“Just starve them”, said the Facebook post.
“Stop feeding your kid rubbish”, said the pre-school mum.
“Just hide vegetables, said your girlfriend!”
“Your child’s lunch box is unhealthy”, said the teacher.
“He should be bigger”, says your mother.
If you are the parent of an extremely fussy eater, you have heard it all. It has been terribly disconcerting and hurtful, but it has not helped you, or your child, one bit.
Are those negative comments hurtful to you or to your child? If things are bad, hopefully, you are on a journey to helping your child and are seeking professional help. In the meantime, it pays to address negative comments and nip them in the bud, especially if you assess them to come from a lack of empathy and a place of judgment, rather than genuine concern.
Here are some ways to address them.
Reply with assertiveness about your child’s learning to eat
- Charlie has been struggling with eating, but we are addressing this with professional help.
- Charlie is learning about a great variety of foods in his own time.
- Charlie will always find something he can eat at your place.
- Charlie is learning to eat in lots of different places.
- Charlie is always learning about new foods, he will eat them when he is ready.
Reply with assertiveness about the impact of judgemental comments:
- I hear your concern however we are receiving professional help on this matter, so I would appreciate if you don’t make comments. It’s hurtful and it is unhelpful.
- I feel upset when you say things that feel judgmental. I need your understanding and support because I’m doing the best I can for our situation.
- Extreme fussy eating is more complex than you think, commenting on Charlie’s eating at mealtimes is boxing him further into a corner. I need you to find other ways to interact with him at mealtimes.
- How would you feel if I made comments like that to you about your food choices? It’s the same for Charlie and may further antagonise his relationship with food.
- Please don’t make such comments and realise that Charlie is not defined by what he eats.
Kids who have grown up as extreme fussy eaters comment on the constant humiliation because of the ‘problem-solving shortcuts’ grown-ups used to proffer at all times. While the impact of such comments is hard to measure, we, as parents and professionals, can understand how damaging they can be to extreme fussy eating. Being assertive is not always easy in an environment where you are constantly bombarded by hurtful comments, but the minute you rise to this challenge you will find the voice you need. It will help you meet people who understand and support you and will reduce the negativity around the complex issue of extreme fussy eating.
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