Picky Eaters

by T. Jaden Ozwell

I am an unmarried, just-graduated, single-as-a-nun woman. My professional training and current job have nothing to do with children, and I rarely come into contact with them beyond church and the grocery store. Essentially, I am NOT traditionally qualified to write about parenting …

Except that I was a kid. Rather recently. Probably a little more recently than most parents with children old enough to be interested in GQKidz. So I want to give you a little bit of kids' perspective in adult language, and hope it can help ease some of the communication disconnect between you and your child.

I feel like my parents handled pickiness really well when it came to food, so here's what that looked like from a kid’s perspective.

For this one I have to pull in my younger siblings. Sibling A was the pickiest eater alive. Sibling B is the most open, willing-to-eat-anything eater I have ever seen, even now as an adult. I was somewhere in the middle, begging Sibling A to eat and trying not to be disgusted by Sibling B's appreciation for guacamole (when she was maybe five).

Fortunately for me and Sibling A, our parents rarely—if ever—pulled the "why aren't you like Sibling B" on us, but they certainly would say, "but Sibling B likes it, so you need to at least try it. I was okay with that, because if Sibling B didn't like it, our parents pretty much agreed that it must categorically be a food that kids don't like.

What really worked well for Sibling A, though, was my parents' policy on trying food. Essentially, if it wasn't a standard vegetable (lettuce, green beans, carrots, broccoli, peas, potatoes) or "special" item that was heavy in sugar or fat anyway (chip dip or Midwestern Jell-O salads), then you had to try it if it was on the table. "Trying" meant a decent, full bite that was swallowed. If you didn't like it the item, you didn't have to finish it. But you could only eat what was on the table, so if you refused everything, you went hungry.

Re-trying food didn't always have to happen, although that was quite a bit more subjective. Essentially, if Mom and Dad could remember you not liking something, and they felt like it was within the past 6–12 months, you didn't have to try it again. We would argue with them about how long it had been sometimes, but mostly it was a good rule that I was okay with.

For Sibling A, this allowed for a known, consistent system that removed the previous issue of crying for an hour over eating a bite of something because he knew the rest of bowl wasn’t required anyway. For me, it allowed the foods I didn't like to be reintroduced from time to time without a lot of fear of it in between. For our dear Sibling B, it allowed a much quieter dinner experience, which I'm sure was an advantage for our parents as well!

If your kids have trouble with food, you can try our system and see if it works. There are also a lot of other ideas out there, like “dressing up” food to make it more appetizing. You can find a lot of ideas on creative, kid-friendly foods through a simple search on Google or a service like Pinterest. Make food fun, and try to exert a bit less pressure at mealtime. You may not be able to change your child’s pickiness, but if you’re consistent and positive, your kids should eventually fall into a pattern that can work for all of you.

Jaden is a Christian 20-something determined to learn about and develop a relationship with God while sharing the insights He has taught her. She especially hopes to communicate that pain, beauty, emotion, and thought are all equally real and important in God’s plans.

Photo by Michael and DeEtta Cobra. www.flickr.com. Creative Commons license.

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