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Rehabilitating a Picky Eater

How do you get a kid to eat veggies? Try the one-bite method. It works, it really does!

By Sarah Hamaker

Q: My eight-year-old daughter is the world’s pickiest eater. For example, she refuses to eat any vegetables. If I put so much as a single pea on her plate, a screaming match results. Frankly, I’m tired of the constant battles at the dinner table.

A: Rest assured that you're not the only parent with a child who won’t eat this or who only want to eat that. I have a solution that will solve this problem eventually, but like with all changes, this could get worse before it gets better.

First, well before dinner time, inform your daughter that she will be eating exactly what everyone else is eating that evening, but only a single bite of each item. Once she has eaten everything on her plate, she may have seconds of anything that’s on the table.

Next, tell her that any faces, noises of disgust, words like yuck, etc., about the food will not be tolerated. Any utterance of that sort will result in immediate dismissal from the table and an immediate bedtime with no supper. Going one or two evening meals without supper will not hurt her at all.

Then, you let her know that if she refuses to eat that one bite of anything, she will be excused from the table when everyone is finished eating with no other food given until breakfast—which she will be served whatever bite or bites she did not eat the night before. Once her plate is clean, she can have a normal breakfast.

Deliver these instructions in a clear, confident tone and expect that she will test you immediately. Be prepared to send her to bed hungry. When she complains, just shrug your shoulders and point to the bites on her plate. Keep your calm and stick to the plan. She will come around and dinner time will once again be a pleasant occasion.

Do you have a parenting question you would like to see answered on this blog? Email Sarah with Parenting Question in the subject line. Sign up for Practical Parenting, Sarah’s a free, monthly e-newsletter with commonsense advice on child rearing, by visiting www.parentcoachnova.com and clicking on the newsletter tab.

Sarah Hamaker is a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™ through the Rosemond Leadership Parenting Coach Institute. She’s also a freelance writer and editor. Sarah lives in Fairfax, Va., with her husband and four children. Visit her online at www.parentcoachnova.com and follow her on Twitter @novaparentcoach. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Elizabeth Hogan January 19, 2013 at 09:55 PM
So, a lot of these suggestions are worthwhile, but come across confrontational. If you're trying to minimize screaming matches maybe it's time for a calm discussion instead. We've found that including our child in the grocery shopping and preparation of meals has led to an increased willingness to try new foods.
Sarah Hamaker January 20, 2013 at 01:59 AM
The calm and confident relaying of the plan doesn't have to come across as confrontation, which is why you should have the talk well before dinner. And yes, it is good to include the child in meal planning and preparation as much as appropriate for the age of the child. Thanks for pointing that out, as I should have included that in the recommendations.

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