Every time I think this whole parenting thing is getting easier and more fun, I have days like yesterday.
My six-year-old didn't eat much lunch and “forgot” to get anything to drink from the cafeteria. By the time 6:00 p.m. rolled around, she was not a pleasant child. She didn't want to eat what Daddy cooked, then decided she did want it, but since it was now cold, she wanted something else.
We told her to eat what was on her plate. Not that she had to sit there until she finished, but that we were not going to cater to her every whim.
I'm not sure how long she cried and threw a fit. It felt like an eternity. It's so hard. Why does it have to be so hard?? The only thing that saves me from a pit of parenting gloom and despair is the feeling of camaraderie. At least we’re not alone! There are a lot of picky eaters out there, and they don’t starve. Most actually grow out of it.
Which doesn’t help me in the meantime. For the moment, I’m just trying to avoid having a war with my kid about her eating/not eating food choices.
Why? Because kids are naturally intuitive. They eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Can you imagine??
Dietitians and other experts say the food war is not one worth having. Judy Kolish, registered dietitian for BCBSIL, says parents should decide what to buy and what to serve, and kids should decide what and how much to eat.
“Adults do not like to be told what to eat, and neither do children. The more we try to control a child’s eating, the more rebellious they can become. Offering variety, balance and moderation will lead your child to choose what is best but parents have to trust that, and it’s hard.”
When I first spoke with Judy about this approach (called the Division of Responsibility), I thought she was insane. “But, she’ll starve! Or only eat cookies! We have to make her eat something. Don’t we?”
She barely ate that night, so she naturally went to bed cranky and we went to bed stressed out. But this morning, as I was packing her sandwich for school, I asked, “Do you want cookies or cherries with your lunch today?” And she said something I never would have at her age: “hmmm, it doesn’t matter. I really like them both.”
We’ve hit a turning point! For a war that’s not being fought, victory sure tastes sweet!
Want to keep dinner with your little ones battle-free? Follow these tips:
The Division of Responsibility feeding approach is recognized as a best practice by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, The American Academy of Pediatrics, Head Start and more.
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