Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Momiversity: Helping Your Child with Extreme Picky Eating

So I picked up this book because I was sick and tired of Judah's picky eating.

Ever since Judah was a 15 months old he would eat only a few "safe" foods. It was exhausting always preparing separate meals for the kid and the adults and never being able to eat in a restaurant or at a friend's home without always packing Judah's "safe" foods.

I always thought Judah would just "grow out of it". I mean, toddlers grow out of all kinds of stuff, right? You know that old saying - if you don't like how your toddler behaves, just wait awhile and it will change!

But when Judah was four, I realized, this is not really getting better. I was still hopeful that he would eventually turn into a "normal" adult on his own, but then I met this young man who told me he literally only ate a couple "safe" foods his entire life until he was POST-COLLEGE because he was an extreme picky eater.

Then the panic set in.

And the book reading commenced.

I chose this book because it was highly recommended on Amazon and it follows the basic tenets of Ellyn Satter, the Godmother of child feeding issues.

So here are my thoughts and summaries in no particular order:
--This book helped me realized I should be grateful cuz there are a LOT of kids out there who are wayyyyyyyyyyyyy pickier than Judah.

--This book spends 80% of its pages talking about what NOT to do (which is everything that I've been doing!)

--You should NOT make dessert conditional on eating a good meal first. You should let the kid have his dessert first if he wants. I'm sure this advice is totally supported by professionals everywhere, but honestly, I'm prob gonna ignore this advice cuz it's just not how our culture eats. It's just...too weird.

--You should never pressure your kids, either by making negative comments (shaming, disappointment, threats of punishment) OR by making positive comments (praising 'good eating'). I dunno, what's wrong with a little positive pressure? Isn't that called "encouragement"?

--You are in charge of WHAT is offered and WHEN it is offered. The kid is in charge of HOW MUCH he eats. Basically the age old adage - you can lead a toddler to broccoli, but you can't make him eat it.

--You should make mealtimes as pleasant as possible. Make it a time for family bonding. Eat at the table without distractions (electronic devices, toys, tv, etc.). Make it pleasant and free of pressure and anxiety.

--Always give them a "safe" food so there's always something on the table they can eat.

--You should always have a "spit out" napkin next to them at meal times so they can spit out whatever food they don't like on it discreetly and without it being a big deal. It's a safety blanket for them!

In a nutshell, this book was about trying to reduce anxiety and pressure surrounding meals as much as possible. The bottom line is pressure of any kind only BACKFIRES and makes your kid a worse eater in the end because of all the negativity surrounding the activity.

I think that's probably true for kids who are EXTREME extreme picky eaters. But I think Judah actually benefits from mild pressure...very, very mild.

One friend suggested I make a chart of foods Judah can try and each time he tries it, mark it off the chart. And keep doing it until Judah has tried it about 15 times since that's the average amount of time it takes for one's palate to accept a new taste.

I've tried that a few times, and I have to say, that bit of advice was more helpful than all 213 pages I've read of this book. Because of Judah's "I tried it chart" he now eats spaghetti WITH SAUCE and pizza WITH SAUCE and cheese quesadillas.

Which just goes to show, as with any parenting advice/book, you gotta know whether or not it applies to your child. I thought this book was going to give me lots of great advice like that, but it wasn't addressing my, apparently "run of the mill" picky kid. It was talking about the way extreme outliers, of which Judah is thankfully not one.

But the book did help me realize that I have to put in a LOT more thoughtfulness and planning into my meals than I currently do. I've been slacking.

I should be proactively trying to introduce new foods into Judah's diet instead of relying on the old standbys. I should be creatively thinking of how to "bridge" the old foods and the new foods by adding sauce here or a new ingredient there.

Instead, I've been just throwing something together at 6:05 pm when everyone's super cranky and hungry because dinner should have already happened at 6:00 pm.

Ugh. As someone who has never enjoyed cooking and domesticity, this is a huge challenge for me. But whatcha gonna do? Kid's gotta eat.

Yet another way in which motherhood is pushing me to do things I wouldn't otherwise do...sigh.

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