Photo by Brightbabyhood.com
We’ve all been there – the stubborn head shake, the raised voices, food on the floor, and finally the exasperated sighs, pleadings and reprimands. When mealtimes become battlegrounds is a situation many parents, or those looking after children routinely face, and it can be an exhausting affair. However, it is a commonplace problem, and luckily there do exist some solutions to get your fussy eater to, well, eat. Remember, these things don’t happen overnight but with patience, care and love you can succeed!
Keep Calm and Carry On!
Some of the biggest dinner table crises can be avoided if you simply refuse to allow things to escalate. Raised voices will simply exacerbate the problem, and leave both you and your child upset. Rather than forcing your child to eat when they shake their head no, just excuse them from the table. Remind them of proper behavior at mealtimes, and tell them that you expect better from them at next time. N.B. ‘Disappointment’ is so much more effective than anger!
Do Not Resort To Bribes!
When you’re at the end of your tether, the temptation to resort to that most deliciously uncomplicated parenting trick can be strong (“If you finish all your vegetables…you can have ice cream/watch your favourite TV show/play video games later). But be strong and resist! Tricks like these distract your child from her own hunger cues, turning eating into reward system rather than the nourishing activity it is.
Children must learn to enjoy eating healthily for what it is, rather than for some promised ‘prize’. Rewarding children for eating healthily with sweets or some other desired snack simply increases their desire for such foods, as opposed to the central point of creating desire in your child for healthy foods.
Bit By Bit
Many parents or caretakers of children achieve success by simply taking it slooooowly with new foods. Children find it much easier to deal with tiny increments of culinary complexity as opposed to dishing out a full plate of greens on day one. Start with a basic food that they love (e.g. bread) and keep adding extra items (bread with a bit of cheese, bread with a bit of cheese and egg, bread with a bit of cheese, egg and avocado etc.) Techniques like this will help the child build ‘trust’ in what you put down in front of them.
Make it Fun!
We play games with feeding our babies from day one, so there’s no need to stop as they begin to grow. By making eating fun, with songs, mimes, make-believe and so on, can create positive associations in your child’s mind with eating healthy foods. Pretend to be dinosaurs eating trees when you eat broccoli, create exciting names for foods (‘Penguin pasta bake’), allowing your child to help you with the cooking – anything you can think of to make it more enjoyable will help you enormously in the long run.