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Parental Anxiety When You Have Picky Kids

Many if not most young kids are picky. There are a variety of reasons this is so. Some causes could be genetic or a personality trait, but whatever the reason, parents’ attitudes can improve the situation.

Person panicking

I am not a doctor, but I read a lot regarding kids’ issues, and I use my intuition to come to a conclusion. I can guarantee that in many cases, the anxiety we have regarding what our children eat contributes to the problem. Hold up for a second; this is not meant to be a guilt trip or a kick in the stomach, because parents are anxious solely because we want the best for our kids. I am one hundred percent guilty, which is why I have learned so much about the topic.

Birth to Six Months

Father Holding Newborn Baby Son In Nursery

The newborn stage is a parent’s best parental experience when it comes to food. After all, the baby only needs milk to be happy and healthy. Mama’s milk has been proven to be the best, but if that is not available, then the next best thing your baby can eat is a good brand of store-bought formula (please don’t make your own).

Babies around six months old are usually quite plump. They are not very active, and their milk consists of high-fat content designed to assist with rapid brain development. The food dilemma usually starts after this phase when other foods are introduced.

The Picky Stage – part 1

Some babies will start to discriminate against food as early as six months when new foods are introduced. In my experience, pickiness at this age is often related to texture sensitivities.

Babies as young as 6 or 7 months might hate the texture of purees. You can give the child foods with firmer textures like egg yolks or small pieces of banana. Always feed a baby while they are upright and watch carefully for any allergies.

The Picky Stage – part 2

Kid not wanting to eat vegetables
Kid not wanting to eat vegetables

While some babies will show signs of pickiness at age 6 or 7 months, the pickiness that most people encounter starts during toddlerhood. This age is the stage where parents get concerned about eating habits. Additionally, many pediatricians don’t address the pickiness issue, but instead, quote you the daily nutritional requirements.

So what do parents do, when per the doctor, a 2-year-old needs one and a half cup of vegetables? I can tell you what I did, I panicked I begged, and I bribed. I would have thought those were the only choices until I read this book. Let’s address the common reactions to picky kids in detail.

The Panic

Person panicking

Panicking is a human response to a frightening scenario. A parent with a 2-year-old who will only eat fries and chicken nuggets might panic when they are presented with the daily nutritional requirements. The reaction varies a lot with personality, but more anxious parents tend to have kids that are the pickiest. You don’t believe me? If someone pressures you to do something that you are already cautious about doing, how would you react?

A very anxious parent will cook a pot of broccoli and proceed with all manner of tricks to try to get the kid to eat. This anxiety is not only exhausting for the child, but it is also for the parent too. Wouldnt it be great if you can get into the habit of just serving foods and continue to read the news? But, alas, the next series of reactions are common.

The Bribe

 Kid Eating with Parents

“Ella, eat your carrots, and I will buy you a toy. Ok, how about some candy”? The list goes on and changes while Ella pretends not to hear you. If you do those things, kindly stop. For one, it is not sustainable. Will you buy a toy three times per day? Will you give your kid candy to eat a vegetable? Then you would cancel the benefit at that point.

Kids are smart. If you have to bribe them to eat, then that validates their assumption that the food isn’t good anyway. If you bribe your kids to eat, trust me, it is time to cut the habit. Also, it is possible that your kid will expect to be paid to eat the foods she likes.

The Beg

Kid Eating Vegetables

I have also done this. “Nate, vegetables make you healthy, and strong and you will not get sick, now please eat it.” This happens while the fork is next to his mouth, waiting for his lips to open up.

These comments are very common things for parents to tell their kids. Which 3-year-old gives a crap about being healthy? They are not mature enough to internalize the concept of healthiness as knowing and understanding are two different things. Adults knowingly eat foods that are bad for them and we expect a toddler to care?

I had this incident backfire when I did get my son to eat vegetables after telling him it will make him strong. He flat out called me a liar when he was unable to lift a table.

The bottom line is that begging your child to eat is probably the most direct form of anxiety we transfer to her. It doesn’t work, or if it does, it doesn’t work for long, and it is psychologically draining on the parent.

Being A Short Order Cook

Handsome bearded father cooking at kitchen with his cute son

Cooking foods that are a child’s favorite is a common approach to resolving the stress associated with feeding children. It seems easier to implement than other techniques, and it works! If your kid likes plain pasta and sauce, then cooking pasta and sauce along with the family dinner is a common approach.

Being a short-order cook does little to improve your child’s eating habits and usually cement the pickiness. Kids will be delighted to eat their favorite five foods every day of your life.

As I have hinted throughout this article, I have done all these things until I learned not to. My son started daycare at 21 months old at a school that forbids us to bring meals, as they provide meaks for the children. I was worried, sick. I got their meal plan ahead of time and tried to recreate all the meals at home to introduce it to him.

Surprisingly, the teachers reported that he ate nearly all the meals provided, and none of the meals were foods I make at home. I sure don’t buy foods like sunflower seed butter since we don’t have any nut allergies.

But, this was the turning point for me. Realizing that my son will eat foods served to him when he knows there are no alternatives, was a step forward. I have also visited his classroom during lunch, and all kids ate at least some of what they were given, yet I am sure nearly all parents would complain about their pickiness.

Ok, So What’s a Parent To Do?

I know this is easier said than done, but it works. Simple serve meals to your kids and walk away. Don’t bribe, beg, or demands that she eats it. The point of this article is to address the high-pressure food environment parents inadvertently create because they mean well. I did, you might do it. There is no shame it in, but we can learn not to if we train ourselves.

The universal expert recommendation is to learn to serve your kids a variety of foods, and that’s your role in the process. Eating is the job of the child. You can only get to this mindset if you have made peace with the process being gradual. If your goal is to get a child eating the recommended amount of fruits, veggies, and grains, you will have to acknowledge it will not get there overnight.

For specific strategies to help your child to eat well, please read this post. During my quest, I found this book very helpful. If you have an extremely picky child, that is very resistant to these techniques, this book will help.

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Niki
Author: Niki

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