Having a child who is a picky eater can be one of the most frustrating parts of parenting. Unfortunately, it’s an all too common problem that parents have to deal with. The thing about picky eating is it makes the grownups feel awful because they’ve worked hard on the meal and paid for the ingredients. It makes the grownups feel helpless because they feel their child isn’t eating enough of the right foods. As for the child, they don’t feel so hot about it themselves, especially if they want to eat.
That’s the kicker. A lot of picky eating simply springs from the child not feeling hungry. Of course, the reverse can be true as well. Often times children will learn not to feel hungry at dinner time because that’s when all the foods they don’t like start coming out. Neither scenario is good, but it gets worse. The biggest problem is when your child is clearly hungry, announces they are hungry, but still refuses to eat what he or she is given.
Getting rid of picky eating, whatever its root, can be tricky. It takes patience, dedication and understanding from the parent, and it has to be accepted that the picky eating won’t just suddenly stop. There are also many methods that have been tried by different parents, and not all of them work universally. Because of that, any parent looking to cure picky eating in their child will have to pay attention to their child enough to know what methods will and will not work with them.
The first thing you or the parent tackling the issue is going to have to do is establish the reason behind the picky eating, as best as possible. Is it that the child isn’t hungry, is it that they are simply preferring certain foods and trying to force them into every menu, or are there really a lot of foods they don’t like or are afraid of trying? The first two situations will require a strategy all their own, but for genuine picky eating you’ll have to tackle it head on.
To do that, try to expose the child to the foods they won’t eat in different ways. For instance, if there are meals they don’t like once prepared, try serving the ingredients to them individually. If it’s the ingredients, then try mixing them with foods that they do like. This isn’t hard, it just requires a bit of creativity and persistence.
If you can get them to enjoy the individual ingredients, then have them help you prepare the meal so they can see what it is that’s going into foods they were once afraid to try. Another approach would be to bargain a bit, and have them promise to at least take a bite of each new food they are given each time it happens. That may help them grow accustomed to them.
Remember during the process that they are just as frustrated by this whole thing as you are, and also remember that it isn’t always about stubbornness or choice. They may genuinely not like a food. Your taste buds have changed a lot since you were a kid, and in your twenties you probably noticed them change again. With that in mind, you may just have to occasionally accept the fact that the child’s taste buds just won’t like what they’re given.