Every time we think this whole parenting thing is getting easier and more fun, we have days like yesterday.
Our six-year-old didn't eat much lunch and “forgot” to get anything to drink from the cafeteria. By the time 6:00 p.m. rolled around, she was not a pleasant child. She didn't want to eat what Daddy cooked, then decided she did want it, but since it was now cold, she wanted something else.
We told her to eat what was on her plate. Not that she had to sit there until she finished, but that we were not going to cater to her every whim.
I'm not sure how long she cried and threw a fit. It felt like an eternity. It's so hard. Why does it have to be so hard?? The only thing that saves me from a pit of parenting gloom and despair is that I know we are not alone. There are lots of picky eaters out there, and they do not starve. Most do eventually grow out of it.
In the meantime, I have to stick to my guns and do what I feel is best, which is to not freak out and have a war with her about eating, not eating or her food choices.
Why? Because kids are naturally intuitive. They eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full.
Can you imagine??
Dietitians and other experts say the food war is not one worth having. Judy Kolish, registered dietitian for BCBSTX, says parents should decide what to buy and what to serve, and kids should decide what and how much to eat.
“Adults do not like to be told what to eat, and neither do children. The more we try to control a child’s eating, the more rebellious they can become. Offering variety, balance and moderation will lead your child to choose what is best but parents have to trust that, and it’s hard.”
When I first spoke with Judy about this approach (called the Division of Responsibility), I thought she was insane. I thought this would never work in a million years. “But, she’ll starve! Or only eat cookies! We have to make her eat something. Don’t we?”
She never really ate anything that night, she went to bed cranky and we went to bed stressed out. But this morning, as I was packing her sandwich for school, I asked, “Do you want cookies or cherries with your lunch today?” And she said something I never would have at her age: “hmmm, it doesn’t matter. I really like them both.”
I think we have hit a turning point. For a war that’s not being fought, victory sure tastes sweet!
Here are a few tips to help keep dinner with your little ones battle-free:
The Division of Responsibility feeding approach is recognized as a best practice by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, The American Academy of Pediatrics, Head Start and more.
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