The Family Project: Picky-eater
Q. Our five-year old son is a picky-eater. I am thinking about making him the food that he wants. My husband is against this and wants him to eat what I make for us. What is the best way to handle this?
Panelists Chad Stefanyak and Mike Ramsey agreed that this is a very common problem.
“Everyone thinks their five-year-olds are picky-eaters,” Stefanyak said, “and this argument between parents probably occurs in many households.”
Said Ramsey, “From the parents’ side, I think it is important that they have a conversation on the issue before mealtime so they aren’t starting an argument while the child is refusing to eat. They also need to have a game plan ahead of time.”
Part of the plan, Ramsey said, could be to make meals that include something the parents know the five-year-old likes, but also contains foods the parents want the boy to try.
“Knowing ahead of time what is going to be served could prevent some problems when a plate of broccoli is put in front of the boy,” Ramsey said.
“You don’t want to get into the ‘clean your plate’ mentality, which is what some of us grew up with,” panelist Pam Wallace said.
“Kids are learning what they like and don’t like; developing their own likes and dislikes. As long as they are growing well and getting proper nutrition, that’s OK,” said Wallace.
Stefanyak cautioned against making mealtime “a miserable experience where the kid doesn’t want to sit at the kitchen table because that is where you force him to sit and stare at a plate of broccoli until he eats it.”
Panelist Pam Contakes suggested having the child involved in making some of the food so that he would be more interested in trying to eat different things.
“Ultimately, you need a backup item,” Ramsey said. “Tell the boy if he doesn’t like what is being served, then he gets peanut butter and jelly or something else simple so the mother is not having to be a chef serving different meals.”
Another suggestion from Wallace was to let the five-year-old serve himself at dinner time. “He may know better what he likes, what he is hungry for, and how much he can eat,” said Wallace.
“Maybe he’s not hungry at all. There are a lot of scenarios involved, and you don’t want to ruin dinner over okra,” Wallace said.
This week’s panel is: Pam Wallace, program coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Mike Ramsey, program supervisor, Valley Youth House; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor, and Amy Contakes, Valley Youth House.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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