A parent of a finicky eater turns to ‘Dear Dad’ for advice on how many meals to offer a child with a particular palate.
I have a son that is almost 3 & over the last few months his eating habits have changed pretty drastically. We (me & my 2 children) are living with relatives, since splitting from my ex. They have been great to open their home to us & helping me with the kids when I need it. My son has become rather picky in what he will eat. I never know from one day to the next if he will eat what is fixed for dinner or not. I was raised on the notion that “you eat what’s cooked or you don’t eat” – period!
I haven’t had to deal with this before, as my daughter was never very picky about what she would eat (she has always liked fruits & veggies more than meat). My question is, do I only give him what is cooked for dinner, even if I know it’s something he won’t eat, or do I give him some of dinner and if he won’t eat it give him something else? My biggest concern is that he goes to bed hungry several nights a week. The relatives I live with also follow the “eat what’s cooked or nothing at all” adage and also harp on him for wanting to eat with his fingers instead of silverware. PLEASE HELP!
Dear ‘Finicky Critic’s Mom’,
I am the father of my own finicky critic, and I know your struggle all too well. One of my now 7 seven year old twins refuses to eat anything vegetable, fruit, organic, healthy, non-carb. The craziest thing is that when her blood work was done, she has the best numbers across the board, is ideal weight, ideal height, and is flourishing. How – on a diet that seemingly consists of pretzels, mac and cheese and goldfish crackers – is she so healthy? I give her vitamins, and she does not know it, but I sneak in fruits and vegetables when I can (sauces and smoothies are served daily here and are probably why she is so healthy).
Every child has different tastes, and every parent has different rules. Within our home, I have one way of serving meals and my wife has historically had the antithetical version. I was initially like your relatives, ‘Finicky Critic’s Mom’, in that I would tell my children: “I cooked this, and if you don’t like it, you do not eat.” My wife, who serves them breakfast and lunch on weekends, was like a short order cook. She would make oatmeal, only to be rebuffed, and would then make bacon and eggs, French toast, and then resorted to bagels or potato chips! That only happened once (scoffs), but I was horrified!
I make the majority of the meals in our home, and my wife and I have butt heads on this very subject several times. I am not a short order cook. I know my children’s likes and dislikes, and I incorporate that into my meal planning as much as I try to involve my children in the art of cooking. One of my twins got a stomach flu one night when we had hot dogs and now refuses to eat anything in the “hot dog family.” I know to cook her an alternate protein the night I cook hot dogs or sausage or kielbasa.
When someone’s taste buds randomly change (as they do every so often and lately every.single.month), I’ve learned to compromise: they can have yogurt and fruit, or cereal and fruit as a “second choice meal.” They have to serve themselves, clean up after themselves, and package the refused dinner that was presented to them for my wife to take to work for lunch the next day. This was the compromise my wife and I ultimately came up with. On weekends, she is (mostly) demanding the same of our children and the consistency has helped limit melt downs.
My advice is to have that “second chance meal” in place that they must serve themselves (and 3 years old may be a little young to implement this, but get him involved as much as possible). You are going to be dealing with changing taste buds and preferences many times in the coming years. I advise you to pull in the reigns now when your son is young enough to understand – you are NOT a short order cook!
If you don’t implement this policy now, you are going to find yourself in the unnecessary role of short order cook, or will deal with a lot of nights where you get up to check on him to make sure he is okay because he went to bed “hungry.” I promise you, ‘Finicky Critic’s Mom’, he is not hungry, otherwise he would have eaten dinner! Offer the second chance, self-served meal and stick with it!
Does anyone else have any suggestions for ‘Finicky Critic’s Mom’ on how to handle a finicky critic, as all of us surely have within our broods?
Link: This is a review of my then 4 year old finicky critic who tried my ‘Chicken Piccata’ and loved it (she had lemon and capers and did not realize it). Finicky Critic Review
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