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they don’t, they don’t, they don’t, then suddenly they do…

Posted by on Jul 7, 2011 in Blog Posts | 6 comments

So, M is almost six. She has been at the table while we served and enjoyed probably a few hundred salads over the years. They are pretty standard. Home-made the dressing in the bottom of the bowl, add “goodies” like cut up cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, maybe avocado, then add washed and dried lettuce. She has always said “I don’t like salad. I just want the goodies.”

In the past, I have even offered, “I’ll just put some goodies in the bowl and you can eat them or not.”  Most times she has eaten them, sometimes not. I didn’t care- at least I pretended not to at first. (Note, if there is ANY resistance, or push-back, this tactic of offering and putting food in a plate or bowl can slow the process down. Observe your child’s reaction. I am blessed with a pretty even-tempered kid, but make no mistake, when I have crossed the line, she has vociferously let me know. Once,  during her low dairy days, I just served milk to everyone. “We’re all having milk for lunch.” Oh boy, no, we weren’t. Much resistance ensued, so I backed off again and waited…“)

So recently, she has started to enjoy helping me in the kitchen. This is also new. She stands on her stool and helps whisk the ingredients for the dressing. Interestingly, I was using lettuce to dip in and try the dressing. She would grab some and try it. Hmm. She wouldn’t eat lettuce in the bowl, but used it to try the sauce… She’s been doing this for awhile, and the other night with dinner, first had a bowl of goodies, and then asked for “a bowl of just salad.” She tried it and said, “I like salad. I never knew. I guess my taste-buds are changing.”

Seems like lots is changing. Who knew what spurred her to push herself along that night? Helping make the salad? Having our sitter recently comment about M’s “great taste-buds?” Our conversation about how she loves chocolate now, but didn’t like it when she was smaller???

I’ve been loving spending time in the kitchen together. We try the dressing, and I ask what she thinks. She was right on the other night. “I think it’s too spicy.” (sharp/vinegary…) I said, “OK, so if you want to make it taste less spicy, would you add more olive oil, or vinegar?” She chose the olive oil. It’s fun, and I enjoy it, and I think she does to.

It has seemed like a long wait. Hundreds of salads where she passed on the lettuce, hundreds of times I have asked if she would help me in the kitchen only to be rebuffed. It’s nice. I don’t know how long it will last, but I wanted to share. If your little one isn’t interested right now in helping in the kitchen, keep at it. Keep offering without pressure, take “no” for an answer, try not to get greedy when they help happily for 3 minutes and then run off to play.

As my ESI colleague Pam Estes R.D says, “they don’t, they don’t, they don’t, and then suddenly, they do!” Can you wait it out? What is helping you have faith and trust the process? What makes it harder to trust?

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  1. Elizabeth

    Just want to give a shout from the other end of the child-rearing process.

    I was told to “offer choices” when our son was young. He thought he was living in a restaurant!

    I tried all the wrong techniques – telling him what was good for him, making him take a certain number of bites to get dessert, bribing him – basically everything the division of responsibility model says not to do.

    When he turned 8, I formally resigned as “the police of your mouth” as I told him. There was always bread, fruit, cheese and p.b. in the kitchen if he didn’t find dinner pleasing. After we gave him permission to forage in the kitchen if he didn’t like the meals served, he never actually did it and his level of complaining dropped at the same time.

    He’s now 23, learned to enjoy cooking in college and will try nearly anything. He also has great eating habits.

    I wish I’d spared all of us those early years of worrying and pressuring, but letting go of the illusion of control and the behaviors that went with it made our mealtimes more peaceful.

    • katja

      Thanks for sharing! It was probably a lot of work, and not much fun at the time either! So helpful to hear from a “been there” point of view. I think there is a lot of pressure to have our five year olds eating squid and kale by the handful, but even a more selective child when given plenty of neutral opportunitie, pleasant structured meals, watching loving adults eat family foods… will likely expand his tastes!

  2. Jenny

    Our oldest is almost five, and he has watched us eat sushi and sushimi many, many times. Then, crazily, this past spring, he wanted to try a piece of salmon- dipped it in soy sauce, tried it, and can you believe it- Sushi (of all types) is now his “Favorite Food”. H will eat it with rice, without rice, in a roll, however. Above pizza. 🙂

  3. Susan

    I have experienced this — but my son at 3.5 still tends to run sort of hot and cold with things. One week, chickpeas are eaten by the fistfull, next week, untouchable. And so on. Going through a picky phase now, I think, but then like your M, he up and eats nothing but salad the other night when we went out for pizza. You just never can tell, so I try to stay disinvested. Emphasis on try.

    • katja

      The behavior you describe is so typical! Good for you for staying disinvested (trying!) It isn’t easy… Trying to guess or influence what he may or may not feel like eating would only make matters worse. I see many families of picky eaters who assumed a child “didn’t like” a food after refusing it and then it is crossed off the list and simply not offered again. Particularly for parents of small or ill children where the understandable impulse is to “just get something into him!” the combination of normal food “refusal” that may be temporary, plus concern over portions, nutrition, size etc are the perfect storm for getting into the trap of catering and making temporary food preferences more long-lasting. I can’t tell you how many times M swung from refusing to craving bananas! Recently also, tuna has been added to her “list” after years of exposure. The point is, serve a variety of the foods you want to eat as a family and hang in there! As you are doing!


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