Monday, November 26, 2007

Help with a picky eater...

Thankfully, I am VERY blessed so far that Elizabeth is NOT a picky eater. However, I know LOTS of mothers daily battle with their children and food. Recently, quilt2day left a comment on this blog post and said ...
Now, any tips on getting a 4 year old boy with a picky-eating streak to eat such dinner, ahhhh! We keep praying the Lord will deliver him from his dislike of all foods that are mixed together (ie, casseroles, soups, stews, etc).

For those of y'all that have dealt with and WON the battle with a picky eater, what kind of advice can you offer her? Any great tips that you can share to encourage her AND to get her son to venture out with food?


Anonymous said...

I'm a mom of two girls, now 22 and 21. My viewpoint may not be in vogue in this era, but in my experience, the real issue is not genuine likes and dislikes, but it is really a power struggle between mom and child. Your son is now 4. It's time to clearly define roles. Your job is to make good, nutritious food available to him. It is not your job to cater to his whims, and it is not your job to make him eat the food. It is his job to choose to eat the food you give him.

If my girls were being picky, I usually told them they didn't have to eat if they were not hungry, but they weren't going to eat anything else until the next meal. And then I stood firm. The rest of the family could eat healthy snacks or desserts, even in front of the picky eater, but when they asked for that snack, I told them they would have to eat the previous meal first. At one point my more stubborn one didn't eat for several meals. It didn't harm her. When she got hungry enough, she ate again.

The other thing we emphasized is that we often have to do things we don't like, and that includes sometimes eating foods that are not our favorites. "I don't like it" is not a valid excuse not to eat something that has been provided to you. (Obviously, I am not referring to a real food alergy.) It all ties into gratitude and thankfulness.

Since my husband is a pastor and had been a missionary, the other thing we taught them is that to be an effective missionary, you had to eat whatever was given to you or you would insult your host. This understanding was a great benefit to them when they went to Japan as teenagers. They ate many delicacies that did not necessarily look appetizing to an American, but they did it with gratitude, a smile, and a compliment, "oishii."

Our children have repeatedly thanked us that they are not picky eaters. Like many of God's principles, submitting our will is truly freedom and ultimately glorifies God.

Anonymous said...

Picky people . . .

My daughters, 9 and 11, are great eaters.

Since the second that they tried out ‘being picky’, we have done the following:

I put food on their plates, just enough to keep them alive, and they have to eat all of it. If they want more of something they can have more – once the original helpings have been consumed. Complaining, remarking and face-making other than what is lovely and edifying is not allowed.

If there is a slow (because she doesn’t want to eat it) eater, her plate is cleared when everyone else is done. We give plenty of time to eat, but if the child is pooping around because they don’t want to eat we aren’t going to allow them to command our table or time. That child’s plate is covered in plastic, put in the fridge, and that is what their next meal starts with. (And no, I don’t heat it up.)

We get to the ‘dinner cold for breakfast’ phase 2 or 3 times and that usually does the trick.

All that said, we are just home with our sons (just turned 8) adopted from Poland. They tried the ‘picky eater’ stunt and learned just as quick! They have all been taught that it’s not polite, thankful, or gracious to one’s host/hostess to be turning up noses, etc. at what has been prepared for them.

I agree with the above commenter – it is absolutely an issue of will and submission. Our merciful God so often takes what they don’t like, and after they have submissive spirits, makes those things something that they love!

Anonymous said...

I do agree that there might well be a power issue here, but it might also simply be a developmental phase as well. Maybe a bit of both. Just as it is not uncommon for toddlers to restrict their diets to one or two foods for a few days (ask any pediatrician about this), it is not uncommon for 4 year olds to think that foods "touching" each other are perfectly disgusting. It is likely that he/she will grow out of this. Mom just needs a bit of patience and the knowledge that she can't force this or it will become a bigger problem. Like your first commenter, I also refused to let food be an issue: I cooked one meal for the family, if one didn't like it or didn't want to eat it one could simply wait until the next meal. As the kids grew a bit older, they had an option of making themselves a pb & j while still eating with us as a family. Both of my children are grown and have a willingness to eat a wide variety of foods and cuisines - even if the dishes touch. One rule that saved my sanity at many meals: If it goes into your mouth it is NOT allowed to come out. (swallow don't spit)

Anonymous said...

I would not go so far as to wrap up the meal for the next day. If they don't want to eat, fine. They can be hungry.

Soon they will prefer to not be hungry. We needn't get angry or threaten or force feed. Just take the food away, and let them be hungry for a while.

50s Housewife said...

I posted about picky eaters today. It was something I had been thinking about anyway, and when I read your post I thought I would go ahead and write about it. :)

Mainly what we did when we had one going through a picky stage was to make them try at least one bite of everything. We didn't make them finish, but they had to try it. Also, only one meal for the entire family and no snacking after supper.

Anonymous said...

I too have a 4 year old that has a hard time eating things "mixed together". He even goes as far as making "food blockers" so his food doesn't touch! (could this be due to those toddler sectional plates we used early on in his eating?!) Anyway, I like what everyone mentioned but am similar to
50shousewife. My boys (4 and 2)must atleast try something once. They generally like most things but if it is a tricky item I give them a smaller portion and am good with that. We usually serve cut up fruit in a bowl with our meals and have it on the table. They know they can't eat it unless they eat what is on their plate- good little visual incentive for them!

