Manage Picky Eating Without Losing Your Mind

One of the first things that we learn to dread when we decide to enter the parenting roller-coaster is getting that difficult child. You know who I’m talking about, don’t you? That child with a mind of his own. That child who appears to have entered this world for one and only one reason, pushing all our buttons. And god forbid if the child decides to be a picky eater! It is the stuff that nightmares are made of.

We spend our life dreaming of that picture-perfect child, the one who listens to every word we say, is smart, studies well and eats every single thing that is offered to him, on top of everything else. But the reality is quite different from our dreamland. What we get is a screaming, tantrum-throwing child, who runs at the sight of books and who will only eat junk food. The resulting battle that ensues is what dramatic stories are made of. The game is called power-struggle, and who controls whom is the object of this game. Makes your head spin, doesn’t it?

The breakfast, lunch and dinner table turns into a battleground and the battling sides are a parent and a child. The little being, the sight of whom can bring a tender smile on our face can also bring out screams from our throat that we never knew existed in us.

The dinner table conversations revolve around, ” Eat your carrots or you don’t get ice-cream!” The parent is nagging, the child is screaming and throwing food all over the place and the house appears like a tornado just made an appearance. We all know that this is a problem, but what is the solution?

First thing first.

Finding a solution to the problem often is the secondary step. We often ignore the first step, try to climb over it, fall down and believe that we fell because we tried the wrong solution. The first step to handling any problem is staying calm ourselves. An agitated mind does not offer answers. It just raises more questions and absolutely exhausts us in the process. So let’s all take a deep breath, count to ten, and try to get a totally different perspective of the situation.

The truth.

The little being that came out of us, is a unique individual. He may look like us and even act like us in some ways, but he is separate from us. He is not going to like everything we like or even feel the way we feel about things. And he does not like carrots!! We can eat, drink and sleep with carrots, but he simply does not like them.

And that is completely okay, but not for us.

We know carrots are really good for him. We have read on the internet that carrots are rich in vitamins, mineral, and fiber. They are good for eyes and in the long term have been known to even prevent cancer. But most importantly, we love carrots. It’s all good except, the apple of our eye extremely dislikes carrots.

What is a parent to do?

We have accepted, in as calm a state of mind as we possibly can, that our child does not like carrots. So what, do we just give up on our idea of carrot-eating dream child? That’s not really a good option for us.

The answer to this often depends on the age of the child.

If we are dealing with a tantrum-throwing toddler, we go with the flow. We offer him carrots, and if they start flying all over the dining room, we calmly pick them all up, maybe clean the carrots and start eating them ourselves. After-all, we do not want to waste food, do we? If we are well-fed, our efficiency in dealing with trouble can only increase, right?

As for the unhappy child, we offer him another healthy vegetable, something that he likes, like beans. We do want to feed him, as a starving child can also be the worst possible tantrum thrower. If the child is older, we explain to them why carrots are so good for their health.

Maybe, we also show them those internet articles that we have painfully researched. We teach them that they need to eat those pesky vegetables, especially if they want to be strong and functioning being. Will it work? Your guess is as good as mine. It may work or our child may still decide to be stubborn and not eat it. He may tell us that he is fine the way he is and there is really nothing we can do about it. So, what’s next?


We rest and repeat

When it comes to children, we need to remember to take lots of breaks in between all the parenting we do. When we step away from the problem for a short period of time, we feel rejuvenated. If our child does not want to eat carrots today, that does not mean they will never eat them ever again.

Kids can be tricky that way. What they don’t like today may become their most-favorite-dish-ever tomorrow.

This follows the same thought process of friends-today-but-enemies- tomorrow scenario. So, we give it a week and try the whole process all over again. The odds are that food may fly some more, but they can always be cleaned up and we get the satisfaction of not really giving up.

But, aren’t we really giving in to the tantrum?

Yes, we are probably giving in, temporarily.

The real question is, do we really want to stuff their faces with food, even the healthy kind, by threatening them with dire consequences?

The food may be healthy, but the energy that we are serving along with the platter of food should count for something too, right? The next question that our restless mind asks is that if we give in to their demands now, what will people say?

The judgment

We all face it, constantly, over every decision that we take, whether it is about the child’ s education, behavior or eating habits. We are constantly trying to live up to an image of the perfect parent with the perfect child. If we feed the child, people say that we are encouraging them to be dependent on us.

If we put our foot down and expect them to eat by themselves, we are being harsh. We cannot escape judgment, no matter which path we pick.

So, we may as well do what is peaceful for us and makes the most sense to us at that point in time. And if there is some consequence to our action, so be it. At least, it was our choice and not forced upon us by an outsider’s opinion.

Final Thought

In my household, we have an easy-going child as well as a picky child. Now which one will be easy going and which one will be picky depends on the situation. It can be for a dish, for school work, or friends.

Disaster comes un-announced and brings with it a great deal of emotion. What I have learned from my fifteen years of parenting is that it all depends on my attitude to the problem. If I make it a big deal in my head, it becomes the biggest deal outside.

And then begins a downward spiral that results in a lot of screaming and crying from everyone, and the loudest screams are usually coming from me.

A bitter pill we all need to swallow is that there is no one-step-solution to such problems.
What worked for us may not work for someone else. We want our children to grow up to be balanced individuals, but we also need to make sure that they don’t lose their individuality in this process. So, if they don’t eat everything that we want them to eat, it’s not the end of the world!!

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