What to Do With a Finicky Eater
by Bruce Narramore
F ive year old Cody’s mother and dad tried everything they knew of to get Cody to eat his dinner. First they put a small helping of mashed potatoes, meat, and peas on his plate. Cody just stared at it. Then they challenged, “You want to grow up and be a big boy, don’t you?” Cody ate a bite or two then stopped. Next they tried bribing. “If you eat your food, you can have dessert.” Cody ate a little more, then started making rivers with his mashed potatoes and gravy. Finally they threatened. “Hurry up, or you can’t have any dessert.” When Cody replied, “I don’t want any dessert.” they gave up and sent him on his way.
Like many children, Cody was manipulating his parents into a gigantic power struggle and his parents didn’t realize it. Before they tried to coerce Cody into eating, peace reigned at dinner. If Cody didn’t like the food or didn’t eat, it was his problem. He was the only one to suffer since he went away hungry. But Cody’s parents weren’t content to let it go at that. They decided it was their responsibility to make Cody eat.
What is the natural consequence
of not eating? It’s going hungry!
That’s when the problem started. In so many words they told their son, “You are a dumb little child. We know what’s best for you. Let us help you eat, and you can become a big boy.” Cody unconsciously thought, “I’ll show you who is big and smart and powerful right now! I won’t do what you say and soon you will be feeling helpless!” The struggle was on, but it was all unnecessary.
What is the natural consequence of not eating? It’s going hungry! Long before God gave children mothers and fathers, he created the hunger pang button. We know that, because Adam and Eve didn’t have parents telling them when to eat, and they got along just fine! I’m sure God didn’t walk through the Garden of Eden three times a day and ask, “Have you eaten yet?” or “Have you cleaned your plate!”
The way to help a finicky eater develop proper eating habits is to put a reasonably attractive meal on the table, not let him snack between meals unless he ate the last meal, and let nature run its course. If your finicky eater doesn’t want to eat what you have prepared, simply remove all food from the table when you finish eating and inform him there will be no eating until the next meal.
Of course you have a responsibility to provide healthy, reasonably tasty food for your children. But remember that children have different metabolic rates, different physical needs, and different likes and dislikes. Some really don’t need much to eat. Others naturally eat a lot. At certain ages you shouldn’t expect your children to like vegetables and foods made with gooey things like mayonnaise and sauces! At other stages all some children want to eat is cold cereal.
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