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Simple Strategy to Avoid Food Battles: Create a Diversion

April 27, 2012 1 comment

TIRED of meeting headstrong resistance head on and getting nowhere? — photo by Anna Migeon

Your child bangs her cup on the table and glares. Or she yells, “I hate beets!” and grabs a handful and rears back for a pitch. Or she may simply say, “Yuck! I’m not eating that!” to your sumptuous dinner.

What next?

Wouldn’t you do almost anything to have a little peace at the dinner table?

At such moments, wouldn’t it be great to have a way to keep a child on track without the usual yelling, threatening, arguments, lectures, punishments—all with limited effectiveness—and without misery (including yours)? Do you need a path to resolving conflicts of will where nothing’s broken, no one’s screaming and no food is thrown on the floor? Are you sick of meeting headstrong resistance head on and getting nowhere?

The good news is that nothing extreme is called for. The solution may be very simple.

How to Get a Kid to Do Something

When things are about to blow, try creating a diversion. Offer an alternative. In the book How to Get People to Do Things (1979), author Robert Conklin calls it taking a detour. It’s a simple, effective, low-key way to keep a situation from going where you don’t want it to go with a child (or maybe an adult).  It only requires that you be alert and tuned in to your child, yet nonchalant and cool.

  • When Serina bangs her cup, be quick. Interrupt the action long enough to calmly suggest another idea or activity that can become as attractive to Serina throwing a fit:

“Serina, could you please help me get watermelon for everybody?”

  • Be quick again and intercept Serina’s little fistful of beets, saying only, “Food stays on the table.” Remove the beets, but not too far away. Then say:

“Serina, did you tell Daddy how much fun you had playing in the creek this afternoon?”

After Serina has her resistance neutralized, she might just forget how much she hates beets. You might see her end up reaching out for them (they’re still nearby), in the glow of getting to tell about her fun.

Old School Magical Mind Control

Creating a diversion is a parenting technique that was recommended some 100 years ago by a British educational reformer, Charlotte Mason, as described by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay in her 1984 book For the Children’s Sake: Educational Foundations for Home and School.

This way of “changing children’s thoughts,” as Mason calls it, lets a child save face without a parent giving in: “Where she cannot yield, she diverts, she does not crush with a sledgehammer.” A new idea diffuses the battle while giving parents an action to replace the pushiness and direct control that are so unhelpful at the table. Getting pushy over what a child puts in her mouth is the last thing you want to do.

“It is a happy thing that the ‘difficult’ children who are the readiest to resist a direct command are often the quickest to respond to the stimulus of an idea,” Mason states.

So next time your child challenges you to a battle over what she won’t eat, maybe acknowledge her feelings, then try giving her something better to think about, and see what happens:

  • “OK. I guess you’re not hungry. Did your teacher announce who gets to play Alice in Wonderland in the show?”
  • “I know you wanted to keep playing, but it’s time for us all to come to the table together. Did you hear what happened to your sister today at school?”

***

For more examples of how to create a diversion at the table: Taking a detour: One Good Way to Neutralize a Kid’s Food Resistance 

How to Get the Picky Eater to Eat: in the Woods or in the Pasture?

March 2, 2012 5 comments

Young children, like sheep, need some shepherding for their own good and their parents'. - photo by Anna Migeon

 

Getting kids motivated to eat is a lot like getting sheep to eat.

If sheep are allowed to run free in the woods, they are in danger. When they get hungry there, they will probably eat something harmful instead of the right things. Not much good grass in the woods.

The sheep might even fall in a hole or off a cliff, or be terrorized by a rushing stream. They could be eaten by a wolf, run over by a car, or shot by a hunter.

So the shepherd watches over the sheep and places them within limits. The shepherd selects the best pasture of green grass he can find, and builds a fence around it. He gently lures his sheep in and closes the gate.

If the sheep are safely fenced in a pasture of only good green grass, the sheep will naturally eat the grass. No one tries to force a sheep to eat because it would only become alarmed and struggle away. No one need interfere with their eating, because they’re hungry and green grass is all that’s available. It’s the best thing for the sheep and they do like it. They love eating it if they haven’t filled up or gotten sick on thistles and weeds in the woods. They only need to be allowed to eat, with no interference. It’s like water flowing down a hill. It just goes.  The sheep are content and secure in the pasture.`

Likewise young children, if their access to food is not limited, will eat the wrong things, not be hungry for the right things, and be at risk of numerous threats to their well being.

