That is the question :)
For me this is a simple one. No! But let's look at why:
1. Our children need to learn to eat for themselves. Eating to please us is not a great long-term strategy.
2. Food is for joy, nutrition and nurturing rather than something to be bargained with.
3. Bribes tend to get short-term wins but not long-term gains.
4. Once the power shifts the demands can get greater and greater ....
5. Teaching our children to only do things if they are directly rewarded for it can set them up for future disappointment!
What do you think?
No, not what I can help with (unless it's in the eating department!).
However, I met the fabulous Kirsty from Parenting Little Learners and that's exactly what she does.
Kirsty uses her background in Montessori to gently guide parents through the challenges of the early years. Anti-social behaviour, tantrums, toilet training - the works. Plus preparing your child for long-term success with advice on learning and development.
We both subscribe to the "broken-down car" theory. If your car is not working well you take it to the expert and pay to have it fixed.
Similarly if you are having feeding challenges it can be great to have someone give you concrete steps to resolve them.
And, if you have a toddler or preschooler who is just not coping well and it manifests in bad behaviour or you feel you'd love support with challenges presented by Kindie or daycare then check out what Kirsty has to offer https://www.parentinglittlelearners.com/
Kirsty also has a fab Christmas present for those who are expecting. A video series comprising expert advice from NZ experts on everything from sleep to breastfeeding.
Who knew there was a guide? Wow, that would have been super helpful about 13 years ago for me!!
ere to edit.
This is the eternal crystal ball question.
Yesterday I was listening to an Australian pediatric dietician speak. She said that:
- 50% of children go through a "fussy" phase.
- 20% of those develop feeding issues
- 10+ % never grow out of those
That's enormous numbers of children who're having feeding issues and a frightening percentage who are going to have ongoing problems.
How do you know if your child will just "grow out of it" or whether it's something more than just a phase?
This is a topic that definitely divides us. If our children eat a limited diet should we "hide" things?
For me the short answer is no and this is why (which I guess makes it a very long answer ;) )
One of my big things is figuring out how to create family meals. I really think everyone sitting down and having the same thing is so powerful. And, it's amazing how you can do this even if your child only has 2 dinner options. Yes it's true!
I made San Choy Bau for my boys last week and as I was posting the photos on my food advocacy site I started thinking about how this could be a great meal for selective eaters too.
I know you're looking at it and thinking "noooo, nu uh, no way my kid would even go near that". And perhaps in it's present form no. But:
1. Lettuce leaves to wrap the meat in. Optional. Or, can swap for crunchy raw cabbage leaves which work for some children.
2. Pork mince with veg and all the Chinese flavours. Can do without veg. Can do just pork mince. Maybe add some soy sauce. Can do beef mince - with or without soy. Could add just a little honey and soy. Chicken mince?
3. Brown rice noodles. Optional. Could swap for spaghetti (or have alongside spaghetti). Or spirals if that is the favourite. If noodles are a no there's no reason not to have potatoes!
4. Corn. Often accepted by kids but OK to swap for peas or chopped carrots or raw beans. Or none ...
When our babies are first born there is a LOT of focus on growth. I remember my pediatrician having to give special dispensation for Max to leave the hospital as he'd actually lost weight his first few days. To me this made sense as he was not coordinated enough to suck properly initially so we were syringe feeding him. Seemed logical to me that he would need time to put on some pounds. Fortunately the Doc agreed.
Similarly the health nurse drove me crazy with Joe as he apparently wasn't putting on "enough" weight. He fed every 2 hours for 4 1/2 months so it was not for want of trying. He was tall but because he was under 5th percentile for weight he kept ringing alarm bells. He is still tall and still super slim and still wants to eat every 2 hours! His height/weight chart just was not telling the "right" story.
Now I understand that height and weight charts can give us a good overview of how children are growing and can be a great resource for catching possible issues.
