Picky eater…or pushover parent?

Picky Eater

Okay, so this post is going to stray a bit from our normal conversations about meal plans and recipes, but I have a little rant that I need to get off of my chest.

Lord…I’m so tired of parents complaining about what their kids WILL and WON’T eat…

“My three-year old son won’t eat anything but peanut-butter and jelly…”

Really? Does he have a job? Does he get a paycheck?

Is he driving to the store and buying his own peanut butter and jelly?


Then how is he getting it?

Oh, YOU’RE buying it…YOU’RE putting it in the cupboard…and I’ll bet YOU’RE even making the sandwich when he’s caved you in with tears and begging (which, by the way, he knows EXACTLY how long will take…because YOU’VE trained him to know.)

Grow up.

One of you is 40, one of you is 4….figure it out.

Now, of course, there are children with physical, emotional, and learning challenges that can have issues that fall outside of the typical power-struggle scenario. Understand that I’m not directing this at those kids or their parents.  You live in a day-to-day world that I have not experienced nor could begin to speak to (but please feel free to share your insights!)

However, let me go on for the rest of us…

You don’t want him to live on PB&J? Don’t buy it! You want him to eat the soup…don’t give him anything else. If he doesn’t eat it in 24 hours, throw it out and make another, identical bowl of soup.

Repeat every 24 hours until you WIN.

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The child will not starve. When his hunger overpowers his will, and it will, he WILL eat. I’ve seen what the bodies of children who are really starving will force them to eat when they have nothing else. Believe me, the soup will go down.

How long that takes is solely dependent on how long you train him to “hold out” to win Because it’s not all about the food. It’s not even mostly about the food…it’s mostly about control.

Who’s in Control?

As a stay-at-home, work-from-home dad, I’ve battled this as well. I won’t let my daughter play with my shotgun, even if she cries and begs, and won’t got to sleep…because that’s my job…to ensure that she does the things she needs to do for her heath and safely, REGARDLESS of whether or not her 7 y/o brain agrees…and I’m not going to let her chose to eat nothing but crap, for the same reasons.

If that means she’s “not going to like me” for a little while, or she’s not fun to be around for a day or two, I’ll just have to live with that, because I’m the ADULT. The sooner she learns to obey, regardless of her “feelings” or “likes”, the less chance it will escalate in the future.

Be the adult…he’ll be happier (and healthier) in the long run…and maybe you won’t be back here whining about far more serious problems in ten years.

Be the adult.

“I made my son eat his cucumbers when he was little, actually puked and hasn’t been able to eat them since!”

Yes, there will always be exceptions with certain foods. Gracie really dislikes cooked zukes, so I cut her some slack (and usually serve her share raw, which she loves). HOWEVER..that’s an exception being made for a child who enjoys widely varied and nutritious eating, with a few specific dislikes.

You’re fighting for the hill here, not every pebble on it. One or two items on the “yuck list” (once they’ve been tried a few times) is perfectly acceptable.

By all means, if you’re child has a real aversion to one or two foods, give ’em a break…if they only want Lucky Charms three times a day, then there’s a problem.

You have to be careful with some kids and food/control issues. This can start one down the path of eating disorders. I tried this tactic with my daughter and after almost 2 days saw the handwriting on the wall. Today she’s a healthy 19 year old who eats a varied and healthy diet.

So…you taught her that if she holds out for less than two days…you’ll quit?

Personally, I would say that a three-year-old who won’t eat anything but PB&J already HAS am eating disorder…Also, while it’s great that a 19 y/o is eating a varied and healthy diet (and it really is great, and a rare thing, lol)…at the same time the vast majority of brain development and neural pathway structure happens in our first five years of life, decreasing exponentially during the years following.

I’d rather that my kid’s brain not be formed on the building blocks of nothing but Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, and Koolaid.

Let’s be honest (those of us who are parents) it’s far easier to please and keep a kid quiet by shoveling into their mouths the foods that they really like to eat..and they really like to eat them because we fed them those of course with some exceptions.

It’s also a control issue with kids…compare the U.S. children’s behavior with eating with the French..there are some major differences…France does not divert to Mac n Cheese and Chicken Fingers as kid’s food..why? they do not subscribe to a children’s menu, their kids eat adult food from day one… (Thank you, Peter B., for those insights!)

And frankly, we (my wife and I) fight it, and the associated guilt, here too.

My daughter is very aware of what the “Golden Arches” mean, and how good the French Fries are. Again, it’s not about never eating questionable foods (’cause if I was saying THAT. I’d have to wear a t-shirt that says HYPOCRITE is big red letters, lol) it’s like most things, about moderation and control.

Once in a while, as a special treat, and interjected into an otherwise healthy diet, a small order of clown-food isn’t the end of the world.

But if you’re doing it 3-4 nights a week…you’re diggin’ your kid’s grave right there in the Happy Meal line…

-Chef Perry