I was thinking about this a lot over the weekend.
When I speak to parents their wish is usually that their child will just eat the food that is put in front of them.
Often with really picky eaters parents are only looking for their child to try the food. It may not even be a huge wish list, just a few key things :)
The picky eaters on the other hand are looking to only eat their favourite foods. This makes total sense to me. If food is a bit challenging, if it causes anxiety, if it could be unpleasant then why not just stick to what you know?
This is a cause of frustration for many parents. I was speaking to a mum this morning who was pulling her hair out at the relentlessness of continually having food refused and spending her whole life walking on eggshells around her son's eating.
Three things can help:
1. Meet our child where they are at. Forget the wish list of foods we'd like them to eat and focus on the foods they currently enjoy. Every time we look at a beige lunchbox or a plate with two things on it we come back to this.
Our task is to gently show our child how to move from their favourite food to a slightly different version. Or to add an ingredient or dip it into something. We don't go from nuggets to eggplant.
2. It's often good to avoid questions like "would you like to try this" or a version of it. Any time we ask a question with an easy no we will probably receive it. If our child has been selective for a while this will be an automatic response that they do not even think about.
There are other ways we can approach something without summoning the NO :)
3. Understand where they are coming from. It's very frustrating to have our child repeatedly refuse foods that we "know they'd just love if they only tried them". But this is approaching food from our competent and rational stand-point.
Our child is usually not thinking rationally. They are operating from the reptilian part of the brain tasked with survival. This tells them that they are far safer to say no than to take a risk.
Relate this to an irrational fear that we have, be it spiders or heights or water. It is not logical to be frightened of something the size of a 10 c and yet a lot of us are. No amount of cajoling would have us comfortably sharing the bed with a harmless spider!
If we understand how our child is seeing food and why they have the response they do it allows us to be empathetic more than frustrated. It also enables us to appreciate why many of the strategies we have been using do not work.
Removing the disconnect can bring us a lot of peace.
Judith is passionate about good food and is even more passionate about enabling other people to enjoy the wide variety of fresh food available today.