One of the most common questions Erin and I receive over and over again is “my child is so picky and won’t eat anything except (insert your kid’s favourite food here). How do I get them to eat other foods?” The stress and anxiety that comes along with this is so profound that I wish I could give each and every one of you a giant hug and tell you it will all be okay. Cross my heart, your kids will grow up healthy and happy and won’t only eat chicken nuggets for the rest of their lives.
The natural progression of this conversation then turns to methods to change this. How do I get my kids to try and eat other foods? Should you bribe them, pressure them, take away their Peppa The Pig and Paw Patrol toys? Force them to try even just one or two bites of whatever is on the dinner table before you give in and start warming up those beloved chicken nuggets? For the record, there is absolutely nothing wrong with serving your kids or yourself a plate full of chicken nuggets. But feeling like you have to do this every single night to get your kids to eat something or offering it up as an alternative to the main meal served is not the best strategy.
I get it. I understand the desire to want to do the absolute very best for you kids. To see them grow up healthy and happy, ensure their little bodies are nourished as best as they can be. But does taking two extra bites of hamburger or chicken help that? Is that what’s going to make the light bulb go off in their little and adorable heads and think wow, what have I been thinking all these years? Who needs chicken nuggets when you can have broccoli? Probably not.
So, what’s the alternative then? How do you manage this tiny but mighty picky eater and turn dinner time into something that doesn’t look like world war three? How do you get them to try other foods without resorting to non stop bribing? And if you think for one second that I have never resorted to bribing my children – oh I do. I mean, we just moved my youngest daughter into a BED. So there was a lot of bribing going on there! But when it comes to food or using food as a bribe, that’s a hard no in my house. So then what? Well there is one thing, one actually quite simple thing you can do.
Take The Focus Away From The Food
I know this may sound counter intuitive. You’re sitting down for a meal, you’re eating together, shouldn’t you be talking about the food? Actually, you should focus on anything BUT the food.
And here’s why!
Pressuring kids to eat doesn’t accomplish anything
When you are constantly asking, coaxing, and pleading with your kids to try whatever food you’ve made for dinner tonight, it’s not going to make them want to eat it more. In fact, it’s going to do the exact opposite. The more you pressure, the more they will defy you. Kids are independent and extremely stubborn little humans. So the more you ask them to try the broccoli or have just one bite of chicken, the more likely they are to not try it at all.
The More Focus You Put On Eating Certain Foods, The More Likely They Are To Dislike That Food
Once you start playing the game of “have two bites of salmon before you can have your rice,” the more likely your kids are going to start to view salmon, or whatever that food is at your house, as something that is pretty darn awful. You start to attach a value to that food, and that value is bad. It’s the terrible food they must eat before they can get to the food they really enjoy. And all that is doing is creating a pretty darn negative relationship for them with that specific food. Kind of the opposite of what we are trying to achieve here.
It takes the control away from the tiny human
We all want to have control over our lives, especially when it comes to the food we eat. How would you feel if someone was telling you what you can or can’t eat on the table and how much of it you should be eating? Probably not very good. And it probably wouldn’t increase the likelihood of you eating anything in front of you. We’ve talked a lot about how we follow the division of responsibility when feeding our kids, and what this does is hand the control over what and how much is eaten to the kids. And I promise you, once you hand over the reigns to your kids, it will be like a lightbulb moment for them.
Gosh I get it. I can relate. It’s hard to sit back, to not constantly be focusing on what or how much your kids are eating. But when you stop pressuring your kids to try certain foods, give that little bit of control to your kids and stop focusing so much on well, the food, I think you’ll find that over time, your kids will actually be more likely to try and eat the food you serve, and I’m not just talking about chicken nugget night. And then you get to RELAX and enjoy the meal with your family. Which is the ultimate goal, isn’t it?