As if. Still, I am happy to report that we are making progress on the picky eaterism front! How? On internet advice, I started doing a few things:
- Turn off the television during meal times. This is hard for me because I find feeding the kids so unpleasant that I really wish there were another world to escape to blaring on in the background. However, a number of gurus claim kids eat better without the distraction of the TV, so I thought it was worth a shot.
- Sit down together for the duration of the meal. This is hard on everyone and particularly unfair to Fluff-bomb who dutifully eats her food including vegetables, and politely asks to be excused. “Sorry, I need you here to set a good example for the crazies so they get the picture that not eating doesn’t get you out of dinner time.”
- Serve small portions of new foods. Like half a bite. I put down one or two really small, unintimidating little nothings on the boys’ plates. I can always add more later.
- Allow spitting out. This seriously bugs me. Spitting out is rude and gross, and I have never allowed it before. I guess I finally did see the logic that kids aren’t going to try as many new foods if they think every taste is a full blown chew and swallow commitment. It’s like telling someone they have to marry anyone they take on a first date. We all need the option to spit out people and foods if we find they simply don’t agree with us. Just tasting the food is a victory, and it may take seven dates before they commit to chew and swallow. This dating analogy is really working.
- Let Salty sit on my lap. As you may recall, Salty is surgically attached to me most of the day. Now that I’m sitting with them for meals, he always wants to sit on me. I love to hold Salty, but I would really rather not while eating. The problem is if I reject his advances, he gets fixated on the lap-sitting denial and never makes it to Act II, the part where he eats something.
- Cook at least one familiar thing they will like. Even if I hate it. Even if I’ve made it three times that week already.
- Dramatically scale back the urging. Let them feed themselves. Minimize threats or bribes. I can’t say we’ve stopped urging, but we’ve tried to make a much smaller deal out of eating. Not just because we think that not making a big deal out of eating is more likely to encourage them to try more things and eat healthier, but because eating and picky eating and not eating actually isn’t that big of a deal. They are hale and hearty boys who will grow into wonderful young men and adults whether they eat as much asparagus as I would like them to today or not. It’s just food.
- Stop trying to win. Of course I would love for my children subsist on a diet of raw organic algae and free range spinach so that I could blog about how amazing I am with my kids’ diet. That is never going to happen. I have many strengths and can offer my children all sorts of advantages in life, but sugar-free, organic, vegan, blah-blah nutrition is not one of them. As far as our family’s diet, I am aiming for the high end of mediocre. Part of this radical acceptance comes from reading that picky-eaterism is revealing itself as an actual genetic condition rather than something I have 100% control over as a parent. I’ve given myself permission to fail in my original mission to eradicate picky eating from my home. Instead, I’m just trying to improve what I can. If we do better this month than last, I will be happy.
The result of these efforts has been that Mr. Salty McHungerstrike has tried a handful of new foods this week and one night he even plowed through 4 helpings of a new food with broccoli in it!
The non-result is that Peppers is still basically subsisting on cold cereal, yogurt, milk and prunes and asking for cookies. So we keep trying.