Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Eww...What's That?

Eww….What’s That?
By: Samie McCullough

            How many times have you sat down to eat a wonderfully prepared meal with your family and your preschool aged child looks at you with disgust you we pass them their plate?   The usual response from such a youngster is typically: “What’s that?”, or “I don’t like that”.   Then what do you do?  That’s right, the negotiation starts right away.  Most parents might respond with a quick “Eat your carrots and you can have ice cream after dinner”.  But how many of us parents know that this type of response is actually detrimental to our preschooler?  According to research studies, when children are offered these types of bribes it only teaches them that you  eat the good foods to get to the bad foods.  When children are offered bribes they start to understand that eating the good foods are not important but instead it is a gateway to the bad foods.
            Another problem that occurs with preschool children is what I like to call “picky eater syndrome”. They start to only really like at least 2-3 things and that’s it.  So what do us as parents do?  We usually put the “healthy” stuff on their plate and magically expect them to look at it appealingly, but for some reason they don’t.  One research proven way to help them start to like and to try eating new things is by the parents themselves eating the “healthy” foods in front of their child.  Sounds so simple I know.  Studies have shown that when children are shown to eat something without any pressure they will start to gravitate toward that food.   Over time it just becomes second nature.
            So my advice in a nutshell: Eat what we want our children to eat and stop with the bribes!  It’s going to be hard, but it will benefit your little one in the end.


  1. Great post and such true statements! My aunt and uncle got around this behavior in their two girls by implementing what they called the 3 bite rule. The girls had to try at least 3 bites of something before they decided whether or not they liked the food given to them. This rule worked well for the girls, and they are the least picky eaters I know today.

    Katie Meehan

  2. Wonderful advice. You have implicitly used the social learning theory - model behaviors that you want to see in your children. I am going to follow your advice and skip dessert tonight. Let's see what my sugar loving son does.
    I think it also helps if you get children to pick their own fruits and vegetables from the fresh produce section or take them fruit picking.
    - Aesha

  3. I like the approach you have taken Sammie. When I was younger I did not have this knowlege, but I did not bribe my kids. I used a more harsh approach I suppose. I would tell them they can eat it now or they can eat it later. After having the same food for three or four meals in a row, they started eating it the first time so they could get something different. I was careful to refrigerate the food so it would stay good, but at the next meal no matter if it was breakfast, lunch, or dinner they ate the left overs. I also used the approach that if they took three good bites, they did not have to finish it. It worked! Now even as adults they do not complain about their food, they politely say, "No thanks. I don't care for any right now." - Sam Dillé

  4. That is very good advice! I am horrible about eating healthy foods, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that my parents never ate healthy. I wish they would have done this for me when I was younger so maybe now it would be more appealing to me.
    -Jordan Howe

  5. We use candy and junk food way too often with kids. I was guilty of that as well. Once kids have been exposed to the "good stuff" they do not want to eat the healthy foods. Change is hard. It can be accomplished with baby steps. I was reading an article about trining monkeys to ride a skateboard. When a trainer teaches the monkey to ride a skateboard, they do it in small steps. They first put the skateboard in the pen with the monkey and offer the monkey a piece of mango. When the monkey touches the skateboard, they are offered another piece of mango. When the monkey sits on the skateboard, they are again offered a piece of mango. This continues until the monkey is finally riding the skateboard. The monkey may be stuffed with mango, but he had made the change that the trainer was looking for. Persistence and patience were also valuable in this training. I think this is an approach we need to take with our children. Stuff them with something good, instead of junk food, to get the results we are looking for.
    Susan Davis