Before the food even touches his lips, before I have gotten the food on his plate, I have barely finished cooking and my 8 year-old son has announced to the entire family (including his impressionable 5 year-old sister) that he does not like what has been prepared for dinner.
This sets off a sequence of events that we experience regularly at dinnertime. It goes something like this: we (mom and dad) load up his plate with the food that we expect for him to eat, place it in front of him on the table as he grimaces at the thought of sampling his meal, he complains, protests, and negotiates (loudly at times) throughout our family dining experience, and the rest of us attempt to enjoy our meal regardless of his distaste for virtually everything that is on the table.
After a long day of work, school, and after school activities and commitments our family of 5 could really use a peaceful and enjoyable dinnertime. We would like to have this time to have a meal that has been lovingly prepared and beautifully served for all of us to enjoy together. Lately, this has been challenging given my son’s shrinking desire for the food that the rest of us like. Additionally, we already find it challenging to cook the chosen meal for the evening, and prepare something special just for him seems overwhelming and unnecessary. Of course my son believes otherwise and spends much of his energy trying to convince us to see things his way.
My husband and I have asked ourselves countless times if we would be doing him a disservice by preparing “special meals” just for him along with our daily family meals when he does not like what is being served. Many times when we have refused to do this he has gone to bed with less than an full stomach. Should we prepare only the meals that he will enjoy? This option causes the rest of the family to miss out on much of the food that we enjoy. Is there a reasonable compromise when dealing with a picky eater in the family?
Much of the literature written about picky eaters suggest that parents set routines and expectations for the dining experience. One of my favorite authors on the subject, Ellyn Satter, even gives parents a “division of responsibility in feeding” that provides a helpful guideline to remember when considering these issues:
- The parent is responsible for what
- The child is responsible for how much (and everything else)
For toddlers through adolescents:
- The parent is responsible for what, when, where
- The child is responsible for how much and whether
Considering this, my husband and I seem to be making some solid decisions about our family’s mealtimes and eating habits in general. Ellyn Satter’s website is full of additional tips and conversations about eating with children in general as well as eating with the picky eater.
My next few posts will include some of the more creative ways that we have found to solve our family’s eating dilemmas and some family menu ideas that we have tried and had success with. I like to call them my “go to” meals. Check out the website link above and watch for future posts under the title “I Don’t Like It!”