My daughter was an amazing eater from the minute that she was introduced to solid foods. No matter what I gave her she ate it and that great eating pattern continued as she moved from purees to actual food. I was cocky as I told everyone how good of an eater she was, silently judging anyone that told me that their kid ate the same thing everyday or refused to eat vegetables.
Then one day, karma slapped me right across the face. My child who never refused anything suddenly started to refuse everything. In her worst moments, she would ask for food only to refuse it. I hung my head in shame as I became what I said I would never be; someone that negotiated with my toddler to just lick a piece of food before saying that she didn’t like it and chasing her around while trying to shove pieces of food in her mouth just to be sure that she got enough to eat. All of this only made it worse.
As time passed, she became more and more obnoxious with her pickiness until I put my foot down and took accountability for the role I was playing in her picky eating. What I’d come to understand is that my daughter wasn’t refusing food because she didn’t like it but because she wanted control and I’d walked right into her trap. She was in control and she knew it.
I reached out to friends I knew who had conquered picky eating and asked them for advice. Listening to their words of wisdom, plus some of my own methods, my daughter’s eating habits have returned to normal. She’s a toddler now with an opinion so she’s not quite as easy as that 6 month old baby lapping up peas but she’s not the obnoxious toddler who spits out food and makes you feel demoralized either.
Don't give up - Kids change their minds constantly. If your kid didn't like carrots this week, it could very well be their favorite food next month. Reintroducing foods is important rather than just determining that they hate something because they said no to you once.
Let them have a say – Some people go with the old school method of what’s for dinner is for dinner and there are no deviations. I’m not quite that strict. If we have it in the house and if it’s easy to cook, I have no issue preparing it for my daughter. Most people say that you should give your child 2 or 3 choices of what they can have for dinner and let them pick. If your child is being picky because they want control, this should fix that problem. Letting them have a say in how much they eat as well and give them the benefit of the doubt that they know when they’re full.
Be firm – You are not a short order cook and should never resort to cooking multiple meals in an evening. There is that 10% of the time when my daughter asks for something but changes her mind. When this happens, I have to be firm. I let her know that this is something that she picked and that because she picked it, she doesn’t get anything else. I reiterate that if she doesn’t eat dinner, she goes to bed without food and may wake up hungry. This usually results in her eating the food that she asked for.
Give them variety – If my daughter asks me for a grilled cheese, I’ll add a vegetable that she likes and a fruit as well and tell her that she can eat what she wants and not eat what she doesn’t want. This works really well too when you want them to try something new. Your child may not be as fearful of trying broccoli for the first time if they know that there are other foods that they can fall back on if it's not a taste that they like.
Prepare for the fallout – My reason for wanting my daughter to eat had entirely to do with sleep but everyone has a different reason. Whatever the reason, you have to be prepared to deal with the fallout and not give in. That fallout might mean that you end up waking up in the middle of the night to a hungry child or it may mean that you have to deal with a temper tantrum. When the fallout happens, how you will react will really determine how seriously your child takes you when it comes to them being a picky eater.
Its completely normal for a child to become a picky eater, especially when they become toddlers and start to test boundaries. It’s not a parents fault that their kid becomes a picky eater but if the picky eating gets out of control, how the picky eating drama is handled can completely determine whether you're just going through a picky eating phase versus creating a picky eater.
Read Next: Trusting Your Mother's Intuition