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Rewards and punishments are opposite sides of the same coin… and that coin doesn’t buy much in the future for your child.

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How to feed a fussy eater

When the dinner table becomes a battle ground!

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/45777632@N06/12514159013/">D. Garding</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa

photo credit: D. Garding via photopin

My daughter is a picky eater (I don’t like using this phrase, but I realise its coined for a reason). She does not have an issue with taste, but, she doesn’t want to try new things consciously. I have fed her a lot of different things under the pretext of things that she has liked, but, on her own, she would still not have a square meal that the doctors & all elders keep telling me that kids her age do.

Anyways, long story short, we have tried just about everything under the sun to try her to eat on the table, and be conscious of what she is eating, and enjoy food in all its variety- taste, texture, novelty. We made eating a family ritual, involved her in the kitchen, setting the table, but nothing helped. In the end we have been strict with her & punished her by not letting her watch her TV shows (she is allowed to watch only Tom & Jerry or the Animal Planet, or an animated movie). But all of which resulted in howling & wailing, and sometimes throwing up what little she had eaten.

After harassing her & myself, I came to this conclusion-

My daughter is old enough & has developed a taste for what she likes to eat. This assures me that it’s more of a psychological block, than developmental. She just doesn’t want to play by my rules J.

  1.  Her pediatrician says that kids who are strong willed, and have gotten away with their ways (whether it’s an eating habit, a sleeping routine, or general bad behaviour, it can be anything), know they will eventually succeed in continuing that way. At this age they are old enough to know their boundaries, and interestingly, test them accordingly. They know that their teachers or stranger would not tolerate certain behaviour, while their parents, grand-parents etc. would, so they adopt accordingly.
  2. I am afraid that if I keep forcing she may end up hating the food & the ritual of eating. And I had started dreading meal times as much as her, because of the inevitable impending tussle & crying.

So, after 2 months of having tried everything by-the-book, I am trying something different. Here’s what I have started practicing-

  1. For dinner, I take my daughter away from other family members. My daughter being a high engagement child, gets distracted easily, and the dinner time then becomes either an hour long affair, or a teary showdown.
  2. I make her eat (everything I want her to eat, which comprises of dals, sabzi etc.) while we do some activity together (mostly craft). This ensures that she eats everything which is good for her & is happy eating it.
  3. I don’t force her onto the dining table with everyone. This prevents from different people trying to enforce what they feel is the right way of feeding.

I know, like me, there would be many moms knowing the importance of & wanting to follow ‘conscious eating’, which means a child is conscious and aware of what she/he is eating and enjoys & celebrates food. I am all for it. I would be the happiest of she eats on her own, and nutritious and balanced meals. And I have tried all means to make it happen. It’s just that my daughter is not ready for it yet. So I’ll wait for the day to come when she says she’s ready, all the while praying this happens soon :-).