You just have to live with it.
That’s the message I hear when health professionals say Picky eating is normal. Yes, it’s true, some form of picky eating is normal. It’s a developmental stage. So are food jags. Does that mean you just have to live with it?
You know what else is normal? Separation Anxiety. Tantrums. Hitting. Whining. Rebellion.
I think you get my point. There are a lot of normal, developmental stages and parents have to get through them all. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit on your hands and wait it out.
When chaos hits, it’s comforting to know that chaos is normal.
I’m not discounting comfort. Comfort is good. But thinking your child’s behavior is normal, and leaving it at that, can be disempowering.
So let’s turn the tables on normal and ask, how can we parent through normal?
Parent through normal eating stages by asking yourself, What does my child need to learn right now?
Applying a teaching approach to parenting is something most of us do quite naturally. Except, that is, when it comes to feeding our kids.
It’s almost impossible to say exactly what your child needs to learn at any given stage. After all, kids are unique. But there are some universals. For instance, kids experiencing separation anxiety need to learn their parents will always return. How you teach that lesson depends on your child’s particular age and personality as well as your family’s particular circumstances.
Here are 10 lessons that children who are going through a picky eating phase probably need to learn.
- Parents understand their feelings about new foods.
- Exploring new foods is safe.
- It’s important to eat different foods from day-to-day, even if those foods aren’t new foods.
- They are in control of how much food they eat.
- When you don’t eat enough food, you get hungry.
- They can eat their favorites some of the time, but not all of the time.
- Sometimes you have to eat a clunker.
- They have control over many of their food choices, but not all of them.
- A vocabulary that allows them to express their feelings so they don’t say, “I don’t like it,” when they mean, “That looks weird.”
- How to accumulate food facts so that new foods don’t seem daunting.
If you try to solve picky eating with a tactic that doesn’t teach the right lesson, or worse—teaches the wrong lesson, you’ll hit a wall.
For instance, making children take a No-Thank-You Bite teach kids:
- I probably won’t like this food because that’s when people say, No thank you.
- All I have to do to get my parents off my back is to put food in my mouth and say No thank you. It doesn’t matter if I even really taste the food.
- I don’t get to decide whether I taste new food.
- They are going to make me taste it so why bother even considering whether I want to taste it.
- My parents don’t really want to hear my opinion. They just want me to eat it.
- They say I just have to taste it, but every time I taste something and don’t eat it they look disappointed.
- I’m a failure.
- Meals are stressful.
- I have to do what they want me to do before I get to do what I want to do.
If the No-Thank-You Bite taught the right lessons you could stop using it. I mean, once your kids learn to walk, you don’t have to teach them that lesson again. But the No-Thank-You Bite has to be used night after night after night.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~