I am having some serious struggles with picky eaters in my house.
And just so you know, I have already done a lot of homework on this issue. I have read several books, talked to my pediatrician, discussed it with the playgroup mom crew, etc. And here's where I am:
I am not an overly-permissive parent (at all), but I have decided that our dinner table cannot be a battle zone. We've been down that road too many times, and I'm not up for it. My sweet husband (bushed from a day of being a principal) isn't' up for it. It's not good for our family morale. And every "expert" I talk to (or read) advises against forcing kids to eat foods they don't want. From my own childhood experience, I'd have to agree. We were made to eat vegetables as children, and now my brother and I have strong aversions to many of those same vegetables. In fact, the only way you will get a green pea in my mouth is to stuff it into my cold, dead body.
Some of my most vivid childhood memories involve my father and brother's nightly dinnertime stand-off over my brother cleaning his plate. Being the obedient, older child, one stern glance from my father would have me stuffing my entire vegetable serving into my mouth and swallowing them without chewing, chased by a big gulp of milk. But not my brother- he would sit there for a good hour having a stare-down with my dad. Dad always won, but it wasn't pretty. (And then there was the scene the night my dad found a big wad of chewed-up green beans in the bathroom trashcan.) I used to feel so sorry for my brother, but now that I'm a parent, I feel retrospective sympathy for my poor dad. There he was, after a hard day at the office, wanting only the recliner and newspaper, faced with my defiant brother and a plate of peas. He did what he thought was right, but it seems the end result was that he rasied a boy who became a man who hates vegetables.
I am determined that my children eat (mostly) healthy foods. I'm not a nut about it- some goldfish or animal crackers here and there don't stress me out, if they have been eating the healthy stuff too. But I really do want them to develop healthy habits- healthier than mine were as a child/adolescent.
I have tried to "put the healthy food on their plate and just let them choose what they want." It doesn't work very well at my house. Here is what happens. Brother (21 months) will look at a plate with tiny bites of roast beef, small pieces of fresh green bean, small pieces of whole wheat french bread, and watermelon bites. He will fuss that he wants the meat off the tray. We say something like, "It's OK. Just let it stay there." He will then proceed to eat every bite of watermelon and holler for more. We say, "Eat your other foods first!" He then says "No no!" and makes swiping motions at the beans and roast. He will half-heartedly eat a few bites of bread, drink some milk, and then ask again for watermelon.
Here's my question- what would you do next? We have tried holding the watermelon hostage until other foods are tasted. It results in a lot of crying and no more food is eaten.
We have tried making him stay in the chair until other foods are tasted. It results in a lot of crying and no more food is eaten.
We have tried keeping him from a favorite activity (watching Elmo on TV) until he tastes the other foods. It results in a lot of crying and no more food is eaten.
So, my friends, any suggestions???
Sister is getting (a little) easier now that she's 3 and 1/2 because we can reason with her a bit, hold out on sweets and snacks, etc. But the almost-2-year-old-boy is my challenge.
I would appreciate any and all advice. And if you do post a reply in the comments, check back because I may ask you a follow-up question there. Thanks!