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So You Have A Picky Eater?
If you have a picky eater, mealtime can make you feel like you want to pull your hair out. It is very frustrating for parents to watch their child only fiddle with their food at dinner or not even touch it, claiming they "dont like it. Then what happens? Thirty minutes later guess who is hungry? You guessed it. Your little picky eater.
Jamies mother was concerned about Jamie's lack of interest in food. She stated, Jamie never wants to eat anything I fix for dinner. What can I do to encourage Jamie to eat the meals that I have prepared? I came up with the following ten tips for her. You may find them useful as well.
TIP: INVOLVE JAMIE. You could have Jamie help with planning the menu or meal preparation. Kids are less likely to turn up their nose at something, they had a hand in.
TIP: PLACE A LIMIT ON JAMIE. Perhaps Jamie is playing with her food at dinner and not real interested in eating it. Mom say's, Jamie, I will be serving breakfast at 7:00 a.m. try to eat enough to make it to then. You decide how much you will need. Oh! We will be clearing the table in _____ minutes.
When Jamie comes to you later that evening complaining of being hungry. With an understanding tone, simply remind her that you will be serving breakfast at 7:00 a.m. as usual. Jamie will most likely be persistent about getting something else to eat. It is important that you follow through with the limit you have placed. Otherwise, Jamie learns that you do not mean what you say and you lose your credibility with her. You may have to tell her several times that you will be serving breakfast at 7:00 until she realizes that your are not going to give in.
Jamie: Mom Im hungry. Can I have some cookies?
Mom: Kids who eat all their dinner are welcome to have a snack after.
Jamie: But mom Im really hungry.
Mom: I know Jamie. I would be hungry too if I ate as little as you did for dinner, but dont worry I will be fixing a big breakfast at 7:00 a.m.
Jamie: What? Do you want me to starve?
Mom: Ill be serving breakfast at 7:00 Jamie
Jamie: This isnt fair.
Mom: Ill be serving breakfast at 7:00 Jamie
TIP: NOTICE THE EXCEPTIONS. Call attention to the times when Jamie eats most of her meal. Wow! Jamie you ate everything on your plate. Good job. You should be proud of yourself. Too often, we only notice the negative aspects of our childrens behavior and that is what we reinforce with our negative attention.
TIP: CATER TO JAMIE'S DESIRE TO BE "BIG". You probably wont like this halibut Jamie. Usually, adults are the only ones who like halibut." Guess what may just become Jamies new favorite food?
TIP: PROVIDE VARIOUS CHOICES AROUND MEALTIME. Would you rather sit by me or by mommy? You can eat with a fork or a spoon which would you prefer? Do you think you will need more potatoes or is that enough? Have as much as you think you will need to make it to dinner. Milk or juice? Should we eat at 7:00 or 7:30?
TIP: BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL. You know dear, although spaghetti is not my favorite, I will eat it because I know how hard you worked to make it.
TIP: EXPOSURE. Encourage Jamie to try a variety of foods early on in her life before she knows any different. Some children may have never thought liver was gross if it hadnt been for what someone else had set their expectation to be.
TIP: PROVIDE SOME FLEXIBILITY. Let's remember there are some foods that certain children just can not stomach. If Jamie has a problem with spinach but it is part of that particular meal, try to have other items that she can get her fill up on once everyone has their share. However, this should be the exception rather than the rule.
Try letting Jamie dip her foods in sauces, dressings, syrups or ketchup. It may make them taste better to her.
TIP: MAKE MEALTIME ENJOYABLE. Try to talk about things other than eating at mealtime. Dinner is a great time to talk to Jamie about how her day went. During breakfast, you could discuss what everyone has planned for the day.
Everyone pitching in to help prepare the meal can teach Jamie an important family value. An added bonus for children is that it can teach them important thinking skills regarding timing, measuring, colors, comparisons, counting, and cause and effect.
