The frenzy I am talking about here, is parental anxiety. The anxiety so many parents feel surrounding feeding their kids. I get so many inquiries -- mostly concerning picky eaters or kids who don't eat a lot of a varied menu -- that I have started to really wonder at the epidemic nature of this worry.
Obviously, if there are any medical problems, that is the most important priority. This is the piece I always attend to first: Is your child OK medically, and are they truly getting enough nutrition? I have to say, that for the most part, probably 99 percent of the time, the answer is yes. Yes, they are OK y medically, they are on their growth curve, their pediatricians are not concerned and they have energy and are thriving.
When there is no medical issue, it makes me really wonder why the persistent worry continues. It usually doesn't matter how much I reassure parents that their child is in fact eating a good range of foods from the food groups that they need on a one to two-week basis (straight from the nutritionists' fact checking!). The nagging worry persists. So, I have to always ask myself: Is this an issue between the parents? For example, Does one parent feel that the other is too 'loose' in parenting and it comes out in feeding? Is this really about parents arguing about limit-setting with kids, which can always emerge around food.
Is it possibly a 'mom' issue? If a mom quits her full-time job and becomes solely focused on her job as parent and particularly the nurturing aspects of that, is she perhaps judging herself too critically when her kids won't eat the food she prepares?
I think the issues vary. There is no doubt that it is really important for us as parents to figure out the central issues and to pick our battles if we find ourselves often fighting with our kids or, equally important, stressing ourselves out!
So, I always say that the most important thing is to always figure out: "What is the problem? and Whose problem is it?" Then you can start figuring out what to do.
I am not saying this to be judge-y, but rather to free us up from overly focusing on the tyranny of Parenting as Profession, which seems to be the trend these days. Particularly around food. Not every child is going to be an 'artisanal eater'; many will only want to eat peanut butter sandwiches, or pizza for a few years. Maybe even until they are 13.
Figure out if your child is in physical danger and whether their nutrition is truly compromised. If not, don't let them hold you hostage in the kitchen so that there is any secondary gain to their picky eating. Let them pick something nutritious that they can get from the fridge themselves or heat up themselves easily. Let them pick it out in the grocery store and if they refuse to eat what is being served, they are on their own. This can start as young at 4 years old.
Do not let them tyrannize you or split you up as a parental team. Take the focus off the food and spend a nice dinner time connecting and chatting about other things. Most of the time they grow out of it by age 13, anyway, in my expeirence. Let yourself off the hook and take this off the parenting agenda. You might be surprised about the effect.
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