As dissatisfied as many parents are with the way their toddlers (or even older kids) eat, the thought of changing strategies can be daunting.
I'd go so far as to say it might even be paralizing. Here are the 6 steps you need to implement in order to achieve the change you desire.
Remember, success comes when you adopt the Habits Approach — or catch the habitude! Eating isn't really about nutrition, it's about shaping behaviors.
1. Recognize that what you're doing works—at least in some way.
Yes, the way you and your kids interact around food may not be moving your kids towards new foods or a healthier diet...but it does something positive for you. The quesion is, what? For most parents, the answer is straightforward: It gets the job done! In other words, you feed the kids the way you do because it prevents hunger, prevents conflict, enables you to use food to express love...the list goes on. Read What's It to You?, What's Holding You Hostage, Soccer Mom Syndrome, and, for my own confession on this topic, Cookie Love.
2. Prioritize problems.
Trying to tackle too much change at once is a recipe for disaster. Remember, this is a system that's giving you some stability. Make a list of everything you want to change. Then, recognize that many problems (your child won't try vegetables) harbor other problems (your child won't try new foods).
Then, prioritize which problem you will tackle first. There's usually a logical sequence. For instance, it makes sense that you have to teach your child how to be more comfortable trying new foods before you can get her to eat more vegetables.
Read Baby Steps and the Step-by-Step Guide to Introducing New Foods series.
3. Gather strategic ideas.
Watch how other parents handle similar situations. Get expert advice, i.e. read It's Not About the Broccoli!. Don't compare as a way to bring yourself down. Instead, consider how/why other strategies work.
Then, try some strategies on for size—but only in your mind. This mental exercise will give you valuable information about whether a strategy has potential to work for you. Not all will. And that's OK. Some parents can let their kids go to bed hungry but others can't. If you pick a strategy that goes seriously against the grain, it won't work.
4. Plan a course of action.
I can't stress this enough. Make sure you know what you are going to do—the Happy Bite or the Rotation Rule,—for instance. And then, make sure you know what you are going to do when your child won't play along. Here are a few ideas. And here are some more.
5. Stay positive.
Don't let the naysayers into your head. This can happen in lots of different ways. The most common? All kids eat this way. You just have to wait it out.
Yes, all kids go through developmental stages. No, you don't have to just wait it out. Read Parenting Myth: It's Good to Treat All Your Kids the Same Way. Actually, It's Not.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~