When my eldest child was a toddler, I constantly congratulated myself on my brilliant parenting when it came to food. She was an adventurous eater, loved salad and fruit, and if given the choice of any fast food, she’d choose sushi every time.
How awesome was I! Clearly I had introduced foods at exactly the right time, shown the right amount of concern and interest in her eating, brought in solids in the correct order, and generally done everything perfectly. Gold star parent, right here!
But then I had two more children who, it turned out, showed me just how little effect I had on what they would and wouldn’t eat. They have always been super fussy eaters. But one thing I have learned over the course of parenting three children is that it is not my job to make sure my children eat.
My children are their own people. Their bodies are their own and, short of force feeding them through a tube, I have no control over what they choose to put in their mouths.
What I do have control over is the way I offer my children food. I can offer a variety of healthy foods, and I can model good food choices (at least when they can see me – they don’t have to know about the chocolate biscuits in the top of the pantry).
It really is as simple – and as hard – as that.
Making a big deal about what they do and don’t eat only gives them the idea that there is power in eating and not eating. Food is really only about providing our bodies with fuel to get through the day, and your child needs to feel in control of fuelling their own body.
You can help them to do that by
- letting them feed themselves
- letting them have a say in meal planning
- taking them food shopping with you and asking for their help in choosing items
- providing a range of healthy food options
- introducing new foods regularly, and offering them several times without any pressure
- teaching them how to prepare meals and letting them help
- not making a big deal about what they eat, how much they eat or when they eat.