Finicky kids wouldn’t exist if their parents didn’t enable them. How do parents enable their kids?
Parents of finicky kids are so obsessed with their kids eating that they won’t let the kid skip eating because he or she refuses to eat what’s put in front of them. If Johnny doesn’t like pork chops, Mom runs to the microwave and nukes up the chicken nuggets she knows Johnny will eat. So, of course Johnny is not going to eat the pork chops. Every time he doesn’t he gets rewarded with unhealthy, over-processed, nutritionally suspect chicken nuggets.
Johnny has got Mom trained better than Pavlov had his dogs.
What’s really amusing are the excuses for this behavior I’ve heard through the years.
My favorite line is, “But Johnny is only in the X percentile for weight. He has to eat!” Well, when Johnny gets to be an adult, he’ll be obese and have diabetes because you never taught him to eat right.
The new one I’ve been hearing lately is, “Sammy has an eating disorder.” The only disorder here is the one Mom and Dad have created by not having the back bone to stand up to Sammy and not feed him processed junk. I can guarantee you no child in Haiti right now has an “eating disorder.”
Or, how about this one, “If I don’t make Amanda Kraft Mac and Cheese, then she’ll only fill up on junk food.” First of all, Kraft Mac and Cheese is junk food. Second, if you didn’t have junk food snacks in your house, it would be impossible for Amanda to fill up on them.
Then, there’s this lame line, “I’ve tried to get Suzy to eat an apple but she just refuses to do it.” Well, if Suzy gets good and hungry, that apple is going to look and taste damn good for her.
Here’s another one I’ve gotten on occasion: “There has to be something really wrong with Brian; I made him taste a piece of steak once and he threw up.” I hate to tell you, but your kid is not special. It’s called a “gag reflex,” and yes, quite a few kids do this in response to trying to force them to taste something they don’t want to eat. My son did this several times. Each time, I cleaned him up and put the food right back in front of him to taste. Needless to say, the vomiting eventually stopped once he realized there was no getting away from tasting the food.
So, to all you parents of finicky eaters, I hate to inform you that the only problem with your kids’ eating habits is you.
You are the enabler. If you want your kids to eat right, grow a backbone, realize that your kid will go to bed hungry some nights and that you’ll probably have to endure some temper tantrums to get them on the road to eating right.
A few points of clarification: I don’t ever believe a child should be forced to eat anything, but I do believe they should be forced to “taste” new foods. Once they taste, they are free to eat or not eat. If they don’t eat, then, the only choices they have are whatever healthy snacks are available in the house, such as apples and bananas.
As to the vomiting. My son vomited before the food ever touched his tongue. Kids are adept at manipulating their parents, and once they learn that you’ll never ask them to try a pea again because they vomited, (or remove food from the table because the smell offends them) they’ll do it again and again. In addition to vomiting to get out of tasting new foods, my son actually learned to use vomiting to get out of school. He’d go to school, get off the bus and then tell them his stomach hurt, throw up and be sent home. At one point he was coming home once or twice a week. After visits to various doctors, a gastroenterologist finally told us that he had essentially learned how to make himself vomit to get out of whatever he wanted to get out of (including trying new foods), and that it was not at all unusual for kids to do this. My son had trained us to do what he wanted. So, once we dug our heels in (and got the school on board with a behavioral plan) guess what? The vomiting stopped.