Both Adults and Children alike can be picky eaters, but let’s be honest we all know it stemmed from their childhood, and yes… from their parents allowing it. Yes, I did just put the blame on parents. We need to stop allowing our children to be picky eaters, and by doing so allowing them to develop this habit. In the long run, they are the ones who suffer.
You are not alone
I can safely say this all to you, as I’ve been down this road, in fact, I’m still walking it every day. There was a point where you would have heard me say, “oh my gosh, my son is such a picky eater.” Until one day, I decided to Parent Up! That’s right, as parents, it’s our responsibility to not only be an example to our kids but also, to set the boundaries and rules. One of THE hardest things to do as a parent is to stick to what you’ve said. (ie: be careful with this one, it could come back and bite you!) As I learnt one evening after saying to my son that dinner was what was on his plate and if he didn’t want to eat it he could go to bed hungry. He very calmly looked up at me and said, “mum, I would like to go to bed please.” It was incredibly hard, but I did, in fact, send him to bed that evening without having eaten much at all. He knew then that I was serious, and I truly believe no child will willingly starve themselves at such a young age.
I used to allow my son to be fussy and fed him what I knew he liked so as not to have to fight with him. It is exhausting when you’ve come home from a long day of work and now you need to cook a healthy meal and attempt to convince your little darling that they should be eating the broccoli and spinach on their plates. Trust me I know, as a single parent it was the last thing I felt like doing when I got home. Honestly, I wasn’t doing either of us a favour though.
Now he knows he has to try everything on his plate, I don’t force food down, but he has to at least try. Dinner is also what is put on your plate, there are no other options, if you’re hungry eat what’s in front of you.
It wasn’t easy, and still often isn’t always pleasant. I try not to make a big fight or thing about it but rather just be firm and stick to my rules. It was amazing to see though how he caught on and now some of his favourite things are broccoli or sugar snap peas, he loves sweet potato and when grandpa braais sweet corn. The only thing that changed was me, and how I went about being his Mother.
Let’s get real
A small child or toddler is not the best expert at making mindful decisions about what is nutritionally best for them, so why are we allowing them to decide or dictate to us what they will or won’t eat. It is our job as parents to do this. You don’t ask your children what time they would like to go to bed, or if they feel like bathing do you, or if they felt like going to school that day. No, so why are we asking them what food they feel like or giving them continuous options with their meals.
Yes, there are exceptions to this rule, like allergies or food sensitivities, I am completely aware of these. That said we can still teach our children to eat a variety of foods.
Think about it, you are not just limiting their nutrition but also they way they go about life. They will end up thinking they can always just do what they want, not have to walk the hard yards, or even possibly not be keen on trying new things and experiences.
It’s all about Tough Love
As parents, we owe it to our children to help them become well-adjusted, healthy members of society. One of the many small ways we can do this is by teaching them the basic idea that food is for nutrition first and enjoyment second. Explain to them why we eat certain foods, and how they are good for their bodies, that they only get one body and they need to take care of it.
Tough love may be tough to give,
but it is a neccesity of life
of positive growth.
Kindly Note: I am simply addressing the attitudes towards food in this post as well as the foods we feed our children. I am certainly not saying we should be force feeding our children and I don’t think food or eating should be an “issue”. Our children should still be allowed to make decisions, but healthy ones. I only suggest that we encourage them to be adventurous and have a good attitude towards trying new foods, as well as kind and respectful when refusing foods, after at least trying them once.
I don’t have all the answers and I’m not the perfect parent, these are just my thoughts I’m sharing with you all. May your journey with food and your little ones be nothing but an exciting adventure.
Love and Health,
“Mama Wolf” x
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