However, IMO they are also not the only important factor for determining whether children are developing. Never is this more true than when it comes to eating.
We can have a child that eats a handful of foods. But if those are carb heavy (which they tend to be) then our child is likely to gain weight according to schedule.
What the height/weight chart is not recording is the fear around food. The discomfort about going to new places to eat. The worry about sleepovers/camps. The limited and repetitive diet.
It's also not looking at nutrient levels and whether there is something crucial missing or not being taken at an appropriate level. Now our bodies are amazing machines and can compensate shockingly well even when not given the right fuel. However, a better diet has been proven to give us better long-term outcomes.
What it's also not seeing is the pressure placed on families when there is a child who struggles to eat. The extra meals, the worry, the guilt, the frustration.
This is why I believe it's important to look at the individual and their specifics rather than looking just at growth charts.
If you feel there is something wrong you are probably right. Most parents intuitively know when there is a problem. You are the best judge of your child's needs whatever the chart says.
I saw this table and loved it. It shows us so simply and so visually how many fruits and veggies our kids need each day.
I am reprinting it here as I think it's valuable:
1. To know how much the goal is. It's hard to kick goals if we're not sure where the posts are.
2. The amounts for toddlers are really quite small and perhaps we're worrying unnecessarily about quantities.
3. If we have a child who is consistently no-where near the recommendations it's good to know for sure. Knowledge is power.
It was lovely to be interviewed and have our story published in the Dominion Post and on Stuff. There was an inaccuracy that I'd like to correct (and have asked the newspaper to do the same). I was reported as focusing primarily on children with ARFID. This is not correct. We work with families who would like their children to eat more variety.
It's also good to reiterate here, as we often state, that this is not medical or dietary advice. It's practical, easy to implement strategies that you families can slot into their own routines.
Thu night I served up a veggie bake with some herbs from the garden - although I was totally stacking the deck as we don't normally have bacon and this had lots!
I made a giant batch aiming to serve it for a few lunches and having some left-over for the weekend.
It was not to be. The boys had thirds and my giant bake dwindled before my eyes.
This stirred up many emotions in me:
1. Delight. Because even after all these years I am so rapt when they love something I've cooked. It's true, it gives me such a boost. And trust me neither are shy when it comes to critiques so it's not an every day boost.
2. Satisfaction. That they chowed kilos of veggies (even their least favourites) with gusto and pleasure.
3. Disbelief. That they demolished so much and I would now have to reshuffle my menus and be back in the kitchen when I'd planned not to be.
4. Trepidation. As I realise that now Max is getting towards the teen years eating this volume of food is going to be the norm.
All of this made me so aware that every single one of these emotions are mine and mine alone. My boys just thought "nice food, I'm hungry, let me eat it".
I am very invested in what happens at the dinner table. As are most parents.
This can be a fabulous thing but it can also inadvertently derail meals.
The great news is though that in many cases changing what happens at the meal table is not a question of trying to make our child do something differently. It's a question of us changing our approach. And we can do that.
Changing our habits, our approach and our emotional investment is never going to be easy. But it is possible. If we can change, our kids will often have no option but to follow.
Are we attempting to change what our kids do when we can change what we do?
Tomorrow's Dominion Post
I'm so excited that an article will be appearing Friday about the huge gap in our social care. Look in tomorrow's Dominion Post (Wellington's main paper).
This is so exciting as it gives us a new platform to discuss some of the issues that keep me awake at night - they seriously do!
I have parents talk to me every day about their frustration, despair and distress about food and feeding their children. And yet there is so little help available.
When I say I'm a "Picky" Eating Specialist most people look at me quizzically. Despite being a problem that affects 33% + of all parents (some estimates put it as high as 75%) there is just not the support out there.
Is this OK?
My opinion is that anything that places unnecessary stress on parents is a priority to address. And, anything that prevents our children having an optimal diet and being able to negotiate social occasions with confidence should be given due import.