Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Picky Eaters: Avoiding Power Struggles

“When parents become accountable for what goes into a kid’s stomach, they lose,” explains Dr. Kevin Leman, author of Making Children Mind without Losing Yours. “A kid sees that what he eats or doesn’t eat is really important to mom, so he thinks, ‘I’ll show her who’s boss.’ And it gets us in these power struggles.”

The time we spend at the family table ought to be the best part of each day. Parents don’t need to become overly involved in what their child eats. Leman recommends that parents save their breath rather than offering verbal incentives, “You’ll grow big and strong!” or guilt trips, “Other children are starving to death!” Instead, he advocates a calm, reality-based approach. “When a kid says, Yuck! or Gross! when you serve the food, just take her plate away. Her meal is over. Don’t feed her anything until the next meal,” he says. (If you try this with your picky eater, remember: The key lies in your being consistent. Don’t budge when you’re child comes to you later to say she’s hungry.)

Are you and your husband divided over how to handle your picky eater? Power struggles can gain momentum when your child senses that you and your husband aren’t in agreement. “You can disagree behind closed doors, but you have to present a united front. Agree before you get to the table,” says Dr. Leman. “Kids get tremendous security from knowing mom and dad are on the same page.”

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