Seeing tricky childhood behaviours as 'just a phase' can be really helpful. For example, one of the key differences for me, in my experience of parenting my first child and my experience of parenting her younger sisters, is that when I was struggling with something with my first born, (such as how hard she found it to share toys, or night-time waking) I felt like it was permanent. There were times when I thought I would have a thirteen year old who hid in a corner, clutching all her toys and screaming "mine" every time another child came over. As it turned out, she was through with this hyper-possessive phase by the age of two and a half, just a few months after it had started.
Research shows that picky eating is indeed a phase in most cases. Almost two thirds of children who become picky at an early age, are no longer picky in three years time. So for most children, picky eating has what scientists call a 'high level of remittance'. In simple language, most kids do grow out of it.
There are a couple of reasons why children who initially eat well, may begin to reject foods. The first is an evolutionary argument, based on the idea that back in our cave-dwelling days, once children became mobile after about 12 months of age, if they learnt not to toddle off and eat brightly coloured and unfamiliar items (think poisonous berries), this would increase their chances of survival.
The second argument is to do with a child's developmental trajectory. From about 18 months, children are all about boundary testing and striving for autonomy. They are learning about what they have control over and are experimenting with the power of the word "No!". It's very easy for these developmentally normal control battles and boundary challenges to take place at the dinner table.
So we know that picky eating is often a temporary behaviour, and it's pretty common too. But I don't think that it is helpful to frame it in this way. Here's three reasons why:
1) While two thirds of children soon grow out of picky eating, if you are the parent of a child in the other third, hearing that it's "just a phase" is infuriating, not only because it dismisses your concerns, but also because in your case, it is plain inaccurate. Picky eating is a very common phenomenon, so one third of picky eaters actually represents A LOT of kids.
2) To write picky eating off as "just a phase" belittles just how tough it can be for parents. 'JUST' = 'only' = 'stop complaining!' Research has shown that the negative impact of picky eating on parents is significant. We eat several times a day every single day - if there are problems in this area, this can really affect daily life, for the whole family.
3) If something is ''just a phase' the implication is that there is nothing we can do about it and we should just ride it out. Even if your child has started to become just a teeny tiny bit picky, there is still much you can do to improve things.
So if your child has suddenly started turning their nose up at the food you are serving, read up about picky eating (my guide to online feeding resources is a great starting point), maybe even go and see a professional (see this post about how to decide when it's time to seek specialist support). Because whether your child's eating issues are temporary or are more complex and longer term, the more you know about how to help them develop a positive relationship with food, the better.