Whether it’s something common like broccoli or a food that you think everyone should love, having a child who is a fussy eater can be a bit of a roadblock for most parents. Believe it or not, it is actually extremely common for most children to go through this difficult eating phase. It might be the taste, color, texture, shape, even smell of the food that is causing your child to shy away from it, but this is all part of their natural development. For them, it’s a way of exploring their environment and asserting their independence. The bright side is that most children grow out of this phase and end up enjoying a wide range of foods as they grow older.
Regardless of the reason, having a child who refuses to eat what you cook can be a big hassle and cause a lot of stress for you as a parent. To help you better handle this transitionary period your child is going through, we’ve put together a few tips that will hopefully make this period of their development a little easier on you.
For starters, it is important to know that you should never force your child to eat foods that they don’t like, especially when they aren’t hungry. Forcing them to eat something they don’t like can create a lot of negative emotions surrounding meal time and is likely to prevent them from being open to trying new things in the future due to their negative associations with new food. We know it’s difficult, but try your best to offer an alternative when your child is refusing food and respect their decision to not eat everything that is put in front of them.
When they finally do decide to try a food they’ve been putting off for a while, be sure to praise them and let them know that you’re proud of them for trying something new. This will help build positive feelings about trying new foods and make them feel rewarded for going outside of their comfort zone.
When they are going through a period of being fussy, try your best to not give any attention toward this behavior and just move forward. Spending too much time focusing on their fussy behavior may encourage them to continue it in the future because of the attention it brings. Instead give an alternative and act like it never happened.
It can also be helpful to try doing something that makes eating foods they don’t like fun. Try cutting the food into interesting shapes or allow your child to join in and help you prepare a meal. Make it a game! If your child has a fun experience making or eating the food then they are much more likely to try it again in the future.
It’s also important to observe how the setting around mealtime is affecting how your child eats. Take a second to observe the environment that surrounds your mealtimes. Is there a loud television playing in the background and a lot of distracting things going at once? Is everyone else at the table staring at their phones and not speaking to one another? Try doing your best to make your mealtimes a calm and relaxing environment. Turn off the TV and encourage your family members to see meals as a social event where everyone talks to one another and shares details about their day. Encourage interaction and socialization to help your child feel more at home when eating.
Most importantly, be patient. We know that these phases can be difficult and feel like they’re never going to end. But it’s important to remember that these bouts of fussy eating will pass and with enough care and attention your child will grow past their fussy phase.