My five-year old son is a very picky eater. He refuses to eat what I make for dinner, even if it's something he's liked before. When I force him to eat, he gags and spits it out. I've tried everything, even sending him to bed without supper. Nothing works! The worst part is, I feel guilty and awful that my son is not getting enough nutrition. Can you help?
-- Frustrated in Decatur
Some children are picky eaters. Some aren't. That's just the way it's always been. But when I think about the times I didn't like something as a child, I cannot recall my mother running around in circles trying to make something I'd eat. In fact, she made no big deal of my pickiness at all. I was expected to try everything on my plate and try I did.
Today, many parents, especially mothers, worry in excess about this "problem." If you Google "picky eater," you'll be astounded by the tips, tricks and methods to try to solve this problem. But I have a solution for you (taken straight from John Rosemond) THAT WORKS!
First, relax. If you offer a variety of foods and limit the bad stuff (you know, the stuff you hide way up high in the cabinets to snack on after the kids are in bed), your son will probably get enough nutrition. But if your child is REFUSING to eat certain foods, then you don't have a nutritional struggle on your hands, you have a power struggle. Here's a simple and fool-proof way to handle it.
Let's assume that tonight's dinner is Chicken, rice and peas. Let's also assume your son does not like vegetables but enjoys chicken and rice. Tonight at dinner, fix your child's plate with a morsel of each item you've prepared (one pea, one tiny bite of chicken, a small dollop of rice). Tell your child that in order to get more of ANYTHING on his plate, he must first eat EVERYTHING on it.
Your child may receive seconds of yummy chicken but unless he has eaten everything on his plate (including that one tiny pea), do not give him more. Once he has cleaned his plate of every morsel, ask him if he would like more of anything. Give him normal sized portions for his 2nd plate. Don't worry about the peas. They will be taken care of all in due time. Keep this up for a week or two.
Gradually increase the vegetable (or offending food item) portion while keeping the favored food portions very small. After a month or thereabouts, your child will be eating a normal child-sized portion of veggies in order to receive a normal sized portion of the food he likes.
Remember - it's all about ATTITUDE. If you act like you know what you're doing and keep a calm, relaxed attitude during dinner, your child will relax and your family will look forward to nightly dinners.
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