How can parents prevent picky eating?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 14,236
    Parenting expert Dr. Rene Hackney talks about how to prevent picky eating.

    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: How can parents prevent picky eating?

    Rene Hackney: There are lots of ways to prevent it. One of the things that parents tend to do is bribery. They will say to their children, Hey, if you eat your broccoli, you can have some apple sauce. They are trying to get that child to try broccoli but then what tends to happen is it backfires. That parent is saying, Wow! Child that broccoli, it stinks. You should be rewarded for eating it. They are agreeing with their child. They are also messing with the values of foods. They are saying broccoli is bad, apple sauce is good. They are putting apple sauce as a reward. So, now the child doesn t just like apple sauce because it is a sweet food, they like it because it is a sweet food and it is a reward.

    So, they are much more likely to not eat broccoli the next go around. Overtime it backfires when you offer bribery. This also happens with dinner time versus dessert. You get parents who say, If you eat a good dinner, you can have dessert. Overtime they get kids who eat lesser dinner. Kids will go, Is that enough? Is that enough? rather than eat your full dinner and dessert is something separate, it is something we either have every night or something we have but it is not contingent on dinner time. When parents make it contingent, it tends to backfire.

    Another thing parents can do is lessen the pressure or the micro-managing. Pressure is saying things like, You can t be full. You have got to be hungry, you haven t eaten enough today. We want kids listening to their stomach. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full and when pressure overrides, that you are saying, Don t listen to your stomach, listen to me. You don t want kids eating when they are not hungry. You can t be full; you haven t had enough to eat. Now, many parents say, that is all good and well, but at lunch when they want to go play, they take two bites and then they run away. They say, Oh, I am done. The way to curb that rather than forcing them to continue to sit is to say consistently, This is lunch, if you don t finish eating, you might be really hungry later and then if they take two bites and run away, that is it until the next meal time. So that, that day it might be miserable, they might be hungry, but the next day they are much more likely to sit for lunch. The idea of it is curbing it over the long hall. Micro-managing is saying, You need two more piece, you know what you need another one before you can get out, you know another bite of broccoli would be good. It is just an unpleasant way to eat with someone. It is like if you were at work and you were riding away and someone standing over your shoulder saying Now, cross that T, now dot that I. It is really an unpleasant way to dine and so children tend to want to eat less with you. The idea is be the parent who sits with them at lunch and talks about their day or talks about going to the pool later in the afternoon, not about the food intake, not about what is happening right in front of them.