This seems to be a hot topic these days. Are picky eaters born or made? I say both.
The author of a post writes, “Cue the chorus of angels singing. It’s not my fault.”
Well, it’s not your fault. But…
Based on my reading and work with families struggling with picky eaters, even “feeding clinic failures,” I also see many parents unwittingly doing a lot that slows the process of learning to like new foods down. I refer to these as “counterproductive feeding” practices. (I’ve been there with the unwittingly making things worse rather than better with feeding, and I was relieved to learn there was a better way when we were struggling.)
You can’t do much to speed up the pace at which children learn to like new foods, but you can do a whole heckuva lot to slow it down…
Some children certainly are more challenging to feed to begin with, whether it’s temperament, oral-motor delays, a history of pain (reflux) or unsupportive feeding which is common in children who spent time in orphanages…
So, the more challenging or cautious child joins the family, and parents are largely not given accurate help and support in how to feed in a way that helps. Here is what many parents do (are told to do) that slows things down.
—”Just make them eat.”
—”Do whatever you have to to get them to eat…”
—Two-bite or no-thank-you bite rules
—bribing, praising, rewarding, using TV, punishing, begging, following the child around all day with food, serving only favored foods, sneaking,… just to get something in!
At some point the broccoli goes beyond broccoli, and turns into a green power chip for many kids. For others, the trauma anxiety and fear of being forced to eat something kills appetite. It’s complicated!
So, no, it’s not your fault, but as a mom I interviewed for my book said, “Knowing what not to do is step one.” Never, ever force your child to eat something. Don’t make them eat something they gagged up onto the plate. If they are crying, upset, fighting your efforts, even if it’s what your therapist told you to do, it’s not helping.
Challenging kids (“born” that way) + lack of information and support + worry about size or nutrition + counterproductive feeding practices (“made” that way) = kids who eat less well, not better
What do you think? Born that way? Throw our hands in the air and give up, just serve plain buttered noodles every day, or support the selective or challenging eater. HOW? The Trust Model, the Division of Responsibility, family meals, no pressure, structured meals and snacks… Child of Mine by Ellyn Satter is a go-to resource for raising competent eaters…
This is a quick intro to an idea I flesh out (a lot) in my upcoming book, which details the transition to the Trust Models with families I have worked with and interviewed, including picky eaters and “feeding clinic failures.” There is hope!