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Super picky 6 year old: give in or keep forcing the issue?

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 

Hi there, I am (a single) mother of a generally fantastic 6-yr old boy whose one major problem is his attitude to food. He will generally never accept trying new foods, yet a week doesn't seem to go by without him rejecting a food that he was previously quite happy with. On the fruit and veg front, we are down to broccoli, carrots, mangos, apples, grapes and bananas. (All of these are met with some reluctance, though, and total rejection if mixed into another meal rather than given separately.)

 

This has a really bad impact on me (avid cook and eater). We hardly ever get to eat together, unless I conform to the same bland stuff that he likes. And of course it's not nearly as fun cooking for one (x2).

 

The other week, we sat down and wrote out a list of all the meals he does like. It's not a very long list (say 20 meals or so, many with common ingredients). But combined with the (separate) fruit and veg above, you can get a limited but relatively healthy diet out of it.

 

So here's the question: Do I just give in and go with this relatively healthy but very limited diet, or do I keep trying to force more challenging foods on him?

 

Obviously, the former would be much easier in many ways (we are talking serious battles). But at the same time I worry whether that would allow him to be picky forever. And of course, it's still dispiriting for me to have to cater for him separately, or eat his boring food too.

 

I should point out that he has an astounding ability to go hungry. Just today I did the "eat it or go hungry" thing for lunch and dinner (zucchini rice bake), and he just chose to exist on fruit all day, in expectation of oatmeal tomorrow morning (breakfast, of course, is never a problem!). Not without tears and screaming, though.

 

Really appreciate your perspectives on this, thanks so much!

post #2 of 45
I was a picky eater as a child. I now have severe food allergies/intolerances. I eat a wider variety of foods, however I am the one preparing them and can avoid those foods/ingredients that cause me problems. I'm not saying your child has food allergies or intolerances, but there is the possibilty. At six, I would just say I didn't like a food, and no details. I would recommend you put othet foods on the table and avoid the battles. When he is older, he may be better able to communicate what he doesn't like and *why* (texture, intensity, how it makes him feel, whatever).
post #3 of 45
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for your answer, pek64. So just to confirm, you think I should stick with my limited but relatively healthy list, right?

 

Tell me, were there no warning signs when you were small of your allergies/intolerances? I just would have thought there would be some kind of indication of that already if it were the case, but there's nothing so far. Though i know you're saying that's not necessarily the reason anyway.

 

All perspectives welcome!

post #4 of 45
Thread Starter 

Sorry, pek64, see you say "avoid the battles" so I'm clear on what you're recommending! Thanks again.

post #5 of 45

My daughter is the same way, and she is 9. I would ask if he had feeding issues as a baby? My daughter has severe food rejection, and we have traced it back to the NICU and her issues with feeding, right from the start. We get feeding therapy from an SLP.

post #6 of 45
I wouldn't force it but I would keep offering new things as well. So for dinner I might cook three veggies including one that he will eat and put a very small serve of the two disliked ones on his plate as well as a larger serve of the one he did like. I wouldn't make him eat the other two but I would encourage him to taste or even just smell them. I'd also allow him to see me enjoying them.

As much as possible I'd honour the desire to not have things mixed together. So, if I were making a curry with vegetables in it then I would leave out a few pieces and steam them. A bit more work but not creating a whole separate meal.

I'd also thoroughly recommend the blog it's not about nutrition if you haven't read it already. There are some great ideas there.
post #7 of 45

To clarify, my daughter actually has a physical fear reaction to new foods. She tenses up, cries, and will actually run away and hide. She won't even try new treats. She reacts the same way to cheesecake as she would to brussel sprouts. 

post #8 of 45

I have been doing this going on 16 years :-).  I would make the meal he would eat and put approximately 1/4 cup of what you are having and he needs to try at least one bite.  When my 16 yo is eating with us we eat very differently than when the 4 of us are eating without him.  It is a pain surely but he too just won't eat if he "doesn't like it" - with him it is all about texture, smell, volume.  So as a 16 yo highly competetive athlete he is 5'11" and only 135 lbs 

post #9 of 45
When I was six, I had lots of colds, and fell down a lot, probably due to ear infections. I missed a lot of school, and vomited when I ate certain foods. Some we identified easily. Liver, for instance, and mustard. The dairy allergy was hidden at that time. Looking back, it's easy to see that the vomiting occurred when I ate foods prepared by relatives, or at restaurants. It was as I got older that dairy was identified. Soy and corn were identified in adulthood.

