Parenting the Picky Eater
Avoiding meal-time struggles, and sometimes relinquishing control, is key to dining with a picky eater.
Apparently, I make Perry Hall's best peanut butter sandwich. Obviously, this is true, since I make at least one, sometimes two, a day for my 4-year-old, who refuses to widen his palate beyond the 10 food items that he willingly eats.
I’ve tried everything, rewards, star charts, letting him help me cook, praising him for trying something, taking away things for not trying something. I’ll even lay it all out here—we’ve even bribed him. You name it, we’ve tried it.
It can be very frustrating as a parent to have a child that refuses to eat all the tasty and wonderful things in life. And also, because it often means preparing a special meal to avoid mealtime struggles.
As you may suspect, it’s difficult for us to go out to restaurants because the food they serve isn't mommy’s out-of-the-box mac 'n' cheese, or the grilled cheese is made with yellow cheese instead of white or the plain pasta is the wrong shape.
Yes, I confess, after years of battling with this child, where we both leave the table near tears, I try to acquiesce and hope that he grows out of it. I’m the first to admit, this is extremely difficult to do. I cook a nutritious meal—that even our 11-month-old will devour—but my 4-year-old won’t touch it. In fact, it's offensive if it is even on his plate. I often wrestle the nutritional components of his daily food intake.
It is a constant struggle for me. I’ll give in for a while and let him take the lead. He will eat—his favorite foods only—but then I relapse and want him to try something new. The vicious cycle starts all over again.
Over the past few years, I’ve met multiple times with our pediatrician about this very subject. Fortunately, my boy is growing well, properly maintaining his position on the ever-important growth curve and the doctor is not concerned. He assures me that my boy is just finicky and it’s his way of controlling the situation. And he nailed it—that’s what bothers me the most—giving up control.
In my heart, I know my picky eater will eventually grow to appreciate the wonderful things about food, and he'll even eventually enjoy going out to restaurants, rather than just seeing dinner out as a reason to play his Nintendo DS. And one day, selecting a new shape of pasta won’t mean adding a “food” to his list.
I just have to learn to be patient—and relish the fact that my younger boy is not picky.