrasies. Either way, it is likely that neither of these stray molds of potential child behavior are what the parents intended for when their little ones entered this world. And, so, the question arises – did I make them this way? Could I have done something different?

If there is one area that parents instinctively feel blameworthy for it is their child’s food behavior. “I don’t know why Molly is throwing a temper tantrum. It is so uncharacteristic. She usually LOVES avocado.” (Insert panic thoughts: Oh no, what will these other parents think of me?).

Here is a little parent trivia. What is more frustrating than having your child act out because they don’t want to eat their vegetables today?…well, you may have many answers, but the # 1 complaint I get from parents is that they cannot stand when other bystanders give them judging eyes and parenting advice with a side of smirking. No, thank you.

Instead of falling into the rabbit hole of pondering where you went wrong, take a step back and give yourself a break. And while you’re at it, give your child one too. Channel your brain-busting frustration into a productive endeavor to work WITH your child to understand the root (pun intended) of their dietary debacle. Remember, both of you are annoyed, but only one of you possesses the adult-like aptitude to take these moments of parenting weakness and transform them into glorious milestones.

For those “I have THE solution” to your dinner-time battles and breakfast blowouts, I call their bluff. Erroneous! Childrens’ behavior is more diverse, and, therefore, much less predictable than an average adult. There are many strategies you could use to “solve” this problem (although most likely temporarily), OR you could take the approach of building a relationship with your child and his/her food. Holistic food modification, if you will.

How do this work? I am not going to give you the 10 best tips for making your child a less fussy eater. Rather, YOU are going to determine why your child is being difficult, and from there, we will take proactive baby steps towards making meal time a more pleasant experience in your home.

Phase 1: Be the detective. What is the specific issue your child is having? Are they repulsed by all things green? Do they need something sweet with every meal? Do they only want candy for breakfast and sugary cereal for dinner? There is a spectrum of dietary disobedience and uncovering the particular problem for your child will help you identify what elements of your family food relationship need to be reinforced.

Too much emphasis is put on phase 2: generalized solutions for all finicky children, at the expense of the investigator phase. Trust me.  Take the time to sort out phase 1. Understand, empathize, discover and rebuild the relationship you and your child have with food and meal time. Only then, should you move on to phase 2.

Phase 2: This is where the individualized approach becomes important to successful behavior reformation.

Your homework assignment: Work on phase 1. Stay tuned for phase 2 in a few days.