Why do most kids go through a picky eater phase? My first kid has us convinced that she was a great eater. She liked just about everything. Then about the time she turned three, that all changed. She was suddenly fairly picky about what she ate and rarely ate much, if any, dinner. It was a highly aggravating situation.
Thankfully, we were a little more prepared for it when kid #2 came along. She hit picky eater much earlier, pretty much the first bite she ever had. She has a long list of food she won’t eat. And dinner? Ha! I’m not sure how she isn’t starving by morning. Even food she likes often just gets thrown on the floor.
Dinner time with a picky eater can be so frustrating for everyone involved. Thankfully, I’ve learned a few tricks to make it a little easier.
Include one thing they like
Be sure to include one thing that your child likes and will eat. This isn’t foolproof but does help. If you are making roast chicken and mashed potatoes, both of which your kid hates, add a side that they do like. Hopefully, this means they will at least eat something at dinner. Sometimes having something they like even encourages them to try some of the other food! Sometimes putting a bite of something they like on the fork with something they don’t helps too.
Only offer a little
I refuse to make a separate dinner for the kids (unless we are having something special for the adults the kids hate, like steak). All people must at least try the dinner that was cooked, even the adults. That doesn’t mean I’m a completely heartless mama! If I know it’s something they aren’t really a fan of, I only give them a few bites of that dinner. Once that has been eaten, they can have something else (typically cheese and crackers). If they see a big plate of food they don’t like, most kids will just shut down. Just a little bit seems more manageable.
Give a minimum bite count
I do not (usually) require my kids to clean their plates. Some meals are hit or miss with them. Sometimes I think they will like it and they don’t. Or it is something new they haven’t tried before. When that happens, I give them a minimum bite count. They must have a certain amount of bites before they can ask for something else. The amount of bites changes depending on what it is and how they are acting. If they are whining, they have to have more bites. If they are being polite, they only have to have a few bites.
Let them choose dinner
No, not all the time. Once a week or so, if they are old enough to talk and make decisions, let them choose what’s for dinner. It helps them to feel involved and know that you do care about their likes and dislikes. Part of this is also explaining that not everyone in the family has the same favorites. Everyone has to take turns but that night is their night to choose.
Know they won’t starve
Have you tried all of these and you’re still having a night where they are refusing to eat and throwing a fit? It’s okay to put them to bed. Really. It is! They aren’t eating anyway and they are acting in an inappropriate manner by having a tantrum. I am not advocating doing this each night. Not at all! But on those nights where they are pitching a fit and refusing to even eat the things they like, it’s okay. For my kids, that behavior usually means they are overtired, not necessarily being picky about their food. Bed is the best choice for them in that circumstance. Just be sure to be quick on breakfast the next morning as they will wake up really hungry!
(If this is happening more than once in awhile, it might be time to re-think snacks, naps, what time you have dinner, etc.)
Dinner time with a picky eater can be a challenging and even emotional time for the whole family. These tips can take it from a time of crying, frustration, and yelling to a much more enjoyable and manageable time for everyone.
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