I will admit that this little journey of helping Bridger become a healthy eater has been overwhelming at times BUT rewarding too. I have grown so much and so has he. While this is work in progress, I can report that we have come a LONG way and I celebrate that fact:) He still struggles with dinner some nights, but there is no more tears, or throwing up when trying a new food (uh yes that did happen several times when dinner was forced upon him! It was traumatic for him and me) I don't profess to have all the answers, but this is what has helped us!
So here is my advice for
Helping Picky Eaters:
** Preface**You may think this is funny, but my biggest advice is first of all...pray for inspiration. As Mothers I feel like we have a direct line to heaven when it comes to the welfare of the little souls placed in our care. Those children are God's before they are ours. I think of them as 'on loan'. I believe that our Heavenly Father LOVES His children and wants the best for them. We are blessed when we take our concerns to him regarding those precious little ones-I know that He cares and will direct us on what is best for their progression and development. I have found that when I do this I am blessed with more love than ever for my child, the ability to see clearly what needs to be done and the faith (and stamina) to see it thru.
#1 NUTRITIONFirst, I decided I would pay close attention to providing good nutrition for him and our whole family. I started making green smoothies (full of spinach and fresh fruit and berries) everyday. This became a family tradition. I enlisted the help of the older family members in setting a good example--telling them how important this was for our picky eater to have this awesome "liquid gold". I put the smoothie in a plastic Batman cup with a lid and straw and he shockingly slurped them right down. I felt like it was my insurance policy that he was getting the nutrients he needed even if he didn't eat much. Even though it may not seem like it--children really will eat enough for their needs. Just make sure you don't let them fill up on junk food. Give them nutrient rich food and then a little bit can go a long way in nourishing them.
#2 CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
Next for me I had to establish clear expectations ("family rules" regarding meal time/ eating) I like the idea that you give your children clear guidelines or expectations but let them choose for themselves. There needs to also be clear consequences for their choices. (ei they may be hungry later--but they only eat at scheduled meal/snack times or sitting at the table, they have to go to bed early if they cry and whine at the table OR no treats unless they have one bite everything on their dinner plate etc--WHATEVER YOU DECIDE is best) Children can learn this concept quickly at a young age.
#3 NO PRESSURE OR Extra Attention
I tried to be very careful to not make a big deal out of food and mealtimes. I felt that it was important that no pressure or stress be associated at all with eating. He knew our "rules" or expectations but I didn't want to talk about it the whole meal and give it too much attention. On the other hand, the decided upon consequences were clear and non-negotiable. We gave a warning or two, but then we were consistent with the follow through--and we never showed any anger or extra attention while giving the consequence. If was just "matter of fact" with as little talking about it as possible. (this was hard at first--but it did work:)
I have found that children love to feel in control of their world as much as possible. Letting them have more control with food/mealtimes will help. Maybe they get to help choose the meal, the drink, the plate or even help prepare it.
Celebrate any success. I tred I take him aside with a little hug whenever I saw that he was making progress. From the start of this little campaign to change his picky eating, I have tried to build him up and treat him like he is becoming a good healthy eater. As he started to do better, I tried to tell him sincerely and regularly that I was so happy that he was learning to eat his dinner and that his body was getting healthy, big and strong! At one point we put stickers on a chart each time he ate a bite of all the food on his plate at dinner--when he had a certain number of stickers we celebrated with a small new toy. I could see the pride in himself grow as he saw his success and it fueled his desire to try harder.
A key for me with my boys is LOVE. You can have firm rules and expectations that do not change--but at the same time you can show unconditional love not tied to their choices. That is the most important thing. Children crave and thrive on their Mother's love. I found that a Mothers love is powerful stuff:)
I keep editing this post with a little less specifics about what I did, because every child and family is different. What worked for us may not be right for you--but I think the general ideas above are true for all children. The specifics are where inspiration comes into play--so you know what is the best route to take with your child and their paticular personality and situation. I hope these general ideas help with your little picky eaters! Good luck my friends!
And please know that I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments:)