What an idea: Kid-Approved Meals.
Ever been encouraged to provide kid-approved bed times? Or Kid-approved tooth-brushing methods? I doubt it. Then why do we think meals should be kid-approved?
Striving to provide "kid-approved" meals reverses the parent/child relationship.
Instead of children responding to parents, parents are responding to children. (In other words, the inmates are running the asylum.)
I understand how this role reversal happens. It feels like we have no other choice.
- Parents need kids to eat. (It is, after all, our job to keep them alive.)
- Children have strong opinions about what they will and will not eat.
- And, there's no good way to make kids eat anything they don't want to eat.
Giving away your parental power won't solve a thing. In fact, it will entrench the problem even further.
- The more you feed to your children's taste preferences the less open they'll be to other tastes and textures.
- The more your children see food/eating as an arena to gain control, they more they'll flex those muscles.
No matter what it seems like, your kids want guidance. They crave structure. They don't want to be in charge!
I know that it's almost impossible to expect children to eat food they don't like. It helps to remember that children don't really know what they like.
Kids don't have what researchers call stable taste preferences. That's because their taste preferences are just developing. Read You Can't Feed Your Way Out of a Picky Eating Problem.
Children use the language of "like" because those are the words we've given them. "Just taste it and if you don't like it you don't have to eat it." Sound familiar? But if we taught kids a different set of words they would use those words: "That looks gross." "I was hoping to eat something different tonight." Read What 'I don't like it' Really Means.
I say: Reclaim Your Power!
This doesn't mean you have to become a hard you-know-what. It does mean you have to set direction and tone.
- Decide what food you will provide. Take your child's preferences into consideration but don't let them dictate every decision.
- Make sure you provide something at each meal and snack that your child will eat. Don't make that item a preferred food every time. Just make it an acceptable food.
- Contain snacking to a single session (no grazing) that gives your child ample time to get hungry before meals or to stay hungry after meals if he has chosen not to eat or chosen not to eat enough. (Expect your child to get this wrong in the beginning. Think of these times as learning moments.)
Teach some important lessons!
- You can't eat your favorite foods every night.
- You can survive a meal you think of as a clunker.
- You have to share menu planning with others in the family.
- Your parents love you but they won't necessarily "fold" when you are upset.
Parents: I threw that last lesson in for you!
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~