Have you ever had that sinking feeling that whatever you do, nothing seems to make any difference to your child's fussy eating? Can you relate to something a dad said to me last week, "I am sick of trying new ways of getting my son to eat and getting nowhere..." ?
Maybe it's time to redefine success
Take a close look at your goal. Do you want to 'get more food down your child'? Will that alleviate some of the anxiety* that you are probably feeling about their eating? Maybe it will, but when this is your ultimate aim, picky eating can only get worse.
This is because as long as your child's eating is externally driven (ie. by you) not internally (by their appetite) they are eating for the wrong reasons and food and feelings become tangled and confused.
If you take the long view and make your goal an improvement in your child's long-term (indeed, life-long) relationship with food, you will begin to see some changes in what you consider a win.
I wrote recently about the twin enemies of picky eating, exposure and variety. If you serve your child a varied diet giving them plenty of exposures to new and disliked foods, these are the wins you can look forward to:
- Your leaves a new food without a fuss about it being on their plate
- Your child plays around with a disliked food with their fork or fingers
- Your child spontaneously sniffs something that they would never dream of trying
- Your child takes a cautious lick of a disliked food and decides to leave it
None of these involve your child actually eating the foods in question! They are all about them learning that it's safe to have disliked and unfamiliar foods on their plate and they are baby steps towards acceptance.
On of my favourite quotes (by the Chinese philosopher Laozi) is
A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step
They key to progressing on your journey with your picky eater is learning to recognise when those first steps are being taken.
* If you are anxious about your child's eating, get their weight and growth checked by a health professional so that you can find out if you have genuine cause for concern.