Most people don’t realize I’m a picky eater because, well, I’m a grown-up. The truth is that I have been highly selective (ahem) since I was a little girl; I’m just better at hiding it now. I’m also the mother of one consistently and highly selective eater and one intermittently and moderately selective eater.
Not to brag or anything, but I’ve got forty years of rejecting suspicious foods under my belt, and almost a decade of experience trying to feed my own little food-rejectors. I’ve read all the books, talked to lots of experts, sighed all the sighs, and driven myself bat-shit crazy trying to figure out how to get my girls to eat more foods.
I’ve finally found some peace with it all, and if I can help just one parent avoid a power struggle over a single grain of quinoa (not that I would know anything about that, ahem), then it will have all been worth it. Well, mostly worth it.
First, we’re going to start with the Golden Rules. Forget these at your own peril.
GR #1: If your child is healthy and growing, then don’t stress about it. You can work on this issue, but please don’t let it make you crazy. I know it seems like everyone else’s kids are snacking on sushi and garlic scapes (I’m not even sure what those are), but a) they’re really not and b) let it go anyway. The ability to eat a wide range of foods is nice, but really not necessary, for a healthy and happy life. (On the other hand, if your child isn’t healthy or growing, then you shouldn’t be handling this alone. Get yourself a medical team you trust, and let them help you.)
GR #2: You can’t make a child eat. Say it again: You can’t make a child eat. I have heard of parents who physically force food into their children; please, please don’t do this. Do the best you can, but your influence stops at their mouths.
GR #3: This isn’t your fault. Really, it’s not. Shit happens, in life and in parenting, and for whatever reason, your kid wants to subsist entirely on noodles and nuggets. Maybe there’s something you can do about it, or maybe there isn’t. Try some of these tips, do your best, and when you find yourself freaking out again, go back to GR #1.
GR #4: This too shall pass. No, really, it will. Even the pickiest eater will get a little less picky, and on the off chance they don’t, well, eventually they’ll be surviving on ramen and peanut butter in their dorm room or apartment or anywhere other than your house. One way or another, IT WILL PASS.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about a few reasons why your kiddo might be rejecting everything you put in front of them.
You can read the rest of this post on my Mindful Parenting Blog on PsychCentral.com.