Ready...Set...Hut! How to Tackle Picky Eating (Part 1)
How do I get my child to eat? That’s the Million-dollar question. I know I’m not the only parent out there who deals with a picky eater. Does mealtime feel like a battle zone? Do you dread it? Sometimes getting your child to eat is like negotiating world peace…and I know because I’ve been there. Well, I’m still there but it’s not a battle anymore. I’ve had parents email me about how I handle McKenzie and mealtime and figured I would write about it. There’s a lot to cover, so I will talk about a few issues every Monday.
Before I get started, I would highly recommend the book “Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating: A Step-by-Step Guide for Overcoming Selective Eating, Food Aversion, and Feeding Disorders” by Jenny McGlothlin and Katja Rowell. We had two choices: See Jenny or go to a feeding clinic where they basically get your child to eat by taking things away from them. They get that toy or whatever ONLY when they take a bite. Now, for some of you that may work and be fine with you. but for me? Hell nawl! I wanted McKenzie to have a good relationship with food. I wanted her to eat because she wants to and enjoys eating. So we’ve been seeing Jenny since March 2017 and let me tell ya…she’s absolutely amazing.
Your child is told what to do all day. The one area where they have control is eating. We go by the Ellyn Satter Division of Responsibility (DOR) in Feeding. “The parents are responsible for what, when and where. The child is responsible for how much and whether”. Easy peasy right? Maaaannnn this concept will screw your whole life up…for a little while. However, if you stick to it, you will start to see results. This helps some in eliminating your stress. You can’t control everything. It’s hard…I know. My child has a feeding tube and when she would flat out refuse to eat, that shit made me so mad (stress and power struggle).
Pushing vs Presenting
This one was a big one for us…I mean me. It took me a while before I truly became comfortable with just presenting food to McKenzie. Pushing is forcing a bottle in their mouth, making them open up, forcing a spoon in their mouth, tricking them into taking bites, etc. If you have a picky eater and have done any of these things…forgive yourself sooner than later. I blamed myself up until recently because I thought I made her eating worse when things were really bad for her. You were trying to get your child to eat so they could grow and in some cases so the doctors will stop telling you that your child isn’t growing. That external pressure doesn’t help the pressure and stress at home around feeding. We will discuss later on how to handle other people that try to push your child to eat (It's not fun).
Presenting the food is just that…presenting. The food is there (in the form they like) to eat (if they want). Another thing that works for us is we only use the word “eat” when the food is ready. Other than that, there’s no pressure at the table.
Let your child give you permission to feed them. This one takes some getting used to. Have the food on a fork, spoon or in your hand where they can see it and ask them, “Would you like to try some?” Now, if your child can talk, it should be pretty easy to tell when they are giving you permission. If they are in the “No” phase or can’t talk, if they lean forward…that is the way they are telling you it is ok. Sounds crazy right? I thought the same thing too. But it really works! This is key in building trust in the feeding relationship with you and your child.
We will talk about this in one of the later posts but if you find yourself getting really emotional (crying or angry) please give yourself a timeout. Go in the bathroom, pantry (my #1 place) and let it out. I like the pantry because I can grab a snack too lol. Seriously tho, let it out. Get yourself together and go back out there and try again.
There’s no manual to this. You figure it out and learn what works for your family. Hope this helps you!