Out in the woods, we find dangers that deteriorate the chances of children eating well:

  • Random snacking
  • Kids without an appetite at meals
  • Battles at the table
  • Food resistance and refusal
  • Fear of new foods and being forced to eat
  • Bad behavior is tolerated in hopes kids will eat
  • Parents have no way to make kids behave
  • Junk food and sugar cravings
  • Parents comprising on what they let kids eat so they will eat
  • Kids treasure dessert and see meals mainly as the means to that end
  • Parents pressure, bribe, bargain, beg and plead in attempt to motivate kids to eat
  • Sleep problems
  • Health problems (tooth decay, obesity, diabetes…)
  • The attitude that we HAVE to eat

So what are the fence posts we can build to create the structure our children need to be motivated to eat when and what they should?

  • Eating restricted to mealtimes and snack time only
  • Eating restricted to the table only
  • No random snacking
  • A wide variety of foods served
  • Parents choosing the best foods for their children
  • Only good choices at the table
  • Children decide freely how much they want to eat of everything
  • No pressure to eat anything ever
  • Kids are hungry for meals and eat willingly and happily: healthy hunger alone motivates them
  • Kids make sure they eat enough at meals because they know they won’t have anything till the next time at the table
  • Good table manners & behavior or kids aren’t allowed to stay at the table and eat
  • Good conversation at the table
  • The attitude that we GET to eat

So is your child in the woods or in the pasture?  Many families seem to be clearly in one or the other. What if kids don’t want to go in that pasture, with limits and restraints? We want them to be free adventurers, not mindless followers—like sheep! Don’t we?

***

Related posts:

Duty Made Lovely: How to Train a Child’s Appetite

Foundations of Appetite Training: 12 Ways Children Learn to Like or Dislike Healthy Eating

Serious Reasons Not to React to a “Picky” Toddler

February 21, 2012 2 comments

CHILDREN NEED PRACTICE to develop their abilities to deal with food. - photo by Anna Migeon

If you give your toddler some sticks of red pepper as part of her lunch, what should you do if she chews them up and spits them out?

  • Some parents will decide they need to find a way to make the peppers acceptable, like peeling them or disguising them in ranch dressing.
  • Other parents might tell the child to eat the peppers, maybe scold her for having spit them out, or find some other way of pressuring the child to eat them instead of spitting them out.
  • Others won’t try giving the child peppers again, worried only about getting something down the hatch, and will look for other foods the child is sure to eat.

But our problems, and our children’s, are likely to get much worse if we take any of these tactics. A toddler spitting out food doesn’t necessarily mean she’s picky. It might not be merely a preference she’s expressing.

Babies are born able only to suck.  Their stomachs aren’t ready for solid food and neither are their mouths.  Babies aren’t physically equipped to eat until they practice working their mouths. Different kinds of food give a child training in using their mouths. Their tongues, throats and jaws develop ability to do through doing. As children grow, they need to be introduced to textures and solids. Hard stick shapes like a piece of pepper or apple to practice munching develops a baby’s ability to not gag on foods, give her practice in moving solids around in the mouth with her tongue, strengthens the jaw, and gives her an awareness of what’s happening in her mouth. Other textures and shapes teach various skills that the growing child needs to deal with food.  Kids need time and practice. They need to feel free to try things and work on them without feeling pressure to do more than they’re comfortably able.

  • So if we try to make things easier for the child, by attempting to make the food more palatable, for example, by peeling the peppers in hopes she’ll swallow them, she  won’t get the chance to learn. If we disguise their taste, she won’t have a chance to get used to it. It’s like cracking a hatching chick’s shell for it to make things easier. The chick needs to crack its own shell in order to develop properly. Otherwise it will die.
  • Or if you stop presenting foods that the child rejects because she rejects them, she won’t have the chance to try again to see if she’s ready for them the next time. It’s like taking the ball away for good the first time your child tries to shoot a basket and misses. Even if it is just a preference, tastes do change, especially where there’s no pressure.
  • Or, perhaps worse, if you pressure the child to eat what he’s rejected, when he isn’t physically ready, it is probably quite alarming, even threatening. Kids don’t mind trying to nibble on things and not being able to and giving it up for the moment. They are ready to experiment and fiddle with food, especially if they are free to spit things out. If they are hungry, they have that drive to eat. They are curious and like to gain mastery.  If they gag a little, they don’t mind. But if you gag and then someone pressures you to eat it anyway, it surely provokes panic and insecurity. It is probably upsetting to have your dear Mommy trying to force you to eat when you feel you are going to choke on it. Surely some of the fits toddlers throw when people try to make them eat something is due to this feeling. It’s worse than being pressured because you missed the basket the first time you tried. A child is likely to become highly resistant and distrustful of both Mom and food.

