This might seem like a silly question, but when it comes to food and eating, do you and your kids feel like you're on the same team?
Or do you feel like adversaries?
If you're parenting a toddler, chances are you feel like adversaries...a lot of the time.
That's unfortunate. Understandable, I would add, but unfortunate. And it's got to change.
You can't shift how your kids eat while they're in enemy-mode.
As long as your kids see you as trying to force them to eat differently they'll dig their heels in— without even considering whatever it is you're asking them to do. That's one reason why kids often say "no" to eating something before they've even tried it.
Your kids need to feel like you're on their side. That you understand their perspective. And they need to trust you.
Imagine sitting across from your kids at the table.
Now imagine sitting side-by-side with your kids. Which feels friendlier? Friendlier is better.
The feeding relationship is predisposed to being antogonistic because you and your children naturally have different feeding/eating goals.
- You want your kids to eat a healthy diet, or try a bite of something new, or eat their veggies.
- Your kids want to eat whatever it is they've decided they want to eat, and it definitely doesn't include anything healthy, new, or green.
It's easier than you think to turn your kids into teammates. Just give up the nutrition mindset.
And adopt a teaching approach instead.
In other words, instead of trying to "get" nutrients into your kids, or trying to "get" them to eat something new, ask yourself, "What does my child need to learn in order to... (fill in the blank)."
This is a long-term perspective. We're talking the forest, not the trees.
Bring your kids onboard.
1) Parents often forget to explain their feeding goals to their kids. "I know you don't want try new foods, but it's important to me that you learn how because..." Read "You Can't Make Me Eat It!!"
2) As parents you are allowed to teach your kids things they don't want to learn. Brushing teeth? Sitting in a car seat? Going to bed at a decent hour?
3) It helps a lot if you acknowledge the elephant in the room. "I know you don't want to eat vegetables, but it's important. And sometimes parents have to teach their kids things their kids don't want to learn. It's my job."
4) It helps a lot a lot if you acknowledge your child's feelings. "I know this is going to be hard (scary, painful, etc.) for you, but I'm going to help make it easier."
5) Develop a plan where the steps are incredibly easy. Kids are more willing to do easy things than difficult things—especially if they haven't bought into the goal. Read Encouraging Kids to Eat.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~