Why are some kids picky eaters?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 13,641
    Parenting expert Dr. Rene Hackney talks about why some kids are picky eaters.

    Rene Hackney

    Originally a full-time preschool teacher, Dr. Rene Hackney now holds a Master?s in school psychology and a PhD. in developmental psychology from George Mason University. She trained at the Developmental Clinic at Children?s National Medical Center and for the public schools, teaching in parenting programs at each. She has also acted as a consultant to several area preschools.

    For the last four years, Dr. Hackney has owned and lectured for Parenting Playgroups, Inc, a parenting resource center and preschool classroom in Alexandria Virginia. She has offered workshops to a wide

    range of parent, teacher and social work groups during this time.

    Workshop topics include eight hours on positive discipline techniques, five hours on early academic issues and common issues such as sibling rivalry and potty training. All workshops provide well researched lecture, in-class practice and open discussion time. Additionally she hosts a monthly parenting focused book club and fun play programs to introduce the preschool setting to young families.

    Dr. Hackney is married and has two young children of her own.

    Host: Why are some kids picky eaters?

    Rene Hackney: Many children come into the world as picky eaters. They are never going to have a really wide palette, but what often tends to happen is that parents then encourage it, maybe unknowingly, but they allow the child to pick and choose and pick and choose and very gradually, it becomes a very limited menu that that child is eating from. Other children who have been great wide eaters at two and young three years old, they eat everything, they try everything, very gradually again, because of the parent child dynamics, they become picky eaters.

    There are several different traps that parents fall into with these that we are going to talk about one is short order cooking, which we will talk about, another is bribery which parents tend to do often trying to get that child to widen back up. There is also pressure or micro-managing, telling kids they have to eat just two more pieces before they can get up. So, a lot of these things that we are doing as parents that we are tending to do from what being well intension trying to get our kids to eat more actually tend to back fire. So, they create pickyness traps.

    There is a main over arching guideline that parents can follow to avoid the pickyness. The idea is that parents in charge of what is offered, children are in charge of what and how much of that they eat. Meaning, parents should supply a wide range of healthy choices, breakfast snack, lunch snack, dinner. Once it is out on the table, children get to pick and choose what and how much of that they eat. Meaning, if at lunch time mandarin and oranges are part of the plate and they fill up on oranges and they want more oranges, it is okay to give them more.

    The parent put it out there as a choice; the child is in charge of how much of that they eat. Now, let us say the parent says, but wait a minute, all my child ever eats is fruit. You so do want to get into a battle with that child about the fruits, so what you do is you offer fruit less often. The parents are in charge of what is offered, so they offer fruit less often and they offer other things in a wider variety of ways, more breads, more vegetables, more meats. For that child who let us say the parents says well, that is all good and well, but they never eat any vegetables, still not your job is to sit on them to force them to eat vegetables. That goes in the wrong direction with the pressure.

    So, the idea is you offer a wider range of vegetables in a wider range of ways. A vegetable frittata for breakfast and a vegetable tray for snacking, grilled vegetable pizza for lunching. The more that you are offering these things in a wider range of ways, the children will likely start eating them. Now, I am all about hiding ingredients. If your child is not eating vegetables, make zucchini bread and call it magic bread. There is no need to tell them that that s in there. Also contribution, the more kids are helping prepare the vegetables, the more likely they are to actually try them or eat them.

    So, getting them involved in the preparation of the food is a really good idea. Also, allowing them to just plan the menu or make things more fun, let them decorate the pizza, let them butter the bread, so that they are having fun with their food. The idea is just to knock it into the debate about what and how much of that they are going to eat.