Parent Question: My four-year-old is not eating at the table. He wants both my husband and I to help him eat and is very fussy; he won’t try mashed potatoes or anything. It’s a constant battle as he wants toys at the table when eating, like something to keep him occupied rather than eating. He does eat pasta and fish sticks, but we sometimes have to literally feed him, so it gets eaten. I know this is a bad habit, but it’s awful getting him to eat much of anything. It’s become such a constant battle that I now hate mealtimes. Please help!
Answer: There are so many answers to this one. I am going to give a few guidelines and point you in the direction of a great book for more info. The book is How to Get Your Kid to Eat But Not Too Much by Ellyn Satter. She wrote another book and there is also a book by Elbrit, but I like this one.
Guidelines: Parents are in charge of what is offered, children are in charge of what and how much of that they eat. Control what is offered; once it is on the table let him pick and choose. If he fills up on fruit and wants more, ok, you offered it. If that is all he will eat, offer it less often and other things more. Go as wide as you can. Put in those ‘only foods’ once a month so he can’t rely on them. The idea is to let go of the battle. You don’t want to be battling over food intake once it is on the table. Lessen the emotion; emotion fuels power struggles.
That is the short answer for a long question. I do have a two-hour workshop on managing mealtimes that includes all this on pickiness.