Last Updated on April 2, 2021 by Creative Parenting
Is your toddler a picky eater… driving you nuts?
It’s gonna happen one day.
Your little person is going to start to have preferences for food!
Imagine though, if you KNEW what to do when that day arrived…
You coulda avoided the dreaded “Dinner Protest.”
A concept you DO NOT want to let get out of hand.
The bad news is it’s extremely common for kids to become picky eaters at some point. The good news is that it doesn’t last forever.
But what’s maddening is picky eaters come in all different types.
There’s what you could say is a “picky” eater. (Those who eat pretty well but sometimes get cranky about what you give them).
And then there are PICKY EATERS:
Those who only want crackers for dinner. Know what we mean?
And no matter what kind your kid is, it’s going to take some adjusting on your part when you first encounter it.
Because you’re in this for the long haul my friend.
Your kid could be a picky eater for a long time!!
As of this writing at the end of 2020, our 3-year-old is still going strong with his eating preferences (which started at about 1.5).
Now, if they are young still, it might just be a phase. Dinnertime struggles could be a sign of other things, so you gotta tread carefully with how you manage the protests. (If you’re dealing with toddler discipline, you might find this post helpful).
Because managing a child who’s a picky eater requires care…
We wanted to share some thoughts with you.
And some ideas to help you both mentally prepare and manage it long term.
Because navigating the years of feeding picky mouths is one of the toughest jobs a parent can face.
So without further ado….
We’ve cooked up a few insights especially to help you.
Let’s dive in.
Remember: You’re In Charge
We know, it can be hard to actually remember this when things get intense!
After all, the “dinner protests” usually go like this:
You’re tired after a long day.
Either from work.
Or from doing stuff around the house.
It’s taken all your energy to get dinner prepared.
Everyone’s sat down for dinner.
You finally get the wee one’s plate prepared.
You catch your breath.
They don’t want to eat a BITE.
“I don’t want this!” They say.
But you just ate this YESTERDAY! we say in response.
And yet, they don’t even want to touch it.
All they want to do is get down and crawl all around you while you and the rest of the family are trying to eat dinner.
It can be maddening.
ESPECIALLY if it starts to become a pattern.
That’s why, before we talk about any of our other ideas…
You gotta remember the first rule of them all:
You’re the boss.
You’re the parent!
YOU! Are the ones in charge.
Over and over again. So you will…
Be Ready For When Your Picky Eater Says: “YUCK!”
We’ll tell you this for when it happens to you:
When they first start to react (negatively) to the food they’re served?
It can be quite a shock.
And over time, that shock can turn into an annoyance.
Sometimes, you just have to go with it.
But sometimes, you’re gonna need to address their stubbornness head-on.
You can push back…
And try to nip it before it takes off.
If not that (or you’ve tried this and it’s failing), then at least have a strategy for how you’re going to respond.
Because habits and preferences can be – and are – formed from a young age.
Now, some good news is this:
As parents, we play a pivotal role in helping those habits develop.
Helping your kids develop quality eating habits means that you’ve gotta stay calm as a cool cat…
…even when they’re freaking out (over whatever delicious thing you’re serving for dinner).
So, when they say “YUCK” – what are you supposed to say in response?
“That’s what’s we’re having for dinner.”
End of statement.
And say it matter of factly. Calmly. And with resolve.
You might have to repeat yourself a few times…
But giving this a shot helps you set the stage that dinner is served
They’re ALWAYS Gonna Want Fries
Now, you may be worried that they’re gonna have issues later in life.
It’s a common thought that crosses parents’ minds.
Perhaps from being a picky eater when young?
That’s all the more reason to be firm now.
Having a dinner routine here can help you be firm too.
You can feed the little one the same thing everyone else is having for dinner.
If they don’t want it, they don’t have to eat it.
… But they’re NOT gonna get something else as a reward.
And by having a routine and being firm, you’ll be consistent.
Before you do this though, you may want to ask:
Are they getting enough protein?
Or is it a texture or taste preference?
And other similar questions.
Because one of these could be the culprit.
If they aren’t getting enough protein, you might have to find ways to get extra protein in their bodies.
If it’s the latter, then remember this:
Their Taste Buds & Palate WILL Change
The longer you let ’em pick their own foods, the more time it takes for their palate to UNLEARN those habits.
It can be hard to introduce new foods.
So try this:
Consider keeping one “SAFE Food” around and on rotation when you’re mixing in new things.
That way, there’ll at least be something familiar if they don’t try the new stuff.
Know that persistence will pay off on your part.
If they’re having a tough time and don’t feel like it.
Try again the next day.
Maybe tomorrow will be the day they decide to love it?
How are you dealing with your picky eater?