Child experts, I dare ya

I have a picky eater.  And he’s driving me crazy. 

I’ve read and heard of all types of tips. 

Like don’t force him, he’ll eat when he’s ready.  Or he’ll go to bed hungry and wake up so hungry he cries and cries until you give him some bread to shut him up.

Like the no thank you bite.  I’ve sat there for hours waiting for him just to have a tiny nibble.  Plus then I read that if you force a kid to try something, he/she is less likely to like it later.  Awesome.

Like the empty plate that he has to ask for food to get it.  Guess what.  He asked for food, but he refused all vegetables, including the two he’ll eat, carrots and corn.  (And if some smart ass reader tries to tell me corn is not a vegetable, just slap the back of your head for me.)

Like give him a small amount.  Yeah, then he refuses the small amount.

Add cheese or dressings.  Vegetables still not eaten with cheese or dressings.

Always prepare something he likes with something he doesn’t.  Then he still doesn’t eat the stuff he insists he doesn’t like but has never tried.

Ignore him.  He still won’t eat.

Make him eat it.  (Old school and desperate) You want to know what happens?  He vomits.

Sneak vegetables into the foods he likes.  This works well, except now the kid won’t trust my pizza, even when I don’t add a puree.

So yeah, I’m getting a little desperate.  I save his meals until the next one unless he eats it all or tries a bite of each.  I don’t bribe with food (though the grandparents do occasionally).  I sometimes bribe getting excused from the table.  I’ve sat with him from dinner time to bedtime, squaring off for him just to take a damn bite.  I’ve sent him to time out, and that didn’t work At All.  Obviously I’ll never force feed him again.  I taught him the drink milk after you try something technique, but it only works if he takes a bite in the first place.  He’s liked something one day and refused to eat it the next time it’s presented to him. 

The kid just won’t eat. 

My BFF insists that some people are picky eaters.  Thanks.  But that’s not helping.  Since my kid refuses homemade mac and cheese, parmesan chicken (without sauce), bean burritos, and fried shrimp.  He won’t even try celery.  (And yes, I’ve smeared it with peanut butter and cream cheese, and he only licks that stuff off.) 

This last week or so has been particularly hard because I’m only cooking for the boys and me.  There’s a lot of food in the fridge left over from the meals.  If I was smarter, I would just make hamburgers and hot dogs all week, but no, I enjoy a challenge.  I also have the undying hope that one of these days he’ll try my cooking and enjoy it. 

So any other suggestions I haven’t tried?  Should we start a club?

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17 Responses to “Child experts, I dare ya”

  1. breaaire Says:

    *sigh* I have no suggestions. My picky eater is now 11, and his list of foods that he’ll eat is pretty much restricted to
    1. chicken (in almost any form – nuggets, tenders, on the bone and fried)
    2. carbohydrates. (bread, crackers, pop-tarts, pretzels, bagels, buns) I was tempted to dress him up as a piece of toast for Halloween and call him “Captain Carbohydrate”.
    3. junk. nuff said there.
    We are able to get him to drink V-8 V-fusion as long as it’s the strawberry-banana stuff, and he’ll drink apple juice and orange juice. He also takes a daily multi-vitamin to make sure that he’s getting at least most of the nutrition from somewhere.
    And yes, I think the club idea sounds great. Maybe there are moms out there that have the magic wand that will lift this curse, or maybe we just have to find a way to laugh and live through it till they have to learn to cook for themselves?

  2. Jessie Says:

    Wow, you’ve definitely covered everything I would have tried.

    The only thing left that I’ve heard about is a scare tactic, though I’m not sure how well that will work on a strong-willed child like Evan. When my brother was six he had a lot of trouble eating (due to acting-out during my parents divorce) and the doctors were getting concerned. It got to the point where they told my mom that if he didn’t eat they’d have to admit him to the hospital for an IV to feed him. The thought of a needle prick scared him enough that he was willing to eat something. Even if it was just PB&J for every meal.

    It seems barbaric to mention it, but you asked for ideas. Good luck! Also, not to sound corny, but maybe prayer can come into play here? If anyone knows how to get this boy to eat it’s the Lord.

  3. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    When’s the first club meeting? I’ll be there with desperation, but with no answers.