So if your little darling spits out her food, don’t stop giving it to her. She needs to keep trying things. She needs to get familiar with all kinds of flavors, textures and shapes. If you leave her alone about it and remain cheerful and understanding, she will likely try it next time. That gives her another chance to work on her skills and development and get used to that food. Maybe that next time it will go down.

But it’s more important that your child keeps a positive view of eating and continues her development than whether or not she eats something today.

***

Related posts:

How to prevent picky eating from ever starting, Part I

How to prevent picky eating from ever starting, Part II

How to prevent picky eating from ever starting, Part II

January 9, 2012 2 comments

WHAT WE DO WHEN KIDS RESIST EATING something determines what happens next. This little boy happily eats just about anything. How that happens is no mystery.

“We wonder how we get started doing these things, but we do them.”

My friend told me that as part of my babysitting instructions. Lunch for her 1 1/2-year-old, Kaylee, and her 18-month-old, Wee Man, was to include some cut up, raw red peppers.

“He’ll spit them out. So I started peeling them for him,” she explained, with some embarrassment. These kids hadn’t been picky; they had been the kids who ate everything a few months earlier.

Preparing for resistance: holding firm

“I do not get started doing these things,” I said to myself. I wasn’t about to start peeling raw red peppers to try to get Wee Man to eat them, because that right there is “how we get started doing these things.” But I said nothing.

When lunchtime came, I cut up a little bit of red pepper and gave it to him, unpeeled, with the rest of his lunch. I knew that worrying about what he “liked” or wouldn’t eat was counter productive. I, the grown-up, wasn’t going to get pulled into a pattern like that. Who cares if he doesn’t eat certain things? Let’s leave him alone. He’ll eat something.

What happened when Wee Man spit out his peppers

As foretold, Wee Man chewed on some of the red pepper and spat them out. As when his sister fulfilled the dire predictions moments earlier, I was annoyed. However, I did nothing. I thought, “Well, Wee Man, the worst is over at this point. You might as well swallow as spit out. The experience has been had.” But I didn’t argue with him.

I said only one thing: “You can eat those.” My intuition told me to say just that, nothing more. For some reason he thought he couldn’t eat them. They didn’t feel right to him. I knew he could; without telling him to eat anything, I wanted to reassure him that maybe they’re a little different, or not his absolute favorite, but that it was OK anyway and that they were normal and real food. So just to reassure him, I said it, calm and neutral. I was surprised that I even said that. But it seemed like the thing to do at the time. Otherwise, I ignored it, remained cheerful, and threw away what he didn’t eat.

I refrained from saying anything like, “Please eat those,” or “Put those back in your mouth and eat them,” or “You have to eat those or no applesauce.”

He may have gagged on the peppers. He may need more practice at it. Being force fed is profoundly repulsive and only increases revulsion toward the food being forced. How would you feel if someone tried to make you eat something?

Do we validate or trivialize pickiness?

Nor did I go to the extreme lengths of peeling the peppers. That is way too much work. Have you ever tried to peel unroasted red peppers? Furthermore, such measures show the kid that you are desperate, and you shouldn’t be. You should be calm and dignified and in control of the situation. It makes children think they are right to spit them out if they’re unpeeled. It validates and confirms whatever silliness, pickiness and immaturity could be happening instead of trivializing it as it deserves. Desperate measures show kids that they are in charge, and can control you and jerk you around.

An important fact to notice here is: Wee Man tried the peppers again that day with me. He gave it a fair shot.  He’d probably try them again next time if there were a next time. If given the chance to try unpeeled peppers again, he’d forget about it and give another try, if he doesn’t learn that such issues are Big Deals. He has no reason not to try them again. He might find them familiar enough with another try to swallow them. If we make a big deal out of it, he’ll dig in his heels and it becomes a big deal.

What does it matter if he doesn’t like certain things? It’s really OK. He doesn’t have to. He’ll be OK. What does it accomplish if we peel them? He hasn’t learned that unpeeled red peppers are perfectly OK to eat. Instead, his belief that they have to be peeled is solidified.

There’s just no reason to get started “doing these things.”

***

Related post:

How to prevent picky eating from ever starting, Part I

How to Prevent Picky Eating from Ever Starting, Part I

December 14, 2011 6 comments

WHAT HAPPENS the first time your child rejects food is the key to what happens next. This child is not actually Kaylee, but an unpicky model representing her.