Anna said...

I have a 2 year old who is almost 3. She used to eat a wide variety of vegetables but recently stopped eating them at all. She was even refusing her favorites. She only wanted bread, yogurt and bananas.

What we started doing was giving her a variety of foods each meal including things she liked, but only in small portions. My mother calls them dollops. Each item is not enough to fill her completely full but at least there is something she will eat on her plate. She doesn't get any more of anything until she clears her plate.

My mother mentioned to me that sometimes for a toddler, the portion sizes we give them can overwhelm them. They take one look at a full plate and give up before they start. By giving them a dollop of each thing, it gives them the motivation to finish it.

I don't re-heat the food over and over because that can get gross. I simply start over for the next meal. She must eat what is placed in front of her or go hungry. It took a couple of weeks for her to grasp the concept and now she is eating things she never would have eaten before, including soup and meat. The key with any method you use is to be consistent.

Jen said...

I agree with the comments about sticking to your guns with food. We are currently going through issues with our 3 girls concerning eating what is served. They can choose not to eat, but nothing to eat again until the next meal. It's tough and there has been a lot of whining and complaining, but it is slowly working. That's great philosophic advice....I would also add that a great way to get kids to try new foods is to involve them in the preparation of the food. Have them put the chopped up veggies on a salad, let them mix up the ingredients for soup. Basically, show them how food is made and why we put things together to eat. That has worked well for us, also. And, there's always the ketchup looks gross to me, but if my child will agree to eat her broccoli after a dousing of ketchup then by all means, ketchup it is!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I was the topic of someone else's blog. I stopped over tonight to take a break from the whining/crying/fuss-making that is happening in my home...because of...dinner!

We have taken to giving the smallest portions and asking that it all be eaten. Tonight I had to take 2 beans and place them in a dish for ds's breakfast. He sat at the table making a general fuss for over an hour over two beans. And it isn't a momma only thing...he fusses for daddy too!

So, yes, we are in a power struggle that is also exhibiting itself through EXCESSIVE whining (about everything). Oh, he used to be a wonderful eater...and then he turned 4! I'm praying for my sanity but whining really pushes me over the edge.

Thanks for the comments. I'm not alone and that helps tremendously! We got through potty-training we can make it through food-training...someday!

Not by might but by the Spirit of God!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I also wanted to say thanks for actually answering the question rather than just rolling your eyes and going hmmm. It seems so hard to glean wisdom from some women because no one wants to take the unpopular stance or admit that they struggled through child-training in some way.

So, thanks for being helpful, real, and transparent!

Anonymous said...

My daughter (she will be 4 in January ) used to eat everything until she turned two. Now she will not eat any veges at all. She used to love beans and won't eat them. My rule is you eat what I serve you. If you don't go hungry until the next meal. I also make her eat one bite of whatever is on her plate that she is saying she doesn't like. I do know that toddlers sometimes change eating habits of different foods due to the texture. They don't like certain textures in their mouth. Peditricians do say that they will eat more on certain days than others. I don't force food on them. I don't do the cold food for the next meal or for the next day. Think about it, would you eat it? I have used these rules for my two grown children and as they were growing up their taste buds changed and they like everything. They are grown now. Just my 2 cents :)
Have a blessed day.

Anonymous said...

Just made a "new recipe" the other night.

My 4 year old boy (in all of his preciousness) said, "Oh, Mommy, this is a GOOD dinner"! It was $.86 for the bag of lentils. I boiled them with salt, season pepper and garlic powder. Rice, you know, pennies. And cheddar cheese sprinkled on top. Add a roll and viola! the whole family was more than pleased. I sat there amazed! No meat, no complaints.

You know, I think what's made a big difference is that I have been reading a book and realizing my lack of joy in my job as wife and mommy. It seems that even food tastes better when Mama is happy!


Edi said...

Do we let our children decide whether or not they go to school? Do we let our children decide whether or not they will wash their hands before eating? Do we let our children decide whether or not they will wear their seatbelts? No. Then why do we allow our kids to decide to only eat white rice and plain chicken (my nephew) or mac and cheese (a cousin).

Part of eating is so your tummy isn't hungry and your starve to death - but another part is so that the body can get all the vitamins and minerals that it needs to grow and to be healthy.

Now I know you cannot physically force a child to eat - but you can limit eating between meals, snacks, juice and catering to his/her foods.

If I knew one of my kids did not especially like one of the foods we were having for dinner - I'd still give him about a mouthful and expect him to eat it. Might take 15 min to eat his potatoes - but he still ate them.

The biggest standoff was when my dd was about 3 or 4. She refused to have some homemade "milkshake" (strawberries/milk/sugar). She loves those things by themselves and she loves ice-cream and I figured if she tried it she would like it.

We decided she'd sit at the table until she drank it. She sat there for a couple of hours. She never did drink it. But you know we never had another situation like that. In one regard she may have felt she won - but I think she realized it wasn't worth it.

We do allow for the fact that all humans have food preferences and likes and dislikes - but we also realize that sometimes kids just need to try something in order to find out they like it.


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