Feeding a strong willed child isn’t always the easiest task for us parents. I can set up the scene. You plan out a balanced meal for the family. However, he will only eat certain foods, and it is very obvious he is just picky. You’re so frustrated because his diet consists of waffles, puffs, crackers, pouches, bread, yogurt, chicken nuggets, cereal bars, and peanut butter. What do you do? Do you only offer him what the rest of the family is eating even if he cries and screams and doesn’t eat? Bang your head against the wall in frustration?
The simple answer is Yes and No!
Serve them the same food.
Yes, you want to keep serving your child the same food everyone else in the family is getting. Strong willed children are often times tough to feed, they know what they want and there is no coercing them into something different. The more pressure you put on them, the less well they will eat. Here is how you can look at it, children are trying to master this world. Everyday, they are learning, exploring and just trying to figure things out. It’s no different with food. They are learning and exploring different foods each day. At the same time developmentally they are learning to be their own selves. It could mean one day they are ready and willing to try new things and the next day they want no part of it. It’s okay and normal!
Part of this means allowing them to pick and choose what they eat from what is served. Here is where parents get it wrong…they think it’s easier to let them choose anything they want to eat. No, the key is you still decide WHAT is served on the table and allow the child to pick and choose from what is served. A hungry, angry child isn’t pleasant so it’s important to set them up for success rather than failure. Serve new foods with familiar foods or like foods with not so liked foods.
Avoid the Battle.
However, the most important part to a strong willed kiddo, saying nothing at all when the food is served on the table. Okay, maybe not nothing. You want to make a general announcement for everyone, “Tonight for dinner we are having XYZ, you can have as much as you want, as little as you want, you don’t have to eat anything you don’t want, but you need to be full when you get up from the table because you aren’t eating again until X time.” After that make no comments about what they are eating. Allow them to take the lead. What this does is defuse the battle!
Now, I have one of those strong willed little girls so I get it. Just the other day I served asparagus for dinner. She told me she didn’t like them. I said, “Okay, don’t eat it” as I spooned them onto my plate. You know what happened…you guessed it, two minutes later she announced she wanted 5 of them. It just had to be under her terms. I could have gotten into a discussion with her. It would have gone something like this. “Why don’t you want them.” “I don’t like them.” “You do like them you have eaten them a thousand times. Just take one bite.” Her response would have been “No” and she wouldn’t have gone on to eating them. If you give them a battle they will fight it and win.
Keep your calm.
Do you bang your head against the wall in frustration? Of course not, they can sense it. When you are frustrated they know it and it doesn’t make meal time any easier. Keep in mind, if you are serving a good variety on the table (see my previous post on what variety is) then you have done you job. Sit back, relax and enjoy your own meal and let them enjoy theirs.
As Ellyn Satter says, ” When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.”
Thanks for reading! I hope you find this post helpful, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
- Have you seen how eliminating the battle has helped at your table?
- Have you been able to start serving the same food for the whole family with success?
Feel free to share in the comments below. I look forward to joining in on the conversation!