I really want my son to eat healthy but he is such a picky eater. It drives me crazy that he’s so resistant to the foods I like to cook. I keep presenting the same foods to him hoping he’ll come around, like the experts suggest. I have heard that the definition of insanity is “Doing the same thing over again but expecting a different result.” I’ve also heard that when it comes to parenting, consistency is key. When something isn’t working, how do I know when to stay consistent, or when it’s time to try something else?
This is such a great question and demonstrates how mothering is more of an art than a science. It really comes down to what works best for you. The most important thing is for YOU to ENJOY your kiddos. If their idiosyncrocies start driving you crazy, or you “bending over backwards” for them causes resentment, then this
is more of a reason to change than some arbitrary rule.
It was Einstein who is credited with saying “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.” He was not home with kids trying to get them to eat their broccoli.
The Parent Education Answer:
If you lay down a rule like, “no dessert unless you try everything on your plate,” then you certainly want to be consistent. When parents are consistent in their rules, it makes kids feel safe and helps them respect your authority. You want your kids to believe you when you say things, and being consistent in words and actions is crucial.
The conventional advice for picky eaters is to sit down together as a family. Children learn by imitation so letting them watch you enjoy your food is great modeling. Always include at least one thing on the plate that you know your child likes. Encouraging your child to cook with you and help prepare meals helps the foods become more familiar. Make food friendly and fun-looking. Play games with food. Some kids need to taste a food ten times before it becomes familiar.
A study was done in England trying to figure out the most effective way to get a non-broccoli eating child, to eat broccoli. What they found to work the best was to have a teen of the same gender, sit down across from the child and happily devour a bowl of broccoli without ever speaking a word to the child.
One of the things that worked for me was understanding my child’s unique pickiness. My son was a “true” picky eater. He had some sensory motor integration issues and was hypersensitive to sounds, touch and textures. Realizing that this wasn’t his fault gave me compassion and patience. Here are 3 tips that worked for cooking for a kid with a sensitive palette.
- Cook and serve foods plain and separate so he can anticipate the textures of each item.
- My kid was so repulsed by new food, he had a hard time looking at it. We first worked on keeping it on the table, then his plate, then touching it, then eating it. When something is a big task, breaking it down into micro-steps can really help.
- Once we got him comfortable eating chicken, we built on it by offering pork, but called it chicken. Expand their palette by offering foods of similar textures. Mashed carrots could expand to yams to pumpkin pie.
My daughter was picky in a completely different way. She didn’t have a sensitive palette, just a strong will and strange opinions. There were times she would only eat red food, or she’d eat mac n cheese everyday for two weeks and then never again. We called her a “pig-a-tarian” when her diet consisted of salami, sausage, and bacon, but shortly after, she turned into a sugar & carb loving full vegetarian. This fickle eating drove me crazy because I never knew if she would eat what I served her. It did help when I noticed she had a three-day cycle. She would barely eat anything for two days but then pig out roughly every third day.
The life coaching answer:
So, how do you know when to throw in the towel on a rule you have set which doesn’t seem to be working? How about 2 weeks. Or, just, whenever you feel the urge to stab yourself in the eye with a kiddie fork.
Supermom sanity has to be priority number one. Your child is not going to starve himself to death. Nutrition is important, but your mental and emotional health come first. It’s easier for a kid to eat when they are relaxed, not having a stressed-out-crazy-lady monitor ones protein intake.
In order to prioritize your sanity, you need to pay attention to how you are feeling. How do you act when you feel stressed? What are you trying to control that you have no control over? What are you ready to let go of? We get so focused on our kids, we forget to pay attention to how we feel. Priortize this and everything else will become easier.
A word of warning, make sure eating doesn’t become a power struggle. If you cling really tightly to how your kids should eat, it will probably become an area where they push back on and rebel against you. If this is your situation, email me and I’ll address it on another episode.
Supermom Kryptonite: Cognitive Dissonance
You can see how these two thoughts “be consistent” but “don’t do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result” are competing with each other. This cognitive dissonance feels uncomfortable and makes us feel stuck and confused, not knowing which action to take. If you have an area of your life where you feel uncomfortable, stuck, and confused, look for some contradictory thoughts and see where you can make a decision. Making a decision on either side will feel so much better. I did it while writing this blog. I was feeling really tired and wandering around my laptop, looking at facebook, and avoiding beforeI stopped myself and said “just choose one”. I chose the question I would answer and what to write about, and then took a nap. Then I wrote the rest.
Indecision drains us. “Should I go to the gym or walk the dog?” It doesn’t matter, just choose one. “Should I sign myself up for a life coaching program or sign my daughter up for music lessons?” Give yourself the freedom that comes from committing to a decision today, knowing you can always change your mind.
Supermom Power Boost: Taking care of #1
Most of my clients have a hard time putting their needs before their kids. Do you know anyone whose mom doesn’t take good care of her mental, emotional, financial or physical health? It is such a drain on the child. The most important gift we can give our kids is our own health and happiness. Today’s Supermom Powerboost is to cook what you enjoy cooking. Go to the movies by yourself. Send yourself flowers. Do something to honor and appreciate yourself. This is not the job of your kids or husband but you can teach them how to treat you.
Once a month, I would get the Oprah magazine in the mail. In the next few days, I would find an opportunity to go “out to dinner with Oprah”. It was so lovely not having to cook or do dishes. I got to choose exactly what I wanted to eat and read what I wanted to read. We can get so hooked into focusing on the kids, that we forget to focus on ourselves. I highly recommend building a routine around self care so you don’t have to hit the boiling point every time you need a break. Create consistency around “mom time” and the kids will get used to it and won’t cling and cry like they can do if they aren’t accustomed to it.