Home > Carrots & Sticks: The Price of Praise, Rewards, and Other Control Tactics, Uncategorized > Seven Habits of the Highly Effective Parent of a Picky Eater

Seven Habits of the Highly Effective Parent of a Picky Eater


SURE-FIRE ways to make pickiness a habit at your house.  – photo by Anna Migeon

Want pickiness to become a way of life at your table? Here are a few tips to guarantee it does.

1. Make feeding chaotic. Feed your child whenever he’s hungry, or let him forage for himself. Let him eat whatever he wants. That’s more natural than being all structured and organized and strict about it.  Don’t refuse him anything he wants. If he’s not hungry when an actual meal rolls round, just force him to eat anyway.

2. Allow your child to eat wherever he wants: on the couch, in front of the TV, running around outside or inside while playing, in the car,  and not just at the table. Children need to be free.

3. Press him to eat if he isn’t hungry, or if he doesn’t eat something you’ve served. Not being hungry doesn’t mean you don’t need to eat. You always need to eat. The more kids eat, the better.

4.  Pit foods against each other as you micromanage and manipulate. “You want a meatball? Well, you have to eat a carrot first. Want dessert? You have to eat all your rice.”

5. Adapt to your child’s eating. If he spits out a certain food, try giving it to him with ranch dressing, or cooked, if it was raw. Or peel it, for example. If he still won’t eat it, stop serving it. Serve him only the foods you know he’ll eat, and serve them the way he likes them.

6. Spoon food into his mouth or otherwise forcefully make him eat.

7. Worry about what he actually eats instead of how he is behaving. Make meals a filling station, focused on getting them to down certain foods in certain amounts, instead of making it a social time where you build a relationship and give your child social skills.

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