I introduced the subject of “picky eating” in an earlier blog post but I want to revisit the subject today. If you have a child who won’t eat, please go to my earlier post “How to Deal with Eating Problems and Picky Eaters”. In it I discuss how many children use refusal to eat as a way to get attention. It may give you some ideas if you have a child who causes a fuss at the table on a regular basis.
There’s another side to eating problems and I witnessed it the other evening when my husband and I went out to a restaurant for dinner. At a nearby table, I saw a mom and a dad and a tiny, precious girl of about two years. The little girl had curly hair and big blue eyes and was absolutely adorable. The parents obviously doted on their daughter as they focused their attention on her throughout their meal. Unfortunately, their attention wasn’t all positive. Both had huge plates of food and had taken some of their food and put it on a plate in front of the child. For the entire meal, they tried to spoon food into the little girl’s mouth, one after the other. First the father would pick up a spoon and try to feed her, then the mother would take a turn. The child didn’t want the food and shook her head, over and over. I felt really uncomfortable as I couldn’t help but notice what was going on. Some kids would have ended up screaming but this little tad patiently just kept shaking her head.
Remember how you cheered when your little one learned to use a spoon or fork? And when kids can use a knife to cut their food without help, parents feel proud. Why, then, do we pick up a spoon or fork to “help” our kids eat? It’s disrespectful, really. Putting yourself in their place, would you like it if someone did that to you? Perhaps you could ask if they need help. Otherwise, don’t spoon food into the mouths of kids who are able to feed themselves.
Not only are many parents guilty of trying to shove food into their kids’ mouths, they also decide what amounts their children should eat. They’re the judge of the amount of food and the pace of eating. You’ll find that your kids will eat if you put a selection of healthy foods in front of them and ask them to choose. If you make it attractive, as in the picture below, they’ll dig right in. If you offer small amounts, they can always go back for more.
At family meals, if you serve food in bowls on the table, kids will get used to serving themselves and the amounts are usually healthy. When parents do the serving, plates are usually filled too full and children are discouraged at the sight of them.
When out to dinner at the homes of friends or family, or when you’re at a restaurant, enjoy your meals and let the kids enjoy theirs. Don’t spoon food into their mouths or try to teach manners on these occasions. There are lots of distractions, new things to look at, perhaps entirely new foods. Make it a fun time with no stress around eating. If your kids are small, be prepared to make time at the table short. If you want to linger, it’s best to get a sitter and leave the kids at home.
One final thing: please don’t tell them they can’t have dessert if they don’t eat all their food (the amount YOU have chosen they must eat). Dessert is not a reward. It’s part of the meal.
I hope that you’ll have lots of happy times at meals with your children. If you’d like to comment, I’ll welcome hearing from you.
Also, I have some affordable coaching available that you can do from home at your convenience. I’d love to help you. Just let me know.
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