“I don’t know what we did wrong with her,” my friend sheepishly told me, as she gave me my babysitting instructions and warnings about exactly what picky-eater actions her kids were going to take with the food planned for their lunch.

Kaylee was the little girl that used to eat everything. Her parents had been so proud that she ate everything.  At that earlier time, I had unconsciously thought, “Of course she eats everything. That’s normal. What do you expect?”

Maybe they were anticipating picky eating. That they seemed pleasantly surprised when their child wasn’t picky led me to think that they assumed it was normal for kids to become picky. Maybe they don’t know how it comes about, or that it can be prevented. Now things had indeed gone wrong, as they expected.

Well, I suspected where they might have gone wrong. I didn’t take that as an invitation to tell them about it, however, though I am the Mom Whose Kids Eat Absolutely Everything. I said nothing.

But that afternoon, I decided to observe my responses, as well as the children’s actions at the table. Instead of following my intuitions unconsciously, I would notice what I was or wasn’t doing in response to these very young (age 18 months and two-and-a-half) budding picky eaters.

You see, I was often asked, when my children were young, “How do you get your kids to eat that?” At first, I didn’t know the answer to that question. I used to only wonder what people could be doing that would create a situation where kids wouldn’t eat what was set before them. I couldn’t imagine how kids became picky eaters. I used to assume that I was doing the only things that could be done in feeding kids. I would sometimes say, “If they’re hungry, and that’s all there is to eat, they eat it.” Which is basically still my answer, but the answer is not that simple, as I’ve found out.

Picky eating wasn’t part of my personal experience growing up or in my early parenting years. Asking how I got my kids to eat things was about like being asked how one figured out how to make a room look good, or how one managed to get along with one’s in-laws, or why one’s kids had become hoodlums. One doesn’t always know such answers right off. You just do things, or it “just happens.” Sometimes a lot of unconscious behavior and assumptions, and following what you’ve seen modeled, has gone into some of our abilities or disabilities. We do what seems obvious and right to us. We often don’t know how to do otherwise.

But sometimes the answers can be discovered, a cause-and-effect discerned. I’ve since observed enough counter-productive parenting around food to know what can go wrong. I watched and have noticed what parents of picky eaters do that I would never do.

How would I, the Mom Whose Kids Eat Absolutely Everything, react to these budding picky eaters? I have been blessed, through no merit of my own, with the gift of a set of skills and assumptions that produce kids who eat absolutely anything. What are the mechanics of my success? What exactly am I doing that works? How do my actions different from those of parents whose kids dive deep into pickiness? Where do things go wrong?

Let’s take a look.

That afternoon, I had cold pizza to warm up and give the children for lunch. My friend’s first warning was that it was the kind with peppers and goat cheese and stuff like that on it, so Kaylee would probably start picking things off. If Kaylee overheard that exchange, she probably smiled to herself, thinking: “Yes, I will.”

When I brought out the pizza, sure enough, Kaylee began to pick off and set aside on her plate the little slips of yellow pepper. Both kids began to stick their little fingers suspiciously into the blobs of goat cheese on the pizza. I was a little annoyed, but I didn’t show it.

I also noticed both kids seemed to treat pizza as a kind of dinner plate, from which to remove things and either eat or set aside. They are toddlers, so I saw this as a learning opportunity, to teach them how to eat correctly. Now is not the moment to tell Kaylee to eat her yellow peppers, or to show displeasure, or tell her “No applesauce afterwards” if she doesn’t eat everything. It’s time to avoid any such reaction at all, and stay off the track of battling over what a child puts in her mouth.

The trick here is not to make her eat, but to make her want to eat. Making her eat will never make her want to eat.

I instructed both toddlers that the way we eat pizza is to pick it up and put everything together in your mouth. I guided their tiny fingers away from picking and prodding the food. This is how it’s good, and how it’s supposed to be eaten. That’s how we eat it. That’s what big people do. I very calmly assisted a couple of bites with each child, to demonstrate and prime the pump, let them get a try of how much better it all is taken together. Each eagerly opened up for the incoming bites of pizza. The new concept seemed to interest them and gave them something better to think about than refusing to eat yellow peppers or worrying about goat cheese. As the grown-up, I didn’t dignify the yellow peppers incident by taking notice of it.

I was cheerful, confident, and friendly. I would casually try again as I saw them forgetting that you eat pizza in complete bites, not separate items. I didn’t insist or force or get mad about it. I remained pleasant, and talked about other things or sang little songs or joked around with them in between these assisted bites. What they ate they ate, what they didn’t want, I said nothing about.

