When my son Sidney was 3 years old we moved from Michigan to California. I had just finished my residency and was beginning a new life as a stay at home mom. I had had no time to enjoy my son because he was born during my internship and the two years that followed his birth were filled with my responsibilities as a pediatric resident. I was unimaginably excited. Sunny California, a big backyard with grass and no snow and my precious one all to myself filled my mind with images of perfection. Little did I know what was in store for me.
The main problem was his appetite. Sidney never wanted to eat anything I fixed for him. My little angel started to get skinnier and skinnier and my preoccupation with his eating habits reached obsessive proportions. I tried different foods, different places and techniques. I chased him around the house with my spoon full of mashed potatoes pretending it was a little plane that was searching for a landing spot. I tried feeding him in the swing, in the pool, with music, with movies, but nothing worked. Finally, one gloomy afternoon I stood in front of him and in sheer desperation I shoved a bite of a tuna sandwich in his mouth. I looked at him, and with an angry voice, said: “Swallow that!”
He gave me a terrified look and swallowed the bite. I immediately knew my crime. How could I have dared to trespass my son’s boundaries in such a cruel manner? Twenty three years later, I still feel remorse.
But picky eaters always win! Not a minute went by before my darling vomited his entire lunch, not just the last bite. We both cried, but for different reasons. I cleaned the mess and hugged my son, and promised myself I would never again interfere with his eating habits or food preferences.
Do you wonder why picky eaters always win?
The reason is very simple: children do not have expectations. They eat if they are hungry and they don’t if they are not. It is us that make the whole scenario complicated. When children reach their first year of life and learn how to walk their first priority is to explore the world, to touch and try things out, to investigate their environment, not to sit down and eat!
Not only are toddlers on the go, but their growth’s velocity slows down. They are not growing as fast anymore and for that reason they don’t seem to need that many calories. So what can be done to ensure that they receive appropriate nutrition? There are tips and tricks to make this happen and those are not hard to find. However, the first and most important step is to change parent’s expectations of how a child should eat, and then to develop our creativity in how to prepare and present his food.
Pediatrics in Paradise is presenting a new approach to teaching new moms how to feed their kids, picky or not. Kids Yummy Eats is an interactive group led by Leah Schitter, Certified Health Educator, that will meet twice a month to talk about recipes, food techniques, and super fun treats to raise healthy children and transform them from picky to foodies! To see the details of this free class click here.