Help With Fussy Eating – a Mother’s View

by Elaine Egan on June 12, 2011

boy and cooked vegetables

Having a fussy eater can be a nightmare for parents. Take a deep breath and check out our tips for dealing with fussy eaters!

Having a fussy eater in the house is no joke. I have friends who have have been reduced to tears by a child who won’t eat anything green or lumpy. Meal times become a battle of wills, with tears and tantrums instead of a nice chat about everyone’s day.

Fussy eating is common but we shouldn’t let it rule our lives. Maybe if we lighten up and put a few new strategies in place, we might be able to cope better and avoid arguments at the dinner table.

Food Terrorists

Don’t give in to the demands of a food terrorist. Using “treats” as a way to get kids to eat their dinner is not a good idea. I had a friend who did this – her child would only eat dinner if they could have a few Smarties after the meal. This soon escalated into a king size Mars bar every day, and dinner became something to be endured instead of enjoyed. Now she is stuck and is going to have a hard time breaking free from this situation.

The Use of Force

Forcing a child to clear the plate is another bad move. “You aren’t getting down from the table until you’ve finished” is a common cry – often resulting in children sitting at the table in front of a cold congealed dinner until bed time. Alternatively, you end up with the child forcing down their food and then bringing it up later all over your floor. In both these cases, no one wins. You end up with a frustrated, angry parent and a sulky child. If the child has eaten all that they need, take it away and try giving smaller portions next time. They can always come back for more later if they are hungry.

Talk is Cheap

Try not to talk about food in a negative way. How many parents have you heard talking to their friends while the child is within earshot, “ He doesn’t eat broccoli, never touches it. I wish he would”. The child is suddenly special and attention has been drawn to his special circumstances. Instead, try to be positive about food and talk about how tasty or healthy something is.

Working up an Appetite

Hunger is the best sauce. If your child is hungry, they are more likely to appreciate their dinner. Avoid snacking – if they are truly hungry in-between meals offer fruit or nuts instead of reaching for the treat drawer. Limit treats to weekends only, or when friends come over. Working up a healthy appetite never harmed anyone.

The Prisoner of War

Don’t become a kitchen slave. I knew a mother who ended up cooking three different meals every day for her fussy family. As a parent my life is busy enough without becoming a short order chef on top of everything else. If you start pandering to everyone it soon spirals out of control. Obviously you can allow for some food negotiations, but at the end of the day you have two dinner options – take it or leave it.

Conflict Resolution

In my experience, fussy eaters tend to improve as they get older. Children’s taste buds may change as they grow, so it’s always worth having another go at presenting “problem” foods. Don’t make too much fuss, just stick it on the plate and gently encourage your child to try the food, and don’t lose your head if they refuse! If we have a relaxed open attitude to food, our children will pick up on it and hopefully it won’t become a family flashpoint.

For more help with your fussy eater, see our top tips to help fussy eaters.

Now I have tackled the food war crisis, I need to sort out the battle of teenagers untidy bedrooms – suggestions anyone?

How do you cope with fussy eaters? If you have any useful tips or some interesting experiences dealing with fussy eaters we would love to hear about them, share them in the comments box below.

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