I eavesdrop. A lot.
In the supermarket, in a cafe, on a train, I hear the things that parents say to their children about food and eating. The ordinary, everyday things that feel like the right thing to say.
But are actually the wrong the thing to say.
In this new series, I will be sharing some of these snippets with you and explaining how they encourage – not discourage – fussy eating! Here’s the first one:
[In the supermarket. A mum and her three-year-old daughter. The girl bounds over to a big freezer, opens the door and reaches for a bag of peas enthusiastically.]
Mum: No, no, put them back darling. You don’t like peas.
[Child puts the peas back and closes the freezer door.]
In the fight against fussy eating, the words ‘don’t like’ are Very Bad Words. Avoid them like the plague! Why? They give your child this message:
There are two types of food: The ones you Like and the ones you Don’t Like. This is a fixed thing. It doesn’t change. (Oh, so be sure to approach new foods with caution – just in case they turn out to be one of your Don’t Likes!)
Clearly this girl had rejected peas before – maybe once, maybe many times. Either way, this doesn’t mean she won’t eat them tomorrow, or next month, or next year – given the chance. Children’s palettes change and develop – and some days, like us, they just don’t fancy something. What we don’t want is for them to put a food into the Don’t Like bin in their head forever: I will never not ever eat a pea again (to use Lola’s lingo from Charlie and Lola!).
Instead, we want to keep everything fluid, flexible, on the menu. Perhaps this girl would have happily eaten peas the next time they came her way.
Much less likely now.
Now read Things not to say #2