Six months ago, I was completely consumed with my son’s picky eating habits. His diet consisted of Cheerios and toast and despite everyone’s efforts to reassure me that this was a phase he would eventually grow out of, I was convinced that my son was somehow the exception, that his stubborn refusal to try new things would last FOREVER.
It always seems that when you’re in the midst of a particularly challenging phase of your child’s life, it’s so difficult to fathom the idea that things can change or improve.
Although I constantly reminded myself that his pickiness was totally normal, I remember feeling really hopeless about the whole situation, unable to even imagine a day where my son would eat a vegetable without being coerced or tricked.
It truly amazes me the difference 6 months can make in a toddler’s life. Don’t get me wrong, my finicky eater hasn’t miraculously morphed into a kid that gorges himself. BUT, I have to say, his openness to trying new foods has significantly increased and his strong-willed obstinance has definitely decreased.
Here are some lessons I learned in the past 6 months about how to cope with my picky toddler:
1. Acknowledging this was a power struggle I was NEVER going to win: When I finally came to terms with the fact that I had absolutely no control over my son’s pickiness, I have to say, it was ridiculously liberating. For the most part, the bribing and pleading has stopped and I think this was an essential component in removing some of the pressure and eliminating the dreadful power struggle. If he chooses to not eat what I prepared, it’s not the end of the world! The kid won’t starve!
2. Making mealtime fun and interactive: I noticed that whenever I involve my son in some small way in the preparation of his meals, he is WAY more likely to eat it. Empowering and implicating him gives him a sense of control and autonomy. So we started making mini pizzas together. I help him stuff his own tacos. He helps me mix the muffin batter. Of course, this is not necessarily feasible to do for every meal, especially when you’re exhausted at the end of the day and are rushing to get dinner made. But I try to include him whenever I can.
3. Don’t give up, keep offering new foods!!: Okay…I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it….but when I was ready to pull my hair out, there were periods when I would be a total enabler and give into the pickiness. I was sick of the constant refusal. I stopped offering new things and just succumbed to his request for chicken fingers every night. But then one day, he surprised me. We went out to eat breakfast and his grandmother offered him some scrambled eggs. My immediate reaction was to say, “Don’t even bother, he won’t eat it!”. But to my disbelief, the kid scoffed the scrambled eggs down like there was no tomorrow. That taught me that I can’t give up, that I MUST continue to offer him new things, otherwise, how will his palette grow??
Dealing with a picky-eater is frustrating, nerve-wracking and ANNOYING.
Time, patience and perseverance are needed in order to survive this challenging phase.
But when I see my son chomp down on a red pepper, or when he eats a piece of pizza with gusto, I’m reminded….. there is hope!