One morning this spring as my son was getting ready for school, I noticed that his hair was wet. I asked him why and he told me “I had something in it, so Grandma washed it out.” It was only later that I heard the full story from my mom. She had gone into the bathroom to shower and found Tyler in there just about ready to cut something “sticky, like a gumdrop” out of his hair (that would have been bad, considering his last cut-my-own-hair incident hasn’t fully grown out yet). Any guesses on what that sticky thing was? A fiber gummy vitamin – one he must have hidden in his bed instead of eating it as he told me he had. *sigh*
That is just the latest in what has been our ongoing battle with our kids’ picky eating habits and our quest to get them to ingest something even partially close to the nutrients they need every day. I know I’m not alone in this – plenty of children have eating issues of one sort or another and there are a lot of parents out there dealing with their own children’s eating habits with varying degrees of success (and frustration). It has been a topic of conversation with my friends, family, and other parents many many times. I have often been tempted to start writing a “Picky Eating Chronicles” series and with our latest brilliant idea (more on that soon!) being put into action this week, it seems like it would be a good time to put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard) and share what I have learned so far.
My oldest is 11, and my son is 8. Both of them started out as fairly good eaters, but right around the time the independence and the Terrible Twos kicked in, so did the picky eating. I had hoped it was a phase, but it wasn’t. So I’ve been dealing with this for a number of years at this point, going through cycles of “working on it,” ignoring it or being too busy with other things to think about it much, periods of complete frustration, and more recently, possible food-related health issues for my son (constipation, according to a military doc at the base in NC – whose diagnosis I’m still not fully confidant in). Over the years I’ve done a lot of reading and research, talked to other parents, and tried a whole lot of different techniques and recipes and ideas and even developed a few of my own. I will get to most of those in future posts, but my biggest and best tip for parents of picky eaters everywhere is this:
Stay positive and don’t take it personally.
What? You think I have some sort of magic trick that will turn your child into one that eats all his broccoli overnight? 😉 Naw, that’s not how life works. But the one thing I do know to be true in life is that our attitude and our expectations are the biggest influence on our happiness and success in every aspect of our lives. The second you let your child’s appetite (or lack thereof) upset you, you lose. Dinner can go from a pleasant family event to a battle of wills in no time at all. Don’t let that happen. That perfect meal that you spent an hour preparing and were SO convinced your child would love only to find you couldn’t even talk him into taking a single bite? And this was after he pinkie promised that he absolutely WOULD try three bites, even if it didn’t look like he thought it would look? Or the time you make his absolute favorite thing for lunch (you know the one he requested 3 times in a row last week) only to be informed that he’s “sick of it.” Or maybe you just spent $6 at a restaurant for a kids’ meal that didn’t get touched at all (because the cheese in the grilled cheese was white instead of yellow?!) and you find yourself swearing you are never going to eat out again. Believe me, getting upset about it is just not worth it. Instead of flying off the handle, yelling, making threats, or pulling your hair out remind yourself it’s not you and it’s not the food, your kid is just a little quirky (and
stubborn, er opinionated) and that’s ok.
Smile. Hug him. And try again tomorrow.
Because you know you love that little bundle of attitude and stubbornness more than life itself and he needs a calm, happy mother (or father) much more than he needs a stomach full of brussels sprouts.
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