Apr 27, 2011

Getting Your Kids to Eat-A real mommy momment.

Probably every mom has encountered this challenge at some time-getting your kids to eat what is on their plate.  I know there are a bazillion theories and ideas out there (thank you but I don't need any lectures on how yours is better than mine).  And I don't believe for a moment that kids eating or not eating is a reflection on how good of a parent you are.  Kids are people too and have their own ideas and opinions.  I know Small Fry ate pretty much everything as a baby and as a toddler but as soon as she figured out she had a say then things changed.  She still eats pretty good but she definitely has her likes and dislikes and is pretty adamant in her refusals to try some things.  So then the question arises-how on earth are you supposed to get a child like her to eat what you have cooked for a meal?  Do you become a short order cook and make a separate meal for each child?  Do you only cook "kid" food for every meal?  Do you buy a Happy Meal for every meal?  What to do???? I am no expert by any means.  If it was up to my kids we'd have Mac and Cheese and chicken nuggets for every meal (which we don't!!).  I have found two principles that work in our house.
#1. If you call a food something that your kids like, know or will eat and it looks, smells or tastes similar to that name they are more likely to eat it.  For example I make baked oatmeal for breakfast.  It is crunchy as opposed to goopy like regular oatmeal.  I tell Small Fry we are having oatmeal cookie for breakfast and she could do back flips she is so excited.  She knows it is not a cookie, she knows what I am talking about but when I say we are having just oatmeal I don't get nearly the reaction.  Simple.  She doesn't like ham-well she thinks she doesn't like ham.  If I ask her if she wants some lunch meat ham she will say no.  If I ask her if she would like some lunch meat turkey (and actually give her ham) she will say yes and gobble it all up.  She likes turkey but not ham.  If I tell her she is eating ham (like call it that by mistake) she will correct me and say, "No this is turkey."  She loves spaghetti and lasagna.  If we are having spaghetti I call it just that and she is thrilled.  If we are having any other type of noodle with a tomato sauce and meat I call it lasagna and she is thrilled.  No other fancy names needed.
#2. The principle of leverage (some may call this bribing-I don't think they are the same thing and again spare me the lecture if you feel one coming on). When I am serving a meal that includes something that I know my kids may not try of their own free will and choice or that they may not eat because they like something else on their plate better (for example not want to eat the potato but want to eat all the meat) I also serve something that I know they will love (like a bowl of strawberries or an apple, or bread and jam or just bread, crackers, cheese etc etc-not candy or pop or juice or dessert items during dinner).  I then use the item I know they will love as leverage to get them to eat what I want them to eat.  "I need you to eat two bites of potato and then you can have a strawberry."  Then I only give one strawberry.  2 more bites are required before they can have another one. Or Small Fry will ask for a strawberry and I will say, "When you eat two bites of sandwich then you can have some."  "When you have eaten a bite of rice you can have a piece of bread."  Sometimes I say "Only the kids who have eaten up all their peas get to have crackers."  I tell you people it works almost every time.  And we don't always have dessert but if I know Small Fry is just messing around I will tell her, "everyone that has tried 4 more bites of stew will get to have a cookie for dessert." (That one I pull out only once or twice a week as needed.)  I don't consider it bribing-I consider it smart parenting.  And I never force my kids to clean off their plate or try things they just are refusing to do.  We had an incident of vomit all over our table over one green bean (which by the way Small Fry ate by the fist fulls just weeks previous) and I decided it was not worth the power trip as a parent.  I like to look at my kids as people too.  If someone did that to me I would be furious.  I feel my energy is better used else where.  These two principles however do make meal time run that much smoother. 
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  1. I have the world's pickiest eater and I hear you loud and clear on the lectures! "Oh, just give them options and they'll eat". Love that one. ;) Another favorite: "Make him eat as many bites as he is old". Ummmm, I prefer not to hold my child down and force feed him a carrot, because that's what it would take.

    Unfortunately, the "bribing" and "renaming" methods don't work for us. He simply won't eat at all, and most nights goes without dinner because of it. I have yet to find a method that he "falls" for. I keep telling myself that he won't starve and that he will someday eat a vegetable. Someday... :)

  2. I just "knew" my three kids would outgrow this faze (that really helped) and they did ....eventually. Now I have a "spectrum disorder" grandson who WON'T try anything and when he won't he won't. Nothing works. BUT he's healthy, eats enough and get vitamins. And he's changing.... tried mashed potatoes the other day! Loved them! whoo hoo!

  3. We do things almost exactly the same way you do. It is amazing how before we are parents we think we know it all and then our kids come along and teach us that we know almost nothing!

  4. I do both of those things with my 3 year old and they both work fantastically!!! It's always nice to know that I'm not the only one with a quirky picky eater and that I'm not the only one dealing with it in the way that I am.


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