In my 8 years experience of doing home visits (which has earned me the title of ‘Super Granny’) I have seem many families with problems like sleeping, eating and tantrums.
I have a two-fold approach: Discipline and diet!
Is it sensory?
- If your child has been a picky eater since transitioning from pureed foods to bitty foods, it could well be a sensory problem.
- Children with sensory issues will typically gag easily.
- I have often found they will not even put a cherry tomato to their mouth, or refuse to try mashed potatoes.
- But this is not the only way to diagnose sensory issues.
These problems have to be dealt with through Occupational Therapists that specialize in Sensory Integration. This is not a discipline first approach.
It is discipline?
However, if your child has not had these problems and has developed into a picky eater, it could be discipline related.
- Firm boundaries need to be put into place in all other areas before food issues are addressed.
- Once you are the parent in other areas, you are the parent when it comes to food.
- The boundaries then become clearly defined.
- The choices clear: this is lunch/supper/snack etc.
- ‘You do not have to eat it. But there is nothing else until the next meal’.
- No child that has been offered food has EVER died of hunger!
If you are trying a new or ‘I don’t like it’ food, then place two bites of this on the plate with the instruction ‘you only have to take one bite, then you can have the rest of your food.’ How can you say you do not like peas, if you have never tasted peas? So, one bite is the minimum requirement, then he can have his other favourite healthy food. Then, there is another bite on his plate IF he decides he actually likes it and wants to try again, which often is the case.
Never place too much focus on the food, force feed or show your anxiety. Your child will sense this and hold you hostage. Encourage a child to stop eating when they have had enough, they do not have to finish everything on their plate as this can lead to unhealthy eating habits later.
If you have a slow eater, ignore this while you relax and chat and eat your meal. Then, remind him that the mealtime is almost over. Set an alarm for say, another 5 minutes and remind him calmly that when the bell rings, the plates will be taken away. You will probably have to remove his plate once only and he will get the message!
Meal times should be a fun, sociable time and valuable for interaction and quality time. Relax, chat and show by example that healthy eating creates happy healthy people.