Stop Enabling Your Picky Eater

my kid is a picky eaterI’m not a stranger to picky eaters. My kid has gone through her own stages of culinary rebellion, refusing to eat anything except for dry toast on Mondays or buttered popcorn on even numbered dates. Her moments of finickiness seemed to have no real rationale behind them except that it was probably fun to watch my face turn colors, and fortunately they were few and far apart.

She’s mostly over it now, which means that now I get to sit back and rub my hands maniacally together as I watch other people suffer through their own children’s pickiness. I’m a really good friend, as you can tell.

Picky eating is one of those parental arguments that seems to find people on two sides; those who say that there is not one thing you can do about kids who only want to eat chicken nuggets coated in Nutella, and those who say that those parents are deluded.

Both sides are kind of wrong. I mean, on the one hand, part of being a little kid is waking up one day and deciding that even though you loved broccoli less than 24 hours ago, you are never going to touch it again unless someone prises your mouth open, premasticates it, and chucks it down your throat. No one really knows why kids do this, according to the internet, where everything is always accurate, but apparently your kid is less likely to do this if you breastfeed them.

On the other hand, I have never met a parent (including myself) that has a picky eater that they don’t enable. I often hear, “oh, he’ll only eat hot dogs” or “sorry, but do you have any chicken nuggets?” if I’m babysitting. This is never a problem because I married a chidult who loves nuggets AND hot dogs. But I am left wondering, why did you even start feeding your kid this stuff if you didn’t want them to eat it? I mean, I rue the day I bought our first Happy Meal. But I also accept that as long as I continue to buy them, my daughter won’t choose ethically sourced brussels sprouts served with a balsamic reduction over them. Hell, I probably wouldn’t either.

The only thing that ever worked for me when it came to my picky eater was to stop enabling her. This was particularly hard to do because I have a huge problem with attaching any kind of pressure, discipline or bribe to eating food. But at the same time, I don’t want my kid to be the kid that goes to other people’s houses and demands nothing but marshmallows and Nerds candy. Also, I want her to get the nutrition she needs, but mostly I don’t want to look like a bad mom.

For now we’ve overcome most of the problems that come along with having a picky eater, but it hasn’t been easy. Mostly I had to remind everybody in my household that I don’t run a short order kitchen and that I have no time for their picky shenanigans. No one was going to starve if they demanded hot dogs and I didn’t cave, and conversely, my daughter wouldn’t eat the gross chicken breast that I was making if she knew a fluffernutter sandwich was right around the corner.

I can’t relate with being picky. I have an iron stomach and ate enough commercial kitchen seafood newburg to ensure that even liver and onions look delicious by comparison. But everyone is not me, and everyone is not my kid. Even though it doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort to have a four hour battle with your five year old over eating their damn lasagna, think about all of the dishes you’ll ultimately end up not washing by standing your ground and only making one meal.

(Image: Angela Waye/Shutterstock)

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