If you're frustrated and at the end of your rope when it comes to introducing new foods, remember that your child is probably frustrated and the end of her rope too.
I know we don't usually think about our kids being fed up with the whole food fight thing, but they are. And that was why, in my last post, I said that the first step in changing the family dynamic was to take a vacation.
Your child would eat the way you want him to...if he could.
Not eating new foods is the solution your child has devised to solve some problem (fear, stress, lack of confidence, control). It is a solution that works, but it's maladaptive. Your job is to help your child find another solution.
This is the Team Building Phase. The time when you move from being enemies to being allies.
Think of this as the time when you move from sitting across from each other at the negotiating table to sitting next to each other. Doesn't that feel friendlier?
You'll know you're on the same side when:
- Your child shares his feelings about food/eating with you voluntarily.
- You feel less frustration and more sympathy.
- Your child starts to relax around food/eating, i.e. her shoulders aren't up around her ears.
- When you start to think, "How can I teach my child the lesson she needs to learn this skill?" instead of "How can I get my child to eat more/new foods."
Team Building was made possible by the vacation, but it really happens during The Conversation.
For some reason, most people I encounter do not want to do this part. They want to skip straight to the food. Please don't skip this. The Conversation is essential.
Elements of the Conversation
- Recognition that eating has been stressful. "Things have been pretty stressful around eating, haven't they?" Or, "I've been trying to get you to try new foods a lot lately. We've been kind of fighting, haven't we?"
- Acknowledge that your child has bad feelings around this. "It doesn't feel too good, does it? In fact, it feels pretty horrible."
- Your apology. "I'm sorry. I never wanted to make things feel bad for you." (It doesn't matter whether or not you feel like you have anything to apologize for. The apology is the game-changer because it gives voice to your child's feelings.)
- Promise for Change. "We're going to start doing things differently around here. From now on, I'm not going to make you eat anything you don't want to eat."
- Re-establishing Your Goals. "It's important that you learn how to taste different foods. So, after a little break we are going to start working on that. But I'm not going to make you eat anything." (You're being a little bit of a technical lawyer here because you are going to work on tasting. But eating? That's up to your child.)
- Recognition that this is difficult. "I know this is hard for you. That's why I'm going to do everything I can to make things easier for you."
- Encouragement. "I know you can do this. And I'm really proud of you."
- Add anything else to the conversation that might be unique to your feeding/eating dynamic.
Allow your child ample time to share his feelings, but you may have to circle back to elements of this conversation a few times.
Rules of the Conversation
- Parents initiate the conversation with their child or children.
- The conversation should NOT happen at meal or snack time.
- Choose a time for the conversation when everyone is relaxed, but not too tired. Bedtime works for some children. For others, a better time might be when you're driving somewhere in the car.
- No accusations.
- No dissapointments.
If you're worried about the conversation, if you've tried it and something unusual came up, or if you are worried it went wrong...ask. I'll answer all questions either in the comments section/Facebook feed or in a subsequent post.
See you tomorrow.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~