Kids can be so much fun, loveable, and bring so much joy. But they can be selfish push-all-your-buttons little stinkers too! I have four of them, so I feel completely qualified to say that. But I think it’s important to acknowledge a little bit of our own humanity in them as well. Where do they learn to be selfish and who teaches them which button to push? And more importantly, who teaches them to be picky eaters? Is it from us as parents? Is it inborn? There’s that age-old nature versus nurture argument. Personally and professionally I think it’s a little bit of both.
So that means that as parents we MUST have selfish and button pushing tendencies too. I know, you may need to take some time to figure out what or where those tendencies are, because I certainly couldn’t be speaking to you, right?!
Here’s a hint…selfishness is an inborn trait (1). It’s part of our nature to self-preserve. And being a picky eater is part of that. So stop beating yourself up over it. Stop getting annoyed at your kids when they exhibit it. Instead, let’s try to understand it and work with it.
Staying on track with picky eaters
For the sake of what we are here to talk about today (introducing new foods to your kids), I think it’s easy to get caught up in believing that we know best. That’s our selfish nature coming out. But we will explore the idea that your child actually has intuition (inborn knowledge) that helps them know better than we do. You may have read books or listened to advice about how to get your kids to eat more variety before. But I’m willing to bet those books haven’t approached this from an intuitive eating perspective. Before I dive into what I mean by that, let’s just make sure you’re not wasting your time.
A brief word about your role as parents:
As the parent, you play a major part in influencing your child. I know it may not feel like it at times. Sometimes it’s like they don’t pay any attention to you, and when that’s happening it’s really easy to not monitor and temper your actions and words around them. But if you haven’t already learned this, you will quickly learn that kids are ALWAYS WATCHING!
The biggest influence you have will come from your actions. Children notice your actions more than they hear your words. Don’t get me wrong, they are always listening too. But what they SEE you do has more of an impact on their behaviors.
We know also that parents and peers influence different things. Since you have minimal control over peer influence (outside of controlling who your kids hang out with, which your level of control of this will change and diminish as your children grow up), our focus will remain on your parental influence.
Children are naturally picky eaters because of their innate food and eating abilities:
Let’s clear the air. Worry as a parent is NORMAL.
But worrying that your child doesn’t have an innate ability to tune in, listen, and respond appropriately to their body’s signals about hunger and fullness is pointless (and can be dangerous).
Since we’re clearing the air, it’s also not necessary to feel guilty if you’ve spent the last X amount of years as a parent doing all this worrying. So please let yourself off the hook, realize you were doing the best job you could or knew how, and forgive yourself.
You’re in the right place if:
- You have concerns about how little variety your child eats
- You want to stop the mealtime struggles
- You get frustrated when your kids won’t try the foods you’re offering
- You NEED to reduce your stress over what you’re kids are or are not eating
What you can expect from this picky eaters guide
While I cannot promise your child will stop being a picky eater and suddenly eat everything you place in front of them, what I can do is assure you that if you follow the ideas outlined here, you will 1) reduce your stress related to meals, 2) improve you and your child’s food and eating habits and relationships, and 3) put a stop to repeating your family’s food relationship cycles. These ideas are designed to help you set your child up for success, giving them the start to a solid foundation of believing in their innate ability to make food and eating decisions without all the struggle.