These days we have so much information at our fingertips to help solve any parenting dilemma (admittedly, most of the times we may have too much). You could argue the Internet was both the best and worst thing to ever happen to parenting.
Despite the sometimes overwhelming amount of information, it’s still nice to consult a parenting expert once in a while to get some new ideas, advice and even a dose of perspective.
At LiveMom, we want to help answer your questions, and so we’ll be starting a regular feature called Ask the Expert. We’ll take on anything from potty training to car seats to dealing with kids and technology to anything in between. Then, we’ll find local and national experts to help guide us to make the best choices for our families.
Here’s the question: How do I stop being a short order cook without having to eat corn dogs myself?
The background: My 7yo kid eats a lot of things, but not all together (he will eat spaghetti, but without sauce; he will eat beans, but not chili). He is very spice averse. I have always been a little neurotic about him eating (every mom has her hangups, right?), so I have set aside veggies before they go into a dish and sometimes I make him his own protein (Canadian bacon, chicken soup, etc.) There never seems to be a good time to just make him eat what we are eating, but at the same time, the extra time it takes me to make him something else is getting old. Oh, and he doesn’t eat sandwiches, so the whole “have him make his own PBJ” isn’t really an option. Or, will he get hungry enough that he will?
Stuck in the Kitchen
Dear Stuck in the Kitchen,
Take heart! You are not alone. You and your son can get through this. First off, put on your game face and let’s go over your role in mealtime.
– First and foremost: Your obligation at mealtime is to provide nutritious food. Period. End of sentence.
-You must believe, with all your heart, that your son’s job is to eat. NOT eating IS an option that he can, and probably will, exercise if for no other reason than to test your resolve. Demonstrate to your son that you will not try to force him to eat, or even try, a new food. That means not trying to convince him that something is yummy, nutritious, preferred by his favorite super hero, etc. Stop talking about it all together with him. Take away any pressure to even try a food.
-Be mindful of how many snacks he may be getting throughout the day. Might he be hungrier at mealtime if snacks were smaller? Earlier in the day?
-You can use the foods your son is comfortable with to help introduce him to new foods. If your family is sitting down to a spaghetti meal try offering your son a SMALL amount of the plain noodles you know he will accept. The rest of the food on his plate should look like yours! You can feel comfortable that he has some food in his belly before bed but he won’t be so full from the plain noodles that he’s unlikely to try the rest of the food offered. You can feel good about offering something your child will eat at every meal but again, a small amount of it. His plate needs to look like the family.
-Do not replace food your son rejects with a food you know he will eat. Being a short order cook removes the choice your son has not to eat.
-Avoid the temptation to celebrate your son’s trying a new food. This means not bribing with a preferred food or punishing by withholding a desert he would otherwise receive. You can make eye contact with your spouse across the table if needed.
If you’re uncertain if your son is getting enough calories or if you should be supplementing with vitamins, etc, consider speaking with a nutritionist. Our nutritionist, Allison Reyna, often works with families to help them choose healthy, nutrient-dense foods the entire family will enjoy.
All that said, you, your time, your son and your family are worth the effort it will take to move past this. Remember this didn’t come about overnight and it probably won’t go away overnight either. But that doesn’t mean you should lose your resolve. Fight the good fight but do it without fighting your son. Practice your poker face and never let him see you sweat.
Dawn Herman, Early Childhood Development Specialist with Cheer Up Buttercups
Cheer Up Buttercups is a local resource for parents dealing with issues concerning child development, lactation, sleep training and nutrition. Cheer Up Buttercups aims to be a “one-stop shop” for struggling parents from the newborn years through early childhood.