Picky Eater = Bad Parenting…Say What?
JenniferM | On 26, Feb 2013
Let me say up front that I am not going to link to the original post on Facebook and the horribly judgmental comments thereafter that inspires this “rant” because I refuse to provide any traffic whatsoever to the stereotypical statements that are being posted; however, basically here’s a breakdown of what has “inspired” me to write this post:
Apparently if you describe your child a “picky eater,” you’re a bad parent or a lazy parent or both; you’ve thrown your hands up, given in and allowed your child to just eat chips and soda pop and McD’s and cake and candy and, and, and…you haven’t given them enough food choices to make them not be a picky eater…and/or you just haven’t tried hard enough! And here’s some unsolicited advice for those of us who need it: just force feed them, force them to eat foods that they really, really don’t like or starve them, take your pick.
Seriously? Your child may be a picky eater because you’ve described them a picky eater? Say what?
Of course I was personally taken aback that, number one, someone describing their child as a picky eater is even an issue to be discussed. With so much going on in the world…this is all ya got? Number two, of course the comments would stir something in me because, as I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, I refer to my oldest daughter as Ms. Picky Eater. I call my oldest Ms. PE here and to my friends because that’s exactly what she is; there’s no getting around it.
Number three, I find it incredibly sad that this is yet another non-issue some parents feel free to tear other parents apart over.
My Picky Eater
This Ms. Picky Eater of mine wasn’t always a picky eater. And she’s always had a variety of healthy food options.
No, when she was eating baby food, she had a variety of pureed fruits and vegetables to choose from, obviously. Once she started eating solids, again, a variety of fruits and vegetables to choose from. Her grandfather is a farmer, after all! She’s had every kind of fresh food at her fingertips! When she was 4, she wouldn’t even try a blueberry, but give her a bowl of cut up what she then referred to as “trees” (broccoli) and she’d go to town. That’s what I call picky.
Have I been sneaky at times? Sure, when she was “stuck on chicken” at the age of 5 and would eat no other types of protein except chicken breast. So one time we went to her great aunt’s house and the great aunt makes the best turkey on the planet and I knew my daughter wouldn’t try the dark meat, which was all that was left by the time we got there…so we told her it was brown chicken..and guess what? She wolfed that stuff down like there was no tomorrow and later, after she had gobbled it all down, we told her it was actually turkey and so from then on, she has loved turkey, dark or white, doesn’t matter.
Now? At the age of 12? She loves her some grass-fed beef…a grilled filet is her absolute favorite. But it took years to get her to even try it and she wouldn’t even eat more than a piece of steak until about a year ago. Now she asks for it all the time…which kinda sucks when we’re eating out at a restaurant because that stuff isn’t cheap! She also loves her chicken breast and even salmon and grilled trout.
I do think that since she is an uber-sensitive kid, that it’s just the texture of certain foods that she doesn’t like, NOT the food itself and since she has no idea what the texture will be of new foods she’s never tried, she’s just been hesitant to try them.
What I Have Done/Do and Haven’t Done/Won’t Do
I don’t believe in sneaking vegetables into her other foods. Some parents do and that’s okay by me. I am not in a position to pass judgment on what other parents do because they worry about their picky eaters getting enough nutrients or enough of the “right foods.”
And I do not believe in forcing a child to eat food they do not like! I do not eat foods I don’t like; why should my child? Just “because I say so?” I don’t think so…
I can tell you, though, until she turned 6, I did make two dinners because, just like her mother, she’s stubborn as a mule, and when she rejected food at that age, she rejected it and starving her was not an option. But at 6 years old, something in me decided enough was enough. I would NOT continue making two dinners; instead, there was a compromise of sorts. I made a main dish and 3 to 4 sides. As long as she ate 2 to 3 of the sides, I was okay with that.
I also do not believe in forcing a child to sit at the table to eat what they do not like or to “clean their plate.” My own mother did that and there were tons of foods when I was a kid that I didn’t like (cooked carrots being the main one and we had those all.the.time.) and instead of dinner time being an enjoyable time for the family, it became a source of anxiety if we were having something like mom’s favorite “tomato bread” (yuk, hiss, boo, blech, made me gag). I don’t believe that’s good for a child either.
I have never begged or pleaded with her to eat what “I” wanted her to eat. Did I get frustrated? Sure…but I never, ever gave up, nor did I ply her junk food just to say that I was feeding her. I knew that given time and patience and encouragement, she’d come around to trying new things. She did, however, throughout these years get enough of the good stuff that she has always been extremely healthy, fit, and energetic. She does incredibly well in school, is involved in sports and band, and has always been at the top of the class since day one of Kinder. Just because she was a picky eater didn’t mean that I allowed her to pick the worst foods on the planet that she could possibly eat, the ones that would leave her unhealthy in any way (and yes, I do KNOW what those are and what they do to a growing child)! And I’m sure many, many parents of picky eaters are like me, believe it or not.
As she grew older and I felt she was mature to handle a discussion about food, the good, the bad, the processed, the real, what’s good FOR you and what’s NOT…she’s become more willing to try new things and still stay away from food that is not good for her. As a matter of fact, I handed her an article about the whole pink slime issue two years ago when the story broke and the child still to this day will not go to McD’s when her paternal grandmother asks her to go!
I did at a certain point institute the “one bite” rule…she needed to try one bite of new foods; if she ended up not liking them, then okay, but she had to try. I have noticed a huge change in her and her eating habits. Does she still have some quirks? Oh, sure. Such as…she will not eat bread. It doesn’t matter if it’s white bread (yuck), wheat bread, homemade bread, toasted bread, any type of bread…no go. If we’re having burgers, she requests hers without a bun and she gets just that. If she has some type of sandwich or something with a bun for hot school lunch, she removes whatever is on the bread and tosses the bread away (which is okay by me because I prefer she not eat the white bread served at school anyway). She actually told me the other day she was made fun of by another student for doing this. (Is it because judgmental parents are passing their bad habits on so that their kids think it’s okay to judge others’ eating habits? I do have to wonder now…) She told me she didn’t care that the other kid made fun of her and that maybe she will one day grow out of this “phase” and learn to like bread. I told her if she never likes bread, it’s A-Okay. And it is A-okay.
Oh, and one peculiar thing she does, which I also consider “picky,” is that she will not eat onions IN a dish, but don’t let this child into your garden because she loves to pull up green onions, wash them off, sprinkle them with some salt and munch on them like a lot of kids munch on some Cheetos! She also loves raw ramps, something most kids (and adults, such as myself) won’t even touch! But I digress…
Thankfully, she’s come around quite a bit since her younger years…just like I knew she would. She tries foods now that I never dreamed she would try and she likes them and they’re good-for-her-foods, thank you very much, NOT junk!
Don’t Get It Twisted
To those who feel the need to pass judgment on an issue they obviously know nothing about:
Contrary to what is apparently popular opinion, parents of picky eaters do not generally call their child a picky eater to the child personally (I certainly don’t!), nor do we say things such as, “Oh, I KNOW you won’t like this. Don’t even bother trying it!” I’m sure there are plenty of parents out there just like me who instead of plying our picky ones with junk food actually ply them with alternatives that are just as nutritious! We’re not all feeding our kids junk food and/or fast food and/or processed food just for the sake of getting them to eat. We’re being patient while remaining optimistic. We’re encouraging. We’re doing the best we can as parents to do what’s best for our children.
Do you have a picky eater? What have you done to help your child? Do you feel describing your child as a “picky eater” causes them not to want to eat the foods you want them to eat or hurts them in some way? Let us know your thoughts on this issue!