Fussy Eater Solutions

Fussy Eater Solutions

What you can and cannot control at the dinner table

Is dinner stressing you? Perhaps you even dread it! You may remember a time when dinner was bliss. After a day at work, you would catch up with friends or partners, You would sit down and relax, enjoy dinner and relax some more!

Now the children are here. Frankly you had no idea it was going to be so challenging, the whining, the mess, (confession I did not either). Following are some of your comments. Let’s see if I can help you sort out what you can and cannot control at dinner. It is time to make your life just a little easier! I cant’ stand eating with my kids because:

My child complains non-stop about food.

What you can control is the food you put on the table, what you cannot control is whether the children eat it. In the wise words of Ellyn Satter, everyone has a job to do. Yours is to expose your children to all the food you know and love and more. The children’s job is to eat or not to eat. It may require you to cook (and learn to cook), simply because this makes food taste better. I recommend you serve small portions or do a French style of family serving. This way you will not waste perfectly good food.  At this stage of complaining your children still know zilch about foods. You are helping them expand their knowledge and acceptance of foods.

Because the children gang up on my cooking

One cheeky brother can amplify his sibling’s complaints about dinner being “yuck or disgusting”. What you cannot control is if the children are going to eat the food itself. What you can control is for the children to be polite about it. So let them know! “This is dinner and I am asking you to be polite about what I put on the table. Yes this is  dinner and we have some bread, some cheese and some fruit to finish our meal. You should be able to find something you are ready to eat”.

Because the children will not sit still

What you can control is mealtime and the routine that leads to it. Routine will help the children know what you expect. You may have to use a timer to get the children to sit down for between 20 and 30 minutes. After that they are free to ask you if they can leave the table. Remember if they have snacked all day, children will lack the motivation to sit down and eat. I recommend you check 1,2,3 magic if you are really struggling to manage behaviours.

Because I have to hand feed my child

What you cannot control is the speed at which your child will learn to become independent eaters. However, what you can control is the space you give them to learn the skills they need to become confident, competent eaters. Is your child being modeled to? If your baby or toddler has never seen you eat, then how are they going to learn? Sitting with your child and eating the same food so they can watch you eat as well will deliver progress at the speed your child is capable of. As mammals we learn by imitating those who model to us. In the case of this little 3 year old who was so demanding, once she was propped on a good supportive chair and her parents started to eat with her, she almost instantly got to task. If there are other difficulties for e.g. with chewing skills then talking to an SLP will help.

Because my child takes for ever to eat

What you cannot control is the speed at which your child will eat, but what you can control is the distribution of snacks, the routine, the distractions that may interfere with appetite and your child’s engagement in eating. You can also limit the duration of meals to around 30 minutes. There is no need to rush of course and no need to procrastinate in front of food either.

Because I feel so anxious

What you can control are your expectations at mealtimes, are these about what and how much the children will eat? Sometimes you can be over focused on outcomes. It may be worth reviewing those to help you relax. What you can also control is whether you get help to handle specific issues you may have around food and eating. There are numerous people who can help you if it is the case. Be kind to yourself: Is it time you gave yourself a pat in the back? You have put food on the table, you have shared a meal with your children, you have done your job. List the positives about how dinner went. List the negatives. How does it feel and what can be controlled? Write a paragraph expressing kindness and understanding to yourself, just like you would for a friend. .

If the negatives outweigh the positives it may be time to seek help. Where will you start? For fussy eating issues in your children it is this way!


You may also like to read:

How to cope with hurtful comments about your fussy eater!

Should you serve a fussy eater the same meal again after they refuse it?