You want your child to try new foods, but after a long day, who needs that added stress? Parents often stick to what they know works. Do you find yourself making the same two foods for dinner on the regular? Or allowing your child to eat in their spot in front of the TV just to get some calories in them? No need to be embarrassed - you're certainly not alone.
Every time you allow your child to have the same food in the same environment, you continue to build a history that this is how it will be. Every time makes it that much harder to change it in the future.
You don't need to make drastic changes. Think of little changes you can make just to teach flexibility to start. Change one little thing about the meal every day. At first, it doesn't even have to be about trying new foods. Some examples include:
- Cut the grilled cheese sandwich a different way
- Move the chair where your child sits
- Use different plates or utensils
- Add food coloring to foods to make them look different without changing the taste
- Add something different (but preferred) onto the plate
Essentially, you are teaching your child that meals don't need to stay the same but that change isn't stressful. If you jump right into offering a totally different meal, you show your child that change is stressful. This way, you can have fun with it while working your way up to trying new foods. Make sure you praise tolerance of change!
Your child won't eat at the table with the family, so in desperation to get something in them you allow them to come grab bites in between other activities such as playing.
Your child learns that this is what mealtimes look like. The social and communication aspects of mealtime are lost, and eventually it will be very difficult to change this habit.
Encourage sitting at mealtime without the pressure of eating food. Start with just a few minutes. Many families will start fun family traditions such as sharing exciting parts of the day, singing a song, or playing a game. At first, have your child come sit down for a couple minutes and make that time as fun as possible. Gradually introduce a plate with food and model eating while enjoying the social aspect of mealtime.
Consider the expectations for your child. If you tend to have a long, social family mealtime, make sure the expectations for your child are realistic and developmentally appropriate. A good rule of thumb is to expect 2-5 minutes per a child's year of age. So a four year old may be able to sit still at the table for between 8 - 20 minutes.
Feeding your picky eater is a stressful experience, so you want to get it over with before the rest of your family eats.
Your child becomes accustomed to mealtime being solely about food consumption and you miss out on family social time.
First, this requires a philosophical change to view mealtime as about more than just consuming food. Even if you are initially focusing on feeding your child separately, still have him come sit with the family (as discussed in #2 above). You can also offer highly preferred foods for sitting with the family and work on introducing new foods at the other times.