I just remember being told to eat the food when we were out, and not wanting to eat it. Maybe it's not the same in your case, but I hate to think of a child feeling ill and not knowing how to be heard about, as happened to me.
post #10 of 45

Don't force it or make a big deal out of food all, it can be tempting to reward them or say "good job!" if they try something new... but then it makes it a big issue and often it is less about the food than a power struggle with a kid who is trying to assert their independence. 

My kiddo isn't that old, but even with food that she doesn't like I always put a serving of what we are eating on her plate. Even if she throws it on the floor every time. I won't say anything if she throws it down again, nor will I say anything if she eats it. Her tastes seem to change every day and occassionally she'll eat things she supposedly doesn't like or at least sample new things. Often they end up on the floor but I don't really care. 

 

For the meals that your son does like, could you make some ahead of time and just freeze individual portions? Then you can just microwave a small bit of his dinner while you make and eat whatever you like. Or, like I said, just offer some of what you're eating each night (maybe in addition to "his" dinner or broccoli or one thing he'll definitely eat) and ignore what he says he doesn't like and don't react either way. 

post #11 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by katelove View Post

I wouldn't force it but I would keep offering new things as well. So for dinner I might cook three veggies including one that he will eat and put a very small serve of the two disliked ones on his plate as well as a larger serve of the one he did like. I wouldn't make him eat the other two but I would encourage him to taste or even just smell them. I'd also allow him to see me enjoying them.
As much as possible I'd honour the desire to not have things mixed together. So, if I were making a curry with vegetables in it then I would leave out a few pieces and steam them. A bit more work but not creating a whole separate meal.
I'd also thoroughly recommend the blog it's not about nutrition if you haven't read it already. There are some great ideas there.

 

I agree with all of this, especially the bolded.  My son just turned 7yo.  We don't have a picky issue (he eats pretty much everything) but for the last year or so, he prefered his food seperate.  He would happily eat carrots, mushrooms and lettuce but never, ever together in a salad.  He is just now starting to go back to mixed food.  Last night I asked him for the X time if he would like his red sauce on top of pasta or on the side.  I nearly dropped the plate when he said "on top" because for the past year, it had to be on the side or he would burst into tears.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oread View Post

Don't force it or make a big deal out of food all, it can be tempting to reward them or say "good job!" if they try something new... but then it makes it a big issue and often it is less about the food than a power struggle with a kid who is trying to assert their independence. 

My kiddo isn't that old, but even with food that she doesn't like I always put a serving of what we are eating on her plate. Even if she throws it on the floor every time. I won't say anything if she throws it down again, nor will I say anything if she eats it. Her tastes seem to change every day and occassionally she'll eat things she supposedly doesn't like or at least sample new things. Often they end up on the floor but I don't really care. 

 

 

This is great advice. 

 

Under our roof, we never made a big deal out of praising when he tried something new and we never scolded him for not eating or wanting to try something new.  An appropriate amount (like a bite) of a "disliked" item always went on his plate and it might have taken 50 times but then one day, bam!, he started eating squash. 

 

I say the bold is great advice becuase I was shocked to see how my son acted when around his grandparents (my mother and her husband)  They encouraged him to eat so much, I could almost see his little wheels turning even as a toddler.  His reaction to their encouragement was to use it as his own little control issue.  The more they wanted him to have another bite or try whatever, the more power he seemed to be gathering for himself when he refused.  I read somewhere that food is one of the few things kids can control, which is why food is so often an issue with kids.

 

ETA - coming back to add, I was forced to sit at the table with a mountain of food in front of me and eat until it was gone.  I can remember throwing up after getting up from the table.  I come from a family with MAJOR food issues so I know it can be very hard to let go and not make a big deal out of food power struggles.

post #12 of 45
Quote:

Originally Posted by martin18 View Post

So here's the question: Do I just give in and go with this relatively healthy but very limited diet, or do I keep trying to force more challenging foods on him?

