This one goes out to all the mommas and poppas out there. The ones whose kids won’t eat vegetables, fruit, eggs, oatmeal, yogurt or whatever food it is they want them to eat. The ones whose kids can make an iron-clad deal to score dessert better than a hostage negotiator. The ones whose babies eat broccoli for dinner on Monday, but not Thursday and only alternating Fridays and never during a full moon.
You know who you are. You’re the parents of a ‘picky eater’.
Guess what, though? Picky eating is a completely typical part of child development. Every child will become more selective about their food choices at one point or another. Whether it’s suddenly pooh-poohing their all-time fave meal or eating their weight in food one day while refusing to touch a thing the next, when it comes to kids and food, expect the unexpected.
Guess what else? There’s actually a LOT we can do as parents to help our wee ones become awesome (and happy) little eaters.
Being a ‘happy eater’ means your kiddo feels good about food and eating, likes a variety of food and enjoys learning to like new foods, trusts themselves to eat enough and takes time to eat while paying attention when eating.
The best thing? Teaching kids to be happy (and healthy!) eaters now, carries right on through to adulthood.
Here’s the basic deal (which is supported by a whole #@itload of research btw): parents and kids need to share responsibility around feeding and eating. Mom and Dad can’t dictate everything about mealtime. The days of ‘You have to sit at the table and finish your entire plate before you can leave’ are over. Dictating, negotiating, bullying or tricking your kids into getting them to eat what you want them to eat will backfire. Promise.
We know now that kids still need structure and guidance around food and eating, but they also need to develop a sense of independence around feeding. It’s like they’re little humans or something!
So, who’s responsible for what?
- The parent is responsible for what
- The babe is responsible for how much
For babies making the transition to family foods:
- The parent is still responsible for what and begins to take responsibility for when and where the child is fed
- The child is still and always responsible for how much and whether to eat the foods offered
For toddlers through to adolescents:
- The parent is responsible for what, when, and where
- The child is responsible for how much and whether
Let’s break it down a little more. As a parent, you are responsible for:
- What food is offered. This means offering a balance and variety of nutritious foods. Please see the previous 4 years worth of How to Eat recipes for some tips 😉
- When it is offered. Have a set schedule for meal and snack times. Do not offer food or beverages (other than water) in between. By scheduling, your child’s hunger will build between meals and snacks so they’re ready when it’s time.
- Where it is offered. Help children pay attention to eating by making mealtime in a set location, away from other activities. For meals at home, eat at a table or counter while sitting, away from distractions like toys or TV. While away from home, work toward sitting down and putting aside time to eat meals/snacks.
Now it’s over to your child who is responsible for:
- How much they eat
- Whether they eat at all
I know, this can seem WILD if this isn’t how your family operates now. This feeding philosophy is called The Division of Responsibility. It was developed by a legendary dietitian down in the USofA called Ellyn Satter and it’s supported by a whole whack of nutrition and child development groups including Health Canada, Dietitians of Canada and the Canadian Paediatric Society. This is some gold standard stuff y’all.
Do you want to learn much much MUCH more? I’ve partnered with a group of brilliant paediatric Occupational Therapists who run a series of online child development classes, to co-teach a class for parents about picky eaters. Woop woop! Registration is open NOW and classes start September 22nd. The class is entirely online (read: you can be in your pyjamas or even, gasp! naked!) and it’s self-paced (no homework, no deadlines!). We send you new super awesome info once a week for 4 weeks and all the while you have acccess to our private chat group where you can ask any and all questions related to your own situation.
For more details on the class and registration visit the Collective Therapy website.
If you’re still not sure, join us tonight (September 15th) at 8pm for a live Q&A on Facebook, where we’ll be giving away a FREE spot in one of our classes!
Let’s make some new foodies together!