At the heart of my work with the parents of picky eaters is a secret. An idea that is extremely simple and yet can be very hard to accept. I call it ‘The Feeding Paradox‘. Here it is.
‘The harder you try, the worse things will get’
or, to put a positive spin on it,
‘The less you try, the more progress you will make’
This is counter-intuitive because our natural instinct as parents is to look at a problem we are experiencing, summon the strength to tackle it and then try as hard as we can to make things better. When it comes to feeding, I teach people to try not to try. Continue reading
Choosing whether or not to give children vitamin supplements is not quite the simple decision that it might seem. Many parents of picky eaters give multi-vitamins as it allays their anxiety about their child’s limited diet. But what do the experts say? Well, lots of different things, as it turns out.
I am not a dietitian – my expertise is in the psychological, emotional and behavioural aspects of picky eating so I am not out to tell parents what vitamins their children need. I thought it would be useful though, to sum up some of the thinking about mutivitamins and to suggest a few things to consider before choosing to supplement your fussy eater’s diet.
My last post was about the importance of acknowledging that you have a problem with your child’s eating and making the decision that you want things to change. So what next?
I normally steer well clear of self-help books, but some time ago, I read Getting Things Done by David Allen. Aside from the joys of owning my very own labeller, one of the key things I got from this book is the notion of the ‘next action’. It’s a brilliantly simple concept whereby you define the next action for any given task. Then you do it. It’s that simple. This enables you to begin seemingly overwhelming challenges because even the most daunting of projects has a ‘next action’ that in itself may not be daunting at all.
If you have decided that you want to improve mealtimes in your house, here’s your next action: Get your child’s weight and growth checked by a health professional. Here in the UK, this will mean a trip to see your health visitor. In the US, a visit to your pediatrician. Continue reading
“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with one small step”
Helping your child overcome issues with food is no different from tackling the other myraid of parenting challenges that life throws at us. The real beginning of the journey is about acknowledging that you have a problem. If you have a picky eater in the family, there are so many reasons why you may not yet have sought help. You may be unsure of where to go for support, you may have complex feelings about your child’s eating, perhaps secretly suspecting that you may be part of the problem – facing up to these emotions is not easy.
Sometimes, the status quo does not seem too bad. Almost without exception, the families of fussy eaters that I have worked with have established certain ways of doing things that allow them to make mealtimes as tolerable as they can be. For example, they may have become accustomed to sticking to a small repertoire of foods they know their child will eat; they may have rules that they go along with, like not having any foods touching.
Maybe you are genuinely happy with your child eating a limited diet, but in my experience, this is unlikely. It can just seem so hard to imagine things being any different. If any of the following things are true for you, you are on the road to happier and healthier mealtimes:
- I want us to eat a wider variety of foods as a family
- I want us to be able to all eat the same things
- I want to be able to enjoy meals out together
- I want my child to find social situations involving food easy
- I want my child to be an adventurous eater who enjoys food
If you can say “I want my child to have a better relationship with food and I’m ready to make some changes” take heart, because you have already begun your journey.
My next post will help you with what to do next.
For the most part, children’s mealtime behaviour happens behind closed doors. However, whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas or a feast day from another cultural tradition, big family meals mean eating in front of many people – often a time when parents of fussy eaters feel judged. Many parents tell me that they avoid revealing the full extent of their child’s restricted eating because they are embarrassed about it or feel that it’s some kind of reflection on them. At big family meals, there’s nowhere to hide.
If you are worried about making it through to the new year without any food dramas, follow these three tips: Continue reading
My last post was all about what research tells us about the importance of eating together as a family whenever possible. When I came across a study earlier this week about the impact of feeding children the same meal as the rest of the family, it seemed like the ideal follow on. Eat together – eat the same.
My model, EAF, is based around a few key principles and rules. One of these, which I have written about elsewhere , is “Serve everybody everything“. The logic behind this has several strands to it.
1. The factor that has the most influence on how children eat is how the people around them eat. This is what psychologists call modelling. It makes sense then, that if children are given the same food as the adults in their family, they are more likely to consider more foods and flavours acceptable than if they are given separate, blander dishes. Continue reading
Since ancient times, eating has been a communal business. We celebrate with food. We use food to mark significant cultural occasions. We re-group at the end of the day and share a meal along with our news. In recent times, however, there are so many demands on our time that the family meal is no longer the institution it used to be. Some research conducted in the UK a few years ago found that 10% of families never sat down to a meal together, with a further 10% saying it only happened once a week.
So what is the value in eating together as a family? As children get older and busier, it becomes logistically more and more difficult to get everyone together at the same place at the same time to eat the same thing. And does it really matter? Continue reading