 

Obviously, the former would be much easier in many ways (we are talking serious battles). But at the same time I worry whether that would allow him to be picky forever. And of course, it's still dispiriting for me to have to cater for him separately, or eat his boring food too.

 

I would go with the limited diet most days instead of forcing food on him.

Maybe you could make something more to your tastes once a week and encourage him to try a few bites.

 

My dd does not like to try new things much. That is just the way she is. She is extremely resistant. Some days we have food she likes and some days we don't. We offer new foods. We encourage her to try them but I'm not going to force her to eat something.  On days we have something she doesn't like she can eat a sandwich, cereal or leftovers. Meal times aren't supposed to be about fighting and tears, IMO.

post #13 of 45

ITA with what was said here.

 

I'm a very picky eater, and still don't eat vegetables. I can't really stand the smell, and definitely not the taste or texture. I do sometimes wonder how much of it had to do with stubbornness and needing to be independent, and how much of it is really related to possible allergies or other sensitivities.

 

If nobody cared one way or another, when I got older I might have considered tasting some to see if my tastes or reactions had changed. By now, it's such an issue and so ingrained, that psychological or not, it would make me vomit to eat most vegetables. I would just make it available and not an issue, and let him come to it in his own time.

 

Forcing it MIGHT make him eat it, but it also opens the possibility to closing the door to those foods forever.

 

And FWIW, my kids eat WAY more variety than I do.

post #14 of 45

I'm going to recommend the book French Kids Eat Everything. I've been working on reading it and their cultural view is that if someone doesn't like a food, they haven't tried it enough times.

post #15 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by phathui5 View Post

I'm going to recommend the book French Kids Eat Everything. I've been working on reading it and their cultural view is that if someone doesn't like a food, they haven't tried it enough times.

 

I dunno... I've tried liver plenty of times over the years - and I STILL don't like it.

 

What I did with both of mine was to try to combine my tastes and theirs. For example, if I was making Beef Stroganoff, I would cook the meat all together, then set aside a portion of it for the kids to eat plain over pasta, before adding mushrooms and sour cream to my portion. Or if we were having Spaghetti Bolognese, I'd set aside some plain sauce for my daughter before adding meat to it for my son and I. Chicken could be grilled plain, with seasonings one of us liked or BBQ sauce another liked. A taste was always encouraged, but never forced.

 

Both of mine would eat very differently at my home (or at Grandma's) than at their Dad's or at friends' homes. At their Dad's, the rule was that they ate what there was, period. Their Dad's home has/had very different rules than mine; they dealt with them, or they didn't eat. At friends'... I had taught them that it was okay to not like something. It was not okay to say YUCK or similar. They tended to suck it up and eat what was served (and I do attribute that to their Dad's rules, which is a positive outcome). Some things they liked, some they didn't. My son still doesn't favor veggies and won't eat them when he's home. But if he's a guest in someone's home? He will take a small serving and eat it.

 

A funny.... This past summer, a few weeks before my daughter went off to college, we were out and about and stopped at several farm stands. Among other things, I picked up some peaches for myself and my Dad. She saw me eating one, and asked for a taste. Her comment? "I never knew peaches were this good!" Somehow, she had gotten to the age of 18 w/o having ever tried a peach. She told me that, coming up, she always thought of peaches as weird and fuzzy, so never fancied trying one. That was always a No Thank You food. Anyway, one way or another? She learned that tastes and attitudes towards different foods can change.

post #16 of 45

I was a very picky eater until I was a teen. Now i eat everything. Luckily my mom was also very picky growing up so she understood. Please don't "force" your child to eat food he doesn't want/like that does not result in a healthy relationship with food. It's just....for a picky eater eating something you don't like is very unpleasant, it can really cause anxiety for the kid if you make too big a deal out of it. Oh, and also keep in mind that some people (especially kids) can tasty food more strongly than others, he is probably tasting unpleasant flavors in the food that you can't pick up on. I know that was the case for me as a child, and the same thing came back when I was pregnant. If he has issues with the textures of food maybe he has an extra strong gag reflex, too. You can make sure he always has access to healthy food that he likes, and then offer (but don't push) a bite of whatever you are having. He may or may not grow up to be a picky eater, but he can still eat good healthy food either way. Also keep in mind It's normal for kids to like something one day and not like it the next, they just do that. Maybe there is something a little bit different or "off" about the food so he doesn't like it one time, even if he did in the past. I think Mtiger had good advice about how to handle meal times. 