It’s annoying and silly and wasteful and we don’t like it when kids pick at their food. It makes a mess. We can also start worrying that our little darlings won’t get the nutrients they need or that they will become more and more picky, and will not only drive us crazy but also fail to thrive.

However, if you express dismay, attempt to make them eat something or even encourage them to put anything at all in their mouth, you give them power over you that they shouldn’t have. You gratify them for their attempts at being picky and getting your goat. Their picky eating experiment is bound to continue at that point.

You can teach them about food: how to eat, as with the pizza, or what’s interesting, where foods originate, what they smell and taste like, how they’re made, or what they help or harm us. We can and should also teach them how to behave: manners or skills in eating, like how to use silverware, or ways to be nice at the table. If Kaylee had thrown the pieces of yellow pepper on the floor or at her brother, I would have expressed disapproval. I would have told her what she should do instead. I would have enforced the rule. Kids need help with skills and knowledge and to be instructed in good behavior.

Small kids don’t much care about if it’s good for them or if it costs money or if it’s a mess. They do care what goes in their mouth, and just like anybody. Like anybody, they don’t like being forced or controlled about something so intimately their own. What goes in their mouth has got to be up to them. If you attempt to force eating in any way, the child will find a way to win.

***

Next:  “How to Prevent Picky Eating from Ever Starting, Part II“: In which the little brother spits out his red peppers, and what The Mom Whose Kids Eat Absolutely Everything does about it.

Related posts:

Masterly Inactivity: Using Sphinx-Like Repose to End the Food Fight

Dinner Table Pharisees and Born Again Vegetables Lovers

‘Duty Made Lovely’: How to Train a Child’s Appetite

October 21, 2011 Leave a comment

___________________________________________________________________________

L’appetit est la conscience du corps (The appetite is the conscience of the body).

— Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.

____________________________________________________________________________

DUTY MADE LOVELY describes the real Pollyanna, and a good mushroom soup.

When my children were about six and eight, we listened to the original Pollyanna story on tape. Unlike the caricature of Pollyanna as a ridiculously blind optimist, we found the real Pollyanna to be charming and delightful. I was surprised and pleased to find that she managed to inspire us and stir our hearts by her sweetness. “We can be glad of that!” she would say. We still quote her, 14 years later. We all loved Pollyanna and her story.

Pollyanna and many other literary or real-life heroes are perfect examples of what educational reformer Charlotte Mason (1846-1923) called “duty made lovely” that can inspire a child’s conscience to love goodness.

A child’s conscience is not an “infallible guide,” according to Mason, but rather an “undeveloped capacity” to be trained and instructed through such examples.

In training the conscience of a child, she advised, give them “lovely examples of loving kindness that will fire their hearts with the desire to do likewise.”

The child’s appetite, like the conscience, is trained by example, lovely or otherwise, to lead him to right or wrong.

A Bad Example: Dutiful Eating

Of course we parents know we are the primary example for our children. But eating dutifully against our will is a bad example. It teaches kids that duty is anything but lovely. I’m not sure that dutiful eating is any better than just eating junk and enjoying it. At least you’d be enjoying yourself. In either case, the child is taught to see healthy food as unlovely.

A parent’s enjoyment of healthy food is the only good example:  duty made lovely and lovable.

I absolve you: If you don’t like mushrooms, don’t eat them. Don’t try to be an example by saying, “Look Kaylee, I don’t like mushrooms, but I am eating them because they’re good for me.” A far better example is finding a way to sincerely enjoy mushrooms. Then you can say, “Kaylee, I used to not like mushrooms either, but I tried several different recipes, and I’m excited about this soup I just made. It’s really good!”

Duty Made Delicious

That tasty mushroom soup itself is another example of duty made lovely. A delicious dish made with healthy foods is the best example in the world. It’s the loveliness — not the duty — of the experience that warms the child’s heart toward the good.

One day at the Pearl Brewery Farmers Market, I saw a lady come up to the mushroom stand and ask for two mushrooms.

“I don’t like mushrooms, but they’re good for me,” she told the vendor. “So I put them in the blender with other stuff so I can’t taste them.”

I wondered why she bought the most expensive ones, the fancy $11 a pound ones. I wanted some of those, and more than two. I got the cheap ones. She might as well have swallowed a pill to get her nutrients.

How sad for her, with so many luscious ways to eat mushrooms. How sad, when duty can be so lovely.  And of that, we can be glad.

