The best way to tackle your child's picky eating habits is through positive reinforcements. Treating him differently when it comes to food and feeding can help change your child's eating habits. Eliminate negativity and use words like 'you're going to love this' or 'this is awesome' instead of 'you never eat', etc. Also, never compare your child to other children.
What a parent says about a child’s eating habit is just as important as how the parent teaches the child to eat. Words not only shape a child’s eating pattern but also influence the parent’s feeding practices. If you constantly call your child picky, both of you believe it and begin to live by it.
Children are fantastic listeners. They hear when a label is slapped on them such as picky, overweight, skinny, good eater or bad eater. Just because a child demonstrates a pattern of behavior at one time does not warrant a label. The bottom line – a child is never always anything. A child is not always picky or always a good eater. The truth is a child is forever evolving.
Picky Eating Label- Translation:
A mother says to a friend: “Johnny is a picky eater and never eats anything but chicken nuggets.” If Johnny constantly hears he is a picky eater and only eats chicken nuggets – he begins to believe it. Johnny’s translation:
-My mother says I eat chicken nuggets.
-She expects me to eat chicken nuggets only.
-I do not have to try other foods.
-I make her happy when I eat chicken nuggets.
Strategies to Stop Your Child From Being a Picky Eater
1. Change your Words: Remove “always”, “never”, and “all the time” from your vocabulary. Replace them with “can be” or “is learning to”. A simple tweak in terminology will change a parent’s perception unlocking a child from an expected behavior. The child will be given an opportunity to discover new foods, textures, and flavors.
2. Pause. Breathe. Repeat.: The next time your child is offered a not so favorite food, resist the urge to call your child a picky eater. Instead, pause, take a breath and respond positively, “My son is learning to like. He can decide if he is willing to taste it today. I bet he will like your version better than mine.”
3. Expect Surprises: Kids are constantly changing their opinions and preferences. What they like one day, they may hate the next. If parents establish a feeding label, it is hard for the child to change it. After all, it takes two to tango. As parents, we should continuously expect them to change. Nothing more. Just because your child has refused broccoli nearly 20 times, the child is not doomed to hate broccoli. Keep trying by offering variety within broccoli.
4. Advocate for Evolution: Children evolve. End of discussion. Refuse to allow extended family members, teachers, or even coaches label your child’s eating habits. Constantly check yourself internally and calm your deepest fears. You are your children’s biggest influence and what you think or say about their eating habits will be the most powerful force. Expect the best but give them space to explore.
5. Stop Comparing: Do not compare children to their siblings or other children because they are all different. Just don’t do it. Period.
“I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief”
Let’s face it, children are a work in progress. When kids are pigeonholed into a pattern of behavior, their potential is limited and their natural curiosity surrounding food becomes deflated. Do not be quick to judge a child according to a small slice of life, without ever seeing the horizon of possibilities.