I’ve mentioned briefly that the 4 year old is a picky eater. Every person on earth is aware that kids can be….selective as far as eating goes. Hell, they built an entire ad campaign around it. (LIFE cereal anyone?)
I won’t insult anyone by claiming that our child ‘takes it to extremes’ or ‘is the pickiest ever’ – but his affliction with the malady of selective consumption borders on severe.
If it were up to him, his entire diet would consist of hotdogs, peanut butter and nutella sandwiches, apple slices, bananas, and pasta (no sauce, plenty of grated cheese.) We are able to pepper other things in there, and occasionally he’ll surprise us by requesting something.
The killer is, he’s not adverse to his fruits and vegetables, so its not like we’re having a health crisis. The insanity comes from the constant pendulum of opinion regarding food.
Today, he can’t eat enough of something. Tomorrow, he might rather dive out a window than eat it again. Next week? Its back on the ‘love’ list.
Another lively bit of annoying, is that he’ll often look at what his mother and I are eating and make a face, or openly make an indelicate sound. And if you offer him a bit of something he’s never had, he’ll fly into a minor conniption, waving his arms, covering his mouth, or yelling ‘Nonononono’ – in antics reminiscant of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon.
Tired of these antics, I have instituted a few new rules regarding feeding time at the zoo.
1. Any rude sounds or comments regarding other people’s food- and you have to try some. Non-negotiable. You have to try it.
2. If offered something that you don’t want, ANY reaction other than “No thank you”- and you have to try some. Non-negotiable.
3.Every now and then. I’ll declare it ‘try something new day’ – which means that you HAVE to have a piece of something that you’ve never had before. I make the decision. Just because you’ve never eaten maple fudge, doesn’t mean that is on the menu. Nice try kid.
Rule #3 IS negotiable to an extent. The other day for example, he and I were on the road running a bunch of errands. As lunch time approached, we stopped for some fast food. (Yes, we eat McDonalds from time to time, cue the collective apoplexy from the holier-than-thous) He’s usually set in his ways- some fries and a smoothie. This particular day, I decided that he would have some nuggets. He’s HAD them before, but in spite of telling me he liked them, every time they’re suggested, he’d freak out and turn them down.
My rule for the day: “Eat some nuggets, and you don’t have to try something new for dinner.”
Wouldn’t you know? He ate the nuggets. And liked them.
He’s catching on fast too. Even his stubborn nature and still-pliable mind can recognize that there might be better alternatives to trying something different. He’s not smart enough to try to barter his way out of the new rule yet, but I suspect that’s not far off. He’s a cunning creature after all.
My admittedly rather heavy-handed approach to feeding time has yielded a few results. – His table manners have improved. No more barf noises when I cook dinner, No more panic attacks when he’s offered something he hadn’t had before. As for trying something new? He’ll protest and whine the whole time, but there hasn’t been a time yet where he hasn’t eaten what I’ve given him.
And no- When it IS ‘try something new day’ – he doesn’t get handed anything gross. I don’t go out of my way to dump creamed spinach down his gullet, or force feed him huitlacoche. (google it, its not pretty) More often than not, its just a piece of what we are eating. And its not a full portion either. I’m smart enough to recognize that he genuinely might not like what I have to offer him- so its usually just a sliver of something. I’m stern, but not a jerk.
Of course, I realize that rules 1 and 2 are bordering on ‘negative reinforcement’ or ‘punishment education’ but lets face it, if all of our positive reinforcement doesn’t work, or if he’s constantly rewarded with desserts or praise even after he blatantly refuses to eat dinner, its time to bust out the “Consequences for actions” education. – And it works.
We’re still dealing with a picky eater. There’s no question about that. But I think I’ve managed to dull some of the more cutting edges of the phase with these little rules, as contrary to progressive parenting mantras that they may be.