Eat Your Peas or So Help Me! Tips For Dealing with Picky Eaters
One of the major complaints I hear from parents with regard to life as someone in charge of growing up a human correctly, aside from lack of sleep, loss of freedom, and the never ending noise of it all, is having to do with food.
The drama of how you are going to get food into your baby’s gut from the moment they enter the world (I mean, look at all of the debate over breast milk & formula) is universal.
You must have food to live, but somehow our young brains seem to be hard wired to not be able to consume it without rebelling. You'd think eating a well balanced, nutritional diet would be instinctual, as it is for other species. But, if you've ever found yourself unintentionally staring down a pint-sized picky eater, you know what I mean when I say not so much!
I recall struggling though this with my first son. Everything about that kid was exhausting and stressful, including meal time. So, yeah, I probably let his incessant nighttime crying lure me into his room to nurse him at 3am even though the doctor told me his 9 month old body didn’t really require it. And, I probably even mixed his spinach with his applesauce a couple of times to get him to eat it.
No matter who was to blame (ME!), I found myself with a 2 year old diva dude who wouldn't allow anything green, or soft in texture (think bananas and mashed potatoes) to pass his lips. He would turn away in disgust, lips tightly sealed no matter how awesome my airplane sounds were. He would refuse some items on sight, and others he would just one day decide no longer met his discriminating standards.
It was a food nightmare.
Until I decided one day that I'd friggin’ had it. I was over the screaming, the crying, and the pushing-away-the-spoon hands. And there was no way I was making another special meal for that
bloody ingrate child.
So there we were, doing our nightly Mexican stand off over a plate of peas, carrots, and grilled chicken when he made the first move and tossed his plate off of his high chair table.
In an insane act of oh-no-he-didn’t, I scooped the discarded food back into his partitioned plate (nope I am not above giving my kids food from the floor), slammed it down on his tray, grabbed that stupid kid spoon he always required to NOT eat my meals with, filled it with peas and jammed it straight into his sealed lips.
Shock and awe people. Shock. And. Awe. It is the only effective way to battle terrorism really.
And, I regretted it immediately, mostly because it didn't work; he still spit it out, and then he started to bawl, as did I.
But it was a wake up call for both of us. I knew something had to be done, and I'm pretty sure he got the idea that something was about to be, as well.
I came up with a plan:
First, the mommy restaurant was immediately going out of business. No more food smorgasbord up in here. One meal would be made each night and all of us would eat it. If one of us decided not to, so be it, but there would be no second option and no arguing about it either.
Next, we would be changing what we ate as a family: less processed food, less on-the-go packaged snack options, less sugar. More fresh, hearty, healthy foods, and things that weren't made for kids and shaped like smiley faces. Because smiley face shaped food is creepy.
I then came up with a more efficient schedule and way of offering him food. Healthy options were always made available to him so if he wanted a snack he could have any of the preselected items. I also offered him a hot breakfast, a balanced lunch, and an awesome dinner in the evening. And, to round things out, I started giving him dessert.
This friends? Was the game changer.
Because he only got dessert if he consumed a healthy amount of everything I offered him. And with new things, he had to TRY before he determined he didn't like it. If he felt gaggy after that, we would retire it and try again another day.
He’s 11 now and this method still works like a charm (and it worked on his younger brothers too)
Sure there were some growing
screams pains involved, but he got on board because he quickly figured out, if you don't eat your meal, you don't get your dessert, and watching your parents enjoy delicious home-baked cookies and milk is a sucky way to finish a day.
Is your meal-time a battlefield? Feel free to reach out to @dumbparent if you want some more tips!