More and more I am realising (and as usual we don’t know what we don’t know) that even the most intuitive, connected and well-researched parents of picky eaters are missing critical messages from their child when it comes to steps forward in a food sphere.
Last night I was working with a lovely, young couple who have an almost 4 year old, Barrett *. He is like many children from the families I work with. He loves carbs, he doesn’t like meat except in a special pasta sauce and he eats no fruit or veg. He does drink orange and apple juice on occasion though.
We had split the 3 hour workshop into two sessions, the first last Thursday and the second part last night. We were busy working through the daily plans and dad told me how Barrett had happily picked an orange, helped cut it and squeeze the juice out and then drunk the juice. I was soooo excited.
For me this was a huge step forward for Barrett. Yes, he drinks orange juice but making the connection with the real fruit, touching it, cutting it, squeezing it and then being able to have the juice is huge. It is so much closer to Barrett being able to eat an orange.
His parents were surprised and pleased that he had done this but hadn’t thought about how much closer this had brought Barrett to being able to eat an orange. For a child that eats no fruit this seemed huge to me.
Then on Sunday Barrett had seen his brother ask for corn (and then incidentally refuse to eat it!). Barrett asked if he could try some. He put it into his mouth and chewed on it and then took it back out again. WOW. Again, I was delighted:
His parents were again really surprised and pleased about the corn. But they had also set up the meal in a really different way to how it was previously done. They also reacted to the corn in the mouth in a new way. All this supports Barrett to take more steps in the future.
No Barrett has not eaten the orange, he has not eaten the corn and he is not begging for carrot sticks. But he has made what are really, really big steps for a child that normally refuses to try anything new at all, and in fact gets down from the table and refuses to eat at all if it’s not one of his 3 choices. Not only has he tried new foods, but they are from food groups that he normally avoids.
Often our child is making steps forward but we’re not recognising them as such. I think this could be partly because we’re focused on them eating a plate of broccoli or joining us for a family casserole and so drinking a bit of fresh orange juice when they are already happy with OJ seems a lot “whatever”.
I’m thinking of ways I can articulate what steps look like. This way parents are more aware and then don’t inadvertently prevent progress because steps are not being recognised. The way we react to these steps can absolutely determine whether our child continues to progress or is accidentally stopped.
Are there things your child is doing that you are not sure whether to be excited about?
*(name changed for privacy. Story retold with permission)