Be creative in the ways that you dish up Jamies food. Mold her mashed potatoes into a volcano, cut her meat or sandwich into bite sized pieces and poke toothpicks in them, layout veggies in the shapes of letters or numbers, or use a drop or two of food coloring to make it more interesting.
TIP: LIMIT SNACKING. For children to be hungry enough to eat a meal they usually need to go two or three hours without food. However, it is difficult for children to go from noon to 6:00 p.m. without food. A nutritious snack after school should be fine to get Jamie to dinner still having her appetite.
TIP: RECALL PAST SUCCESSES. Think back about times when Jamie has ate her meals. What were you doing? Were you placing a lot of emphasis on her need to eat her food? What was she doing? What were you eating? What happened before the meal? These kinds of questions may help you realize some of the things you or Jamie is already doing which assist her in becoming a better eater.
BONUS : Solving Baby Slep Problems - The Ferber Method
Nothing can prepare new parents for the mind numbing weariness that comes with lack of sleep. A new baby may be tiny but the havoc they wreak to your sleep is huge. It can take work to establish good sleeping habits. One of the hardest things for your baby is to learn to fall asleep on his own.
I firmly believe that parents need to reclaim their evenings. Babies and young children need to go to bed at a reasonable hour so that you can enjoy some adult time (Even if that just means crashing out on the sofa in front of the TV) What you don't want is to be running up and downstairs all evening in response to the baby monitor!
Baby is used to falling asleep with a parent. It may be tempting to rock that crying baby to sleep - it may seem quicker but in the long run you are not helping your baby to learn that sleep is something he needs to do alone.
If you establish a bedtime routine which you stick to every night and after several months your baby will still not fall asleep you might like to try the Ferber Method. Dr. Richard Ferber sets out a schedule that will gradually encourage your baby to sleep without you. This will include getting off to sleep in the first place but will have a knock on effect if baby wakes up during the night.
If you decide to try the Ferber Method choose a time when you can afford to loose some sleep. It will take a couple of weeks of hard work but the rewards will be long term and permanent.
Essentially the Ferber method encourages you to gradually wean your baby from falling asleep with a parent. It does involve listening to your baby cry - so steal yourself to this.
The first night you put your baby to bed as usual (a calm bedtime routine is essential) Baby should
be sleepy but still awake when you put him down (You want him to fall asleep alone - not in your arms)
Leave the room. When baby starts to cry (as he inevitably will) sit it out for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes return to the bedroom and soothe baby. You must not pick him up or rock him - just a gentle stroke or pat so that he knows you are close by. Leave the room again and this time wait 10 minutes before you return. Again sooth but do not pick up baby. Leave again and this time wait 15 minutes.
Make 15 minutes the maximum wait time for the rest of the night. Return to the bedroom - sooth and leave. During one of the 15 minutes he will fall asleep.
On the second night start with a ten minute wait and work up to 20 minutes.
On the third night start with a 15 minutes and work up to 25
Each night increase the times by 5 minutes.
These time intervals are not cast in stone - make them smaller if you wish but it's really important that you don't cave. It can seem heartbreaking to listen to your baby cry. But you are close by, it's a plan not indifference.
I used the Ferber method with my daughter, when she was a toddler. We had not experienced sleep problems when she was a baby in a crib. The difficulties started when we transferred her to a bed. The night time "pantomime" got more and more elaborate as she extended the time I was in the room with her. She used every trick in the book to get me back into her bedroom and to delay the time when she settled down to sleep.
By the time I came across Dr Ferber's book I was desperate. It was taking longer and longer every night to get her off to sleep but I wasn't prepared for how hard it would be to leave my daughter to cry. In fact most times I was sitting on the stairs crying too. My husband encouraged me stick at it and I'm glad that we did. It really did just take a couple of weeks to set up a pattern that lasted all through her childhood. I found that I could spend some enjoyable bedtimes, reading stories etc, confident that when I said "goodnight" she would snuggle down and go to sleep without any fuss