My School-Age Child’s A Picky Eater

The older the child, the more resistance s/he is able to muster because the unwise food has been around for a longer period of time. From the child’s point of view, the fact that you allowed “white bread and ice cream” in the past means you considered them acceptable choices. Therefore, as the child reasons, these foods must still be acceptable and besides, “I like them!” Because of the amount of resistance a child can come up with, some parents decide to let the situation continue and hope, once their children are grown, they will decide on their own to change. But of course, you know better. What are the guidlines that will help you make the needed changes from junk food to good eating? Here are 6 ideas that may help.

  1. Begin by announcing that things are changing. Do so in a few words, geared to the age of the child and without blame. After all, we as the adults, are responsible for how things got this way. Suggest that there are ways the child will have input.
  2. Pick one small area for the beginning change. (No soda for dinner.) Offer milk or real juice or water. Your child can pick from these three or forgo a beverage. Don’t give in.
  3. You  can initially agree that this is difficult and doesn’t seem fair, but it’s necessary because you love your child and must do whatever is best.
  4. Once you’ve said what you’ve neded to say, don’t keep arguing. Be positive, reassuring  your child that even though it’s difficult, you have confidence they’ll manage the change. Then change the subject or stop talking.  Do not give in or you’ll have to start over and it will take twice as long to effect the change.
  5. Wait to introduce another change until this one has become accepted as “the way things are” in this family. Then pick a second and follow the same steps: announce, give healthy alternatives, agree it’s difficult but you’re doing this because you care, don’t argue and don’t give in.
  6. By the time you’ve worked your way to the third or fourth change, things should be going faster. Part of the reason is that when we first attempt to change something that we’ve previously allowed to happen, our children are convinced on some deep level that we don’t really mean it, or that they can wear us down. If we’re consistent and remain calm and positive, and “stick to our guns”, we’re sending the message that we are in charge and we mean what we say.  It can help to remind ourselves that it’s our children’s health that is at stake.

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