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Picky Eater Showdown

Dear Obsessive Mother's Guide to Parenting,

My daughter is becoming more and more of a picky eater. My husband and I are fighting over how to handle the situation. He wants her to sit at the table until she finishes all her food, even if it takes all night. I was raised with if I didn't eat it for dinner, I had to eat it for breakfast. Either way, our evenings are getting ruined by the bickering and the power play. I know fighting in front of her, especially about her, isn't good for any of our relationships. I need some help.

Anonymous Mother of a Picky Eater

Dear A.M.of a P.E.,

Deep breath. This is a temporary situation with several simple "obsessive-style" fixes. Let's take care of a few business items first.
1) Yes, you are absolutely right. Never fight about your kids in front of your kids. They will harbour guilt of hurting your relationship. Be very sensitive about when you bring this back up with your husband again. Give him warning about the upcoming conversation, i.e., "Sweetheart, I would like to discuss a plan for how to handle our daughter at dinner tonight. When is a good time for us to talk?" If you come to the table respectful with an open heart, he will too.
2) How are the allergies in your family? Your daughter may be saying she doesn't like something and really meaning she is feeling an allergic reaction to it. Allergic reactions aren't all hives and barfing. She could be feeling an itchy mouth and achy stomach or any number of other symptoms. Settle this issue and then tackle the behavior.

Now: Parenting is about finding what works for you. I'll give you a couple options to discuss with your husband. When you pick a solution, you have to stick with it for two weeks. Expect your daughter to rebel against it, then accept it, then rebel against it a while later just to make sure you mean business.

Option 1) BLAND food. If she will eat a slice of lunch meat, an apple, carrots and a yogurt, feed her that for every meal. Make sure it is balanced both in nutrition and in texture. (Dealing with different textures of food is essential for tongue strength and dexterity for speech.) Win for you because you know she will eat that meal at least, and future win when she tires of it and asks to try something new.

**** Time out for a general life solution: Never fight about anything more than twice. Life is too short. Relationships are too precious. Pick an answer that works and let it go.****

Option 2) One hour choice. Set the kitchen timer for one hour. She has a choice: she can eat her food and then go play, or she can sit there for the entire hour. Make sure she is seated away from entertainment, almost like in time out, but where you can make sure she doesn't choke on her food or hide it in her napkin. You are giving her a choice between two options you have chosen. She feels some control in her options AND the evening doesn't drag out forever. If she chooses not to eat the food that is prepared for her, it is taken away and she is given the bland alternative, no sweets.

General suggestion either way: involve her in the cooking and preparation of the meal. She will be more apt to try something if she had a hand in making it.

You are right to be concerned about her nutrition. The food she puts in her body while she's growing will determine how healthy she is as a grown-up. Habits she makes now will stay with her for life. Stay strong. You are doing the right thing. Best of luck with that upcoming conversation with your husband and at dinner time tonight. Keep us posted on your progress.

The Obsessive Mother's Guide to Parenting

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