    The only trick that has worked – and only sometimes – for me with my obstinate two-year-old is to have him help me cook. For some reason, he is more willing to eat even more adventurous fare when he has watched me make it and helped mix or measure ingredients.

    For me, though, it’s probably bad karma. I was a miserably picky eater as a kid. I have a feeling my mom is smiling about my current plight…

  4. Gibby Says:

    Ugh. The food thing. My girls are picky, picky, picky. I must admit, they are a LOT better, though. It has taken years to get to this point, and yes, I tried everything just like you. The promise of dessert worked pretty good. I never wanted to resort to that, but I was desperate. Now I pretty much make whatever I want to eat for dinner, and if they eat it, great, if not, then no snacks the next day. My ped once told me that you have to give a child a particular food at least 15 times before they will like it. I thought she was nuts, but it turns out she actually knew what she was talking about. Don’t give up, but know that eventually he’ll eat.

  5. joz1234 Says:

    Sounds like my 2 year old.
    I don’t fight him. He does like fruit, so I put fruit as a side on every plate he has. Sometimes all he eats is fruit, but he doesn’t go to bed hungry and he doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night. I don’t give him extra fruit…just a “healthy” portion. Sometimes he eats the other stuff, and most of the time he doesn’t.

    My 5 year old has become more willing to try things as he has gotten older. I assume the 2 year old will get there too.

    One other thing that I have often wondered…we try so many different methods in exasperation, that I wonder if we are actually undermining ourselves. The kids know that if they stick it out, you will try something else. Temporary reprieve.

    I suggest picking a different battle. Is there a food that is healthy that he will eat? Another thing I will often do is allow him to have a peanut butter sandwich (no jelly) to substitute for the main dish. Then I add our sides to it. I only do this if we are having something he has tried and doesn’t like. I figure he might try it again later when he’s older.

    You may not agree with this, but our dinners are now battle free, he eats pretty well, he’s not losing weight, and I’m keeping my sanity about it.

    That might be worth it.

  6. Momisodes Says:

    It definitely sounds like you have tried EVERYTHING. I’m so sorry. I know this must weigh heavily on your mind and conscious as a mom. Any chance he’ll help you make a simple dish? Sometimes my daughter is more likely to try something if she was part of the process in making it. She HATES spinach if I serve it to her, but if she washes it and stirs it in a pan, she’ll usually eat some of it.

  7. naptimewriting Says:

    Make the meal, serve the meal, and say there’s always xxx, whatever is easy and healthful. I say, “there’s always hummus and crackers” because it has all the food groups and it’s easy. i will not cook something else, I will not bribe, I will not even pay attention to what goes in. Here’s your protein, your fat, your carb, your fruit, your veggie. Eat what you want. Seconds only if everything’s gone.
    The thing is, most kids do this avoid most foods thing. And they can live for a year on just fruit roll-ups or whatever they choose. My cousin’s child is just venturing out of all white foods (no joke, he wouldn’t eat it if it wasn’t white) after 11 years. Eleven. And he seems to love everything he tries.
    Mine would not, would not, would not touch a veggie for four years. Would not. I made them, and put them on the plate for every meal, but never pushed. And finally, he just decided to try them all. Some he likes, some he doesn’t. But it doesn’t cost me any energy to shrug it off.
    (The only veggies he’ll eat, for the record, are raw spinach, raw corn, raw carrots, and sweet potato fries. Tons of them. Asks for them. After four years of completely refusing.)
    He’s always been picky ANd controlling. And I totally, completely give up because there are way too many battles in the day.
    Smoothies, btw, are a place to hide them if you really feel you have to. But you don’t have to. he will survive and thrive on whatever his body is willing to eat. Just don’t offer any crap food and he’ll get what he needs.
    So I vote: give up. You’ll be thrilled with how much energy you have.

  8. itneverrainsinseattle Says:

    Our boys all started out adventurous… even occasionally sampling the spicy food that their dad enjoys. Then somewhere around two or three years old… picky, picky, picky.

    Here’s what we eventually found works for us (but, of course, your mileage may vary): we stopped worrying about it. We might occasionally make the extra side of mac & cheese or, even easier, some soup from a can, but typically, if it’s not an easy thing to slap together (here’s an orange, you peel it, kiddo), we say dinner is dinner, and hope that works out. (We are lucky in that the two who have gone through the picky phase have liked *some* healthy foods — apples or oranges or carrots, for example, or peanut butter toast, with Progresso’s Italian Wedding Soup or Mac & Cheese also as fallbacks.)

