This week I received an email which asked this very question. The child referred to is 10 years old, so this is not a post for the young fussy ones although some of it will apply.
To find out more about the preschool fussy little eaters, just click HERE!
I really related to the email because I also have a 10-year-old who will say something along these lines;
My child: Mum, what’s for dinner?
Me: Chicken stir fry (or to be honest, it could be anything that’s not pizza or sausages!!!)
My child: Really?
Me: Yes, really?
My child: Makes lots of disgruntled noises…..
And then he may say, why do you always do this to me? (very dramatically)
Or I’m not eating that!
Or it’s disgusting!
And other words that make me want to throw the dinner over his head!!!
But instead I do this…..
# Rule 1 Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility in feeding, look it up HERE!
I take a few deep breathes! I then remind myself that it’s my job (as the provider of the food in the house) to give my children access to a healthy balanced diet. But it is their job to decide whether or not to eat it! The division of responsibility.
# Rule 2 Allow control in other areas of life so it doesn’t come out at dinner time (or bedtime, I can’t force him to sleep either!!!).
I remember that my child has very little control over ANYTHING in his life and so exercising control over things like food is going to happen! I mean, I’m not going to force feed him and he knows this!
#Rule 3 Don’t make a big deal out of it. Do not tie any emotion to the food i.e. I have cooked this meal for you and if you loved Mummy you would eat it!!
I will then say, the dinner is not disgusting but it might not be your favourite today. You do not have to eat it, but you must sit up at the table with the rest of the family. And remember there is nothing else on offer so you may find that you feel hungry later. I NEVER cook separate meals!
#Rule 4 Get the kids involved with the weekly meal plan and the cooking.
Write a weekly meal plan where everyone gets to choose one meal they like (it’s best to do this from a selection otherwise you it will be pizza every week!!!). Then on the day where its my choice, I just say today is Mummy’s choice and I know you don’t like it as much as me but I will have to eat your choice on Tuesday and that is not my favourite!
#Rule 5 add something healthy!
If the meal choice is something like pizza that the kids have chosen, I will add something healthy to accompany the meal or put a healthier spin on the dinner. For example, I may make a homemade coleslaw (you can get all sorts in a coleslaw) and/or a salad. I put it on the table for people to help themselves. There is no pressure. And don’t forget to get them involved with the cooking too. They get to see how much effort it takes.
Give the either-or choice. I will say would you like carrots or broccoli or a bit of both? There is no option to not have any vegetables. There’s a very subtle difference here and it can work really well. For example; would you like to tidy your room before or after dinner!!!?
#Rule 6 try something new!
We recently started getting a recipe box once a week. It’s fun, the kids can help with the cooking and it’s always a surprise what we end up with. I use the mindful chef for this. It also takes the pressure off being the one who has to come up with the dinner suggestions ALL the time!!! If you want to try the mindful chef for a discounted price just click HERE.
And every now and then take the kids to the supermarket with you and let them choose something new to try – from the fresh section! They may well surprise you!
#Rule 7 lead by example
Unfortunately, children do as you do not as you say! If you want your child to eat a healthy diet and try new things, you’ve got to be doing this yourself! I know it sounds simple but it’s the simplest of things that always work!!! I can’t tell you how many fussy eating children I’ve seen who also have a fussy eating parent!
When it all goes wrong!
There will be times when the kids push all your buttons, you’ve had a stressful day or you’re having a hormone surge and all of the above will go out of the window!
It happens! It happens to me too.
All around the country (even the world) there are parents trying day in day out to get their kids to eat the meals they have prepared! You are not alone!!!
A little word about McDonalds
My children have never eaten at a fast food restaurant. Not because I’m a food Nazi but simply because I do not like the food, my husband doesn’t like the food and I’m pretty sure they do not serve the food my children like!
So, here is how I deal with this one.
My child: Mum, why don’t we ever go to McDonalds, my friends say its nice and you get a toy?
Me: what is your favourite food?
My child: roast dinner!
Me: what is my favourite dinner?
My child: something with lots of vegetables.
Me: what’s Daddy’s favourite dinner?
My child: halloumi and aubergine curry (yes seriously…)
Me: they don’t do roast dinner at McDonalds or Mummy and Daddy’s favourite meals which is why we go to other restaurants.
My child: but those restaurants don’t give you a toy.
Me: I know but would you really like a little plastic thing that will end up in the bin or would you prefer to save your pocket money and get something you really want.
My child: something I really want.
Let me know if the above resonates with you and what you do in your house to encourage a healthy relationship with food.