There are few things more frustrating than pouring time and effort into cooking a meal your child won’t eat. But for some parents, this is the nightly norm.
While it’s easy to think your child is the problem, the things we parents do can sometimes make matters worse.
Here are 5 approaches to avoid – and what to do instead:
1. Forcing your child to eat or try foods
Just a generation or two ago, many parents forced their kids to stay at the dinner table until they’d cleared their plate. But experts now believe this can do more harm than good; it creates power struggles and makes dinnertime a negative experience.
Instead: Serve up a variety of foods and let your child choose what she eats from the plate. If something is new, suggest she start by simply licking it and work up to trying a mouthful over time.
2. Bribing them to eat
It’s always tempting to entice your child with treats. Promising him a bowl of ice cream if he eats his vegetables might work, but bribery tends to backfire in the long run. It sends the message that eating healthy food is a chore.
Instead: Give up the bribes and just keep serving up the food you want your kids to eat. They’ll learn to like it – or at least eat it – eventually.
3. Calling her fussy
As parents, we often vent about our children’s challenging behaviour and seek advice from fellow mums and dads. But calling your kid fussy – to her face or in front of others – can encourage her to live up to the label and keep on behaving that way.
Instead: If your child is fussing about food, try to ignore it. And feel free to commiserate with others – just not within earshot of your child.
4. Making ALL the food choices
Who decides what to eat in your family? Who buys groceries? Prepares meals? If the answer is you (or your partner), it might be time to start giving your child more independence when it comes to food.
Instead: Get your child involved. Bring him grocery shopping with you and let him choose from a range of healthy foods. Invite him to pick a dinner recipe each week and help with simple things like washing vegetables. Kids are more likely to eat something they’ve helped make.
5. Giving up after the first go
Kids’ reactions to new foods are sometimes so negative, there seems little point in offering them again in future. Isn’t it just easier to stick to the few foods you know they’ll eat without complaint?
Instead: Keep offering foods your child has refused. Studies show they may have to see a food on their plate 10 – 15 times before they even try it!
If your child is a fussy eater, try not to let it faze you too much. It’s normal for kids’ taste preferences to be different to ours. We lose tastebuds as we age, which is why children find strongly-flavoured foods so intense compared to us. Your youngster will probably become less picky as he or she gets older.If you’re really concerned that your child isn’t getting the nutrients their growing body needs, have a chat to your GP or an accredited dietician. They may recommend a supplement like Oz Farm’s Kids Care formula to support your little one’s health until they start enjoying a wider range of foods.