I recently heard a story of a couple whose child will currently only eat Wendy's chicken nuggets and ground beef with crushed Doritos. There is nothing wrong with eating these foods. The issue is that the parents are being held hostage. They bring Wendy's chicken nuggets with them to other restaurants because he refuses to eat off the menu. They are understandably frustrated. However, they are enabling the problematic behavior.
For guidance on child feeding issues I always refer to Ellyn Satter, a dietitian well known for her expertise on the child-parent feeding dynamic. Here's a breakdown of her recommendations on the responsibilities:
The parent's role:
- Provide regular, consistent, predictable opportunities to eat
- Choose what foods are served and offer variety
- No foods are off limits or labeled as "good" or "bad"
The child's role:
- To choose if s/he are going to eat at the time food is offered by the parent
- To choose which foods to consume based on what the parent offered
- To choose how much of each food s/he wants
For the couple at the beginning, there will likely be some tantrums thrown by the child when they implement these strategies (and stop enabling the behaviors), but by remaining calm, firm and consistent the child will learn that s/he will have to eat within the parameters set. Ultimately both parents and child will be happier.
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