Don’t follow the crowd!
Listen to parents with their children at mealtimes and 95 times out of a 100 you’ll hear things like this:
Come on, have another bite of your sandwich. It’s that type of ham you really like.
I asked you if you wanted peas or sweetcorn and you said peas, so eat them please.
I want you to have a few more mouthfuls at least….I made pasta and pesto because it’s your favourite.
Let’s think about what dynamic is in operation here:
This is so the norm that it’s easy not to even question it. After all, it seems to make sense: If we give our child the foods they say they like and want, they’re more likely to eat in the first place. And if we then push and encourage them to eat, we’ll get more of the food into them, right?
The secret to stopping fussy eating is to do the very opposite.
Yep, completely flip things around. Reverse the dynamic:
Or in other words, serve whatever meals and foods you want to. Then leave it entirely up to them to decide whether and how much of it they eat.
This can sound really scary – and irrational – at first! They’ll eat next to nothing if I do that! you might think. What’s the point in serving them something I know they don’t like? And why would they eat any of it if I don’t encourage or persuade them to? But it really does make a huge difference. Here’s why.
Firstly, it’s about EXPOSURE. A child needs to be exposed to a food on a regular basis to become comfortable and familiar with it – a precursor to actually eating it. When you stay in control of what you serve, you can expose them to a wide variety of meals and foods. If, on the other hand, you let them pick and choose what you serve, they will go for their preferences and favourites and those foods will quickly become their only ‘safe’ foods. Before you know it, you’ll soon be able to count the number of meals they’ll eat on one hand – and still have fingers left over!
Secondly, it’s about POWER AND ATTENTION. If you completely stop pushing them to eat what’s on their plate, they have nothing to react against and no attention to gain by not eating something. And if there’s no power or attention available in this way, the most enjoyment to be had is from the food itself. Once the pressure to eat is taken away, their natural curiosity about food and their own desire to eat can emerge. Food is, after all, a pleasure. Humans – even little ones – naturally want to explore and eat food. It’s a basic human instinct that we shouldn’t mess with!
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