Here are some tips on how to handle a picky eater and what you can do about it to restore peace to your dinner table for family meals.
Take these mindsets and tips to heart and then, even if your kids are picky eaters, you won’t feel super stressed at mealtimes.
Picky eating is enough to make any mother stressed out. And that’s the key… THE MOTHER getting stressed out.
The reality is kids won’t starve themselves. Unless they have a medical condition, they will simply not starve.
You may be the reason there are dinnertime power struggles. That’s the bad news.
The good news is this…
If you are causing them then you are one video away from stopping them!
I hope this helps challenge some of your mindsets and helps you to bring some peace to mealtimes in your homes.
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Picky Eating (Toddlers & Preschoolers) Strategies
Here are some mindsets and strategies to help you push through.
Don’t have a win/lose mindset
The idea that your child needs to finish their plate or the mealtime is a loss will get you into power struggles and unnecessary frustration.
They will eat some, not eat some, and life will move on. By creating a goal that is all or nothing you are setting yourself and your child up for discouragement, failures, and stressful meal times.
Know this… your child will not starve themselves
Your child may refuse to eat solids then refuse your healthy meals and you are so worried they are going to starve that you…. break out the sugary yogurt.
And lo and behold… they’ll eat a bowl full!
They can hold out if they aren’t hungry enough to eat what you’re offering, if they simply don’t like the taste or texture of what you’re offering, or if they want one of thier preferred favorits.
But, barring medical conditions (for which you should be in league with your medical team) your child will not starve themselves.
So you don’t need to get in the habit of obsessing over their choices and quantities thinking they will. A hungry child will eat.
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You could adopt a two option approach…
I am a reasonable loving mother who knows my children’s likes and dislikes and does not cook chopped liver for my children at night.
With that as a background, we have a two option approach for our kids.
➡️ They can take dinner or they can leave it.
There is no third option (another meal I haven’t made). There’s no drama, there’s no running around cooking random things, there is dinner or there is no dinner.
This reduces stress for you.
Avoid making meals a power struggle
If you are super stressed about meals your children will know this is a Hot Area.
That means they can use this time as a way to feel some power in their lives. They aren’t manipulating, they are using this opportunity to meet their needs for control.
They will refuse to eat and get tons of attention. They will hold out until you give in and offer dessert, etc.
Instead, offer healthy options for meals and for snacks and let our child decide how much they’ll eat of what.
Small portion sizes for the win
By filling up your child’s plate it can be intimidating to your child.
Smaller portions actually do something weird to our brains. A small portion signals “maybe this is all there is” and we want to scarf it up!
Of course, you can give them as many servings as you please, but plating up smaller portions often stops the meal resistance.
Rethink the “take one bite” or “finish your plate” rule
I have 5 kids.
This means unless I want to keep track of a spreadsheet rotation, I am not worried about who ate how much and what.
Sure, no dessert if you’ve left all your broccoli on the plate, but bringing plates out at different meals to make kids eat them really doesn’t teach much except to not listen to your own stomach.
I have a friend who went to a private school growing up and they had a “you have to finish your lunch” rule. The portions were quite large as well.
Years ago, upon telling me this, she struggled with her weight because after 12+ years of making herself finish a meal, she could not stop when she was satisfied.
She felt compelled to finish the plate.
In contrast, a midwife friend told me a story about her colleague who grew up in a family of 10. Food was put on the table in dishes and if you were hungry, you ate.
Nobody kept track of your broccoli bites. If you didn’t eat, you didn’t eat.
And guess what? Everyone ate!
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