***

Related posts:

The Best Way to a Kid’s Stomach is through the Heart: How to Use Kids’ Emtions to Form or Deform the Appetite

Foundations of Appetite Training: 12 Ways Children learn to Like or Dislike  Healthy Eating

Conventional Wisdom Versus the Truth about Why Kids Won’t Eat their Vegetables

The Inclusive Cavemen: You Gotta Love It

It Doesn’t Matter if She Likes Broccoli, as Long as She Eats It. Or Does It?

Another Bad Tip for Feeding the Hypersensitive, Orally Defensive or Sensory Processing Disordered Child

November 30, 2010 1 comment

HYPERSENSITIVE or Orally Defensive children are not your typical picky eaters. — photo by Anna Migeon

In my last post, we looked at Amy, one of those children generally considered to be on the autism spectrum, with neurological and physiological causes for being a picky eater.   Amy was diagnosed as “hypersensitive to oral input” or “orally defensive.”

Such children should be under the supervision of a doctor to make sure that their nutritional needs are met. But as with all children who resist eating, the family dynamics and relationship around eating can either aggravate the problems, or ease them.

Amy’s parents do their best to get her to eat. Most recommendations they’ve been given for getting their hypersensitive child to eat involve various forms of pressure and urging. The more desperate they are to get her to eat, the more she digs in her heels, saying her throat “feels swollen up.”

If pressuring your child to eat doesn’t work very well, as it doesn’t with Amy, doing more of the same probably won’t work any better. It may be time to try something completely different.

Bad Tip #4: “Praise her for trying or eating things.”

What could be wrong with affirming and approving your child, who has such a troubled relationship with food, when she does manage to eat?

Amy is a child in ongoing distress. She’s hungry yet can hardly get food down her throat. She needs to feel unconditionally accepted as well as to feel capable and in charge of herself and her own eating. We want to increase her level of comfort with the food itself, not take advantage of her desire for acceptance to control her and to increase the pressure on her. Being watched, fussed over, urged, and evaluated only turns eating into an even less pleasant experience.

“I’m so proud of you for trying the beets!” sounds like positive reinforcement— hardly qualifying as “pressure”— but  it actually underlines the idea in the child’s mind that eating beets is an act of self-denial, the disagreeable thing you do to make your mom happy.

Praise or  any other such tactics to control her and pressure her to eat just causes Amy to retreat further. Even more than most of us, she naturally resists a push. She needs, even more than the typical child, to take the lead in her own eating.

Instead of Praise for Eating:

  • Switch the environment of pressure to eat to one of letting her come after food as she is able.  Allow her to pursue food for herself instead of feeling she must defend herself against its onslaught or eat something that disgusts her to gain her parents’ approval. Assume she is hungry and wants to eat if she can. Don’t use the power as the parent to get the child to do what you want, even it is “for her own good.” Make only good choices available, then support and reassure rather than pressure her. Let her be in control of her own eating. Your child shouldn’t be eating to please you or for any other reason than to enjoy it and to feel satisfied by it, in the friendly company of her family or friends. Give her the dignity of as much self-control as possible. Avoid giving her any cause to refuse to eat out of rebellion. Back off and let her take the initiative to touch, sniff, taste.
  • Remain as neutral, casual and calm as possible about her eating.  Denying her feelings and difficulties or expressing anger, as frustrating as it all is, will only make matters worse. It’s not fun for her, either. Your hypersensitive child doesn’t start out refusing to eat to make you crazy or to be bratty, though as with any child, that element tends to develop under pressure.

Getting excited when she does manage to eat something different may increase the pressure on her and detract from her own positive feelings about the eating itself. The flip side of the praise coin is criticism. If we praise, what will stop us from criticizing when it doesn’t go as we want it to? If we act like eating is a behavior, good or bad, and judge her for it, how is she going to feel accepted when she can’t help being an extremely picky eater?

Try to accept her problems as the way things are and move forward with as much cheer and nonchalance as you can muster.

  • Let her take the lead about whether she wants to talk about her eating and how she feels about it. Don’t use your own feelings to pressure her to eat. Accept and acknowledge her negative feelings. Instead of praising, reflect and name her own feelings of satisfaction about eating.

***

Coming soon:

How to support and encourage a child who has difficulty eating

More Bad Tips for Feeding Hypersensitive, Orally Defensive or Sensory Processing Disordered Children

Related Post:

Three Bad Tips for Feeding Hypersensitive, Orally Defensive or Sensory Processing Disordered Children