Am I making my picky eater worse?
You have the world’s most “stubborn” and challenged child when it comes to food. They refuse anything new and only seem happy when they get an endless list of favourite foods?
I’m here to tell you that there are 1,000’s of these children camped in families all across the country, creating havoc for parents who just want to make sure they are eating well.
Having a child that doesn’t eat all the lovely, nutritious foods we are told they must have can be a real stress. It can make a parent feel like they are failing in one of their core responsibilities.
So, am I making the picky eating worse?
Living with a picky eater is like seeing rain every day, so let’s turn that around and find those rays of sunshine that create the rainbow!
There is a reason I am The Confident Eater. It was obvious to me, once I began working with families, that one of the core issues was that parents were not confident about their child’s eating.
In fact, it was the opposite. Parents did not believe their child could eat well. Experience showed them that most things they did were a fail and their child was not improving as they would like, or even was going backwards in the eating sphere.
After one of the first parent workshops I ran, a mother came up to me and said “I thought my son’s picky eating was all him. Now I realise it’s 70% me”.
That seems as though I am pointing fingers at parents and making fussy eating out to be their “fault”. That is absolutely not the case. But, as parents, we often do inadvertently stop progress without even realising it.
This is definitely not about blame or making parents feel bad, in fact, it’s the opposite. It is about explaining how you can help. How valuable you are in the picky eating recovery. What a difference you really can make, once you have the tools.
How can you help?
1. Have the belief that you can make a difference. In almost all cases you CAN! Who is more invested, spends more time or knows a child as well as a parent? You are the key to making this work.
2. Be confident that your child is able to do new things. This is definitely where it’s all about “faking it until you make it”. We are always super positive about swimming and reading, but when it comes to eating, we can even join in the shaming “you are a picky eater”. Which in some ways says, “you aren’t very good at eating?”.
If we believe our child can eat something, they are far more likely to believe it too.
- Creating a growth mindset. It is all about what we can make happen. Spinach may be too much of a challenge at the moment, but we can definitely get there and have our child eating it. Us believing that and then communicating it is important.
- Positive body language. We may be saying “I know you can do this” but if our expression shouts defeat then our child will know this. How can we present a positive image?
- Being confident rather than anxious. If we are nervously offering a new food then again, that vibe is what our child is seeing.
3. Give our child the chance to take that step forwards. We can self-sabotage really easily, and often do not realise we are doing it.
When we offer a new nugget but say “Oh, this is not one of your favourite ones” or “don’t bother putting the chicken on his plate, he won’t eat it”, we are inadvertently stopping our child from making potential progress.
Serving the food with a smile and then stepping back is part of an effective strategy.
Eating is one of the most complex physiological actions we perform. It is also social, emotional and psychological. Much of what happens around food is habit. Much relies on layers of beliefs built up over the years. And yet more is dependent on what is happening with those around us.
Resolving picky eating is a whole series of layers and steps that create a bigger picture. Some of the changes that truly make a difference are really subtle.
If we are convinced there is no solution, then we are stamping failure on the process from the beginning. I have seen so many near miraculous turn-arounds that I am always confident that there is a way to make progress.
You believing that you can make a difference for your child is a key starting point in this becoming a reality for your family.
It would be a real pleasure for me to help show you how.
Would my parent workshop that is all the whistles and bells and designed for families where eating is a real challenge best suit you? Or is it the mini modules that are super affordable. You can dip your toes in and get started on progress straight away, taking in the information step by step.
If you’d like some help, please get in touch and we can look at how best to achieve your goals for your child’s eating.
Let’s find not just the rainbow, but the pot of gold too!!
Judith is mum to two boys, a tween and a teen and is the author of Creating Confident Eaters. My dream is that every child is able to approach food from a place of safety and joy, not fear.
I delight in showing parents how to get picky eaters eating in simple, gentle, practical steps that anyone can master. I graduated from Cambridge University and have qualifications in nutrition, parent education and am a trained telephone support worker for ParentHelpline. I am currently working towards a Masters degree in Psychology. I would love to understand more of the “why” behind fussy eating and to eventually spearhead research in this area.