post #17 of 45

I have completely changed my point of view on this issue just recently with my 11 year old.  PLEASE read the GAPS book- Gut and Psychology Syndrome.  I did not force my child either as I hated when my mom did it to me as a child- sitting at the table for hours at length and trying to sneak it to the dog, etc...  So with my picky daughter I would serve dinner as a family but always offered the option for her to make her own substitutions if what the family was eating was not what she wanted to eat.  I knew for sure I was not going to cook multiple meals, but left the option open for her to prepare and eat until she was full.  Nearly ever night she'd end up in the kitchen making quinoa pasta, get a bowl of yogurt with some honey and some fruit.  In my mind, it was 'healthy enough.'  UNTIL I read the GAPS book.  Turns out her gut is totally out of whack!  She also battles eczema and allergy induced asthma.  Taking her off all grains had HORRIBLE withdrawal effects but after a few weeks, just like the book said, her appetite would return and her tastes would change.  Sure enough, she now eats nearly everything we eat for dinner.   This week was seared ahi, apricot glazed turkey, curry goat stew (yes, goat!) and each meal served with cultured veggies & homemade plain yogurt- both of which she does not 'like' but will eat.  Once I realized the pickiness was due to a totally out of balance inner eco system I really wished I would've addressed it at a much younger age.  We are on month 3 of GAPS now and it feels so good to finally see her eating a wide variety of flavors, foods and textures.  but much more importantly, it feels so good to know the cause of the pickiness is finally being addressed!  The pickiness is a symptom not the issue.

post #18 of 45
post #19 of 45

Disclaimer: I have major expectations around food manners. I do not tolerate any adult or child criticizing the food that another person puts in front of them. I find it morally reprehensible - rude to cook for their time and effort, ungrateful to the universe for the amazing, historically almost unprecedented gift of consistently having enough to eat. Food is socially very important. An attitude of respect and appreciation towards food is a basic social skill that I expect every person beyond toddlerhood to have mastered. 

 

That said, I do not force anybody to eat anything, and my children eat a pretty limited diet. They have an unlimited supply of apples, bananas and oranges, and every meal we eat includes something that is universally acceptable (plain pasta, chicken nuggets, etc). If my kids eat their pasta, try their veggie without complaining, and then grab an apple on the way out of the kitchen and a piece of cheese later on in the night, I feel like we had a nutritionally and socially successful evening thumb.gif We are currently working on also trying the adult entree without complaining. 

 

Whatever else you do, OP, don't "eat his boring food too." You are modeling healthy eating and healthy food attitudes when you cook something yummy and sophisticated for yourself. He is watching, and learning. 

post #20 of 45

I would suggest that you work on  the green vegetable front. It sounds like the only green he eats is broc. My son is a bit picky, but w/ some work and persistence on our part he eats romaine lettuce, broc, green-beans, green cabbage, long cabbage, & a few dif types of Chinese leafy greens.

 

We cook greens every night (or have lettuce) and everyone must have some. When the kids were very young (age 3-6) we would serve them a little bit - usually after they had some other dish they liked (we eat w/ the dif dishes in the center of the table and everyone serves himself or herself). If they wanted more of (say) the roast chicken, we'd say "You've already had some, now some veg".   Now that they are in their teens, I've posted a print-out of a chart from S'pore on the wall and refer them to it as  to how much veg and what type.  http://www.nutrition.com.sg/he/heteens.asp

 

Fruit? I wouldn't worry too much. Growing up in the 70s, what you listed was pretty much all that was available (apples, oranges, grapes, & bananas) although in summer there were berries. I had my first pomegranate and my first kiwi when I was about 12. I don't think I had a mango until I was in my early 20s.

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