    Our oldest has already outgrown his picky phase, and number two is starting (ever so slowly) to become less picky, so there’s hope there. Sometimes we draw a line, but most times, we don’t. naptimewriting seems to be following a similar approach to our household: give up.


  9. Earnest English Says:

    My child is fifteen months and so we haven’t gotten into the real battles yet, I know. But I read something in Dr. Sears Baby Book that really helped me when my tot decides that everything on his plate goes piece by piece onto the floor: my job is to provide healthy nutritious meals, not to make sure he eats. So I agree with some of the commenters above: if possible and if the doctor has not said that the kid is malnourished in some way, try to let it go. If you’re worried, maybe a supplement (don’t ask me how to get him to eat that!). I don’t know what to say about the middle-of-the-night screaming until bread except to offer bread as part of the meal.

    I do know that plenty of kids have somehow survived on practically nothing.

    Much luck and peace of mind! (They’re contrary little buggers! It’s not you!)

  10. tlc Says:

    Well, this is not the BEST advice, but Dr. Sears claims that if you give your child the super-expensive vitamins that he endorces, that he will naturally start craving healthy foods!

  11. Messy@Bungalow'56 Says:

    Your son sounds like my nephew. He’s four now, but it has been a struggle for my sister from the get go. They have persevered though, and I think it’s getting better. Every meal is so stressful. He wouldn’t eat fruit or vegetables. I suggested smoothies and call them milkshakes but he didn’t even like those. He loved sweets though and would have a few bites to get the stuff he wanted. That was the only thing they had up their sleeve and it would work. On the other side I know of a family who didn’t push the “just try it” and allowed their sone to only eat what he wanted and now as a teen he will only eat bread and meat with ketchup. He is a teen now and has fairly severe emotional/mental problems and looks like a ghost. I just wonder if somehow his lack of nutrition has played any part in his difficulties. Who’s to know? I’m feeling for you.

  12. suzicate Says:

    Dog food worked (it really was an accident OK?!) with my Goddaughter! Actually, I have no advice except maybe good vitamins or ensure to make sure he’s getting what he needs.

  13. Coco Says:

    I’ve given up fighting for variety and simply concentrate on getting enough decent calories into Badger overall. He’s had food issues since infancy and I simply offer new foods I happen to be eating if I think he’s amenable. It’s almost impossible to know what will stick.

    He’ll eat pork chops and miso soup with tofu AND seaweed…but cannot stand typical “kid” foods like applesauce, hot dogs and mac-n-cheese, for example. I do admit to using small amounts of M&M’s to bribe him to eat a few more bites of “real” food. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. *shrug*

    I guess my point is, as long as your kid isn’t losing weight and seems healthy, I wouldn’t stress out too much. My husband was a notoriously awful, picky eater as a kid and now he eats anything that won’t eat him first. He should be BFF’s with Andrew Zimmern. 😉

  14. faemom Says:

    Ok, Thanks Everyone for your helpful tips and frustrating moments! I’m definantly going to work on something for parents of picky eaters. The main advice I hear is just relax and feed the kid bread and water so he won’t starve. Thank you all! You all rock my world!

  15. Maureen@IslandRoar Says:

    2 of my 3 were/are picky eaters. But so was I. I actually took photos the first time my son ate a hotdog and salad (11years old). I found getting older helped and eating stuff at friends houses that they’d never have tried for me. I didn’t really angst over it. He knew if he didn’t eat what I served he could have cereal or a peanut butter sandwich. Those were his only choices. And his snack later (he always had a bedtime snack, no dessert, just our family habit) had to be crackers or fruit if he hadn’t eaten the regular dinner. Frustrating, but I really couldn’t do the whole counting bites or sitting there till he tried it deal. I don’t really know what’s right. He’s a good eater now. Good Luck!!

  16. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    Well, you know how bad my kids are!!! For a while, I just made sure they drank a chocolate Carnation instant breakfast and called it “done.” No more worrying the rest of the day 🙂

  17. faemom Says:

    Maureen~ At least there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
    TKW~ Ooo, excellent idea. Evan won’t even eat blueberry muffins. It’s crazy!

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