How Parents Make Picky Eaters Worse

Exasperated, frustrated, and well-meaning parents actually make their child’s picky eating worse. It’s no wonder. Much of the advice concerning picky eating is counter-productive. Parents (and others) at the end of their rope, sometimes resort to harsh methods to get their kids to eat…something.

Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater is full of real-life testimonials of what parents do influence their children’s eating patterns for life. When I was writing my parenting book, I interviewed many people. Most had a food-related horror story to tell. Many times a child’s eating difficulties persisted into adulthood, because of the actions taken by adults.

You can’t force a child to eat anything. You can’t humiliate her into compliance. You can’t send a stubborn eater off to bed without dinner and think he’ll eat it for breakfast. You can’t trick food into the mouth of a baby who is refusing to eat. You can’t bribe a child into liking a refused food. In the first chapters of Baby Bites, I explain why this is the case.

I wrote Baby Bites, not to train children, but to train parents. It takes only a short time before parents have run the gamut of trendy methods attempting to get their kids to eat whole foods. Bad habits are first formed, not by the child, but by the parents. Not only do parents end up frustrated, but they have unknowingly made the problem worse.

Does your child refuse to eat whole foods,
but will eat junk food like Chase?
Photo with permission from ZIMage Photography

Baby Bites explains an easy step-by-step approach to teach your child how to enjoy whole foods. The steps work because eating is not the first objective. Multi-sensory learning and positive reinforcement is. Obviously, the environment must be controlled to accomplish the steps. I explain how to set the stage for healthy eating in great detail in Baby Bites.

Once, you begin the Baby Bites steps it’s all about having fun while learning. People learn with all their senses. Parents think taste should be enough to convince a child to eat a refused food. Taste is the last sense to incorporate. Texture is usually the issue with a refused food. Sometimes it’s the color or smell.

Hopefully, your pediatrician will make the recommendation for a physical therapist (PT) if you have an orally sensitive baby. Many adult picky eaters had oral issues as infants. It doesn’t usually go away on it’s own. The PT will direct exercises to desensitize the lips and mouth. One method is to lightly rub a washcloth on the lips for a few minutes. Parents, slowly increase the number of times this is done a day. Then the mouth is lightly touched, etc.

Parents know if they have an extreme picky eater. What they don’t know is how to overcome the obstacles. Obviously, the younger the child, when you begin the Baby Bites steps, the greater the success. First, because fewer mistakes have been made by the adults in the child’s life. Secondly, bad habits surrounding eating haven’t been ingrained. Lastly, it’s easiest to control a preschoolers environment.

After a child enters school, there are many other factors to consider. In Baby Bites the steps are adapted for toddlers, pre-schoolers and grade school kids. The game changes during puberty. Controlling external circumstances isn’t enough. The desire for change must exist within the child. As is evident with adult picky eaters, the perceived discomfort becomes a huge obstacle.

I’m an eternal optimist. I believe it’s never too late to become a healthy eater…that’s why I wrote Baby Bites: Transforming a Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater.

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