Search This Blog

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"Johnny Won't Eat That"...Well NOW he won't!!!

Today I am going to talk about something that has been increasingly on my mind lately:  parental comments about their children's eating habits, especially around their children, and how it affects them.  It has been on my mind lately for 2 reasons:
  1. I will be teaching a parent/child cooking class this Saturday called "Chop Chop" at the Franklin YMCA.  And some of the success of the class is dependent on whether the kids try the foods we cook.  And that depends a lot on the parents (and whether or not they make comments).
  2. We are going to be doing some taste-testing at my son's school next week.  So whether the kids try the foods will depend on the child's sense of adventure and the environment of food they have grown up in.
So what's the big deal, if we call our children "picky"?  Or "good-eaters" or make a comment that "Oh, Johnny won't eat that" or "Susie won't try that, she is picky"?

The problem is that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If you say "Johnny wont eat that" in front of Johnny, then you are correct, he won't eat it. If Susy grows up thinking she is "picky" then she will describe herself that way to other people.  She will think "I am just a picky eater, it is the way I am" and then she doesn't ever have to learn otherwise.  So what if you didn't label your children in terms of how they eat? What if you didn't compare your kids and just allowed them to look at and explore the foods and try them whenever they were ready?  You may find that they may surprise you and break out of the role you have given them on their own.

So how can we foster an environment that encourages our children to try different foods?
  • Don't force your kids to try anything or eat anything. Not even a one bite rule. This takes control and power out of the equation. Let them have the power to decide what goes in their mouth.
  • Make it a rule that everything for dinner goes on everyone's plate (except for allergies of course).  The more they see, touch, and move the food around on their plate--the more comfortable they will get with the food.  The more comfortable they get, the more likely they are to try foods.  Maybe not the first or second time, but eventually.
  • Zip your lips about whether you think your kids will try things--you may be pleasantly surprised.
  • Let the kids see/touch/help prepare the food before it is cooked.
  • Bring the kids to see it grow in a garden or at a farm if you can.
  • Let the kids see, touch, and smell it at the grocery store.
  • Try foods in different ways--cooked, raw, pureed, mashed, oven roasted, etc.
  • Avoid labeling foods as ones your child doesn't like as an absolute.  Try to say things like: "oh, so you didn't like it this time? Maybe you'll like it cooked another way, or when you get a bit older".  Once my son understood that tastes change, he understood that he may like something later on and he is more willing to re-try foods.
  • Recognize your child won't like everything and respect those things. Forcing a kid to eat something they truly don't like won't help them develop a love and respect for vegetables. (Remember those lima beans your mom forced you to eat?)
  • Sign them up for cooking/gardening classes or send them to someone else's house for dinner.  Sometimes kids will try foods they see their peers eating or that another adult offers.
Good luck!  I know I catch myself sometimes labeling my child's behavior as part of who he is--and then I have to stop myself.  If I call him the class clown, he will make himself fit the role.  A "picky eater" is the same way...

Shoot me an email if you want to know more about the Chop Chop class! I will try to post some pictures if I can get some and let you know how the class goes in a future post!

In health and wellness,
Nicole Harter

No comments:

Post a Comment