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The #1 Sign You Need a Feeding Intervention

Jessie wanted her son to eat healthy, but she wasn’t gaining much traction. Although he was only two, and her only child, he was in charge of the meals, and she found herself feeding him food she knew he would eat. To make things worse, he was a slow weight gainer.

“Why should I bother to buy applesauce? I know he won’t eat it,” she said to me. “He’s picky and just not very interested in eating.” 

And then she said it. 

Her confession.

“I really dread mealtime,” she confessed. “I don’t look forward to it. It’s awful, and I feel so guilty.”

#1 Sign for Feeding Intervention

Ah, the dreaded mealtime. To Jessie’s defense, she wasn’t wrong in dreading the meal and feeling guilty about it. In fact, lots of parents feel this way at one time or another, especially when things aren’t going well. Jessie was experiencing rejection and disappointment, and as a result, low confidence in her ability to feed her child.

Feeding kids is something most parents feel they should know how to do from the start– and be good at it. But when things prove to be difficult, they realize how hard it can be.

If you’re like Jessie, and feel that you are dreading mealtime– day in and day out– it’s time for a feeding intervention.

Bring More Joy to the Table

Of course, every child is different and every situation unique, but here are a few reminders and tips to help your revamp your approach to feeding your child and bring the joy back to meals:

Remember, It’s Not Personal

Whether you child eats or not doesn’t necessarily reflect on your cooking, feeding, or parenting skills. Most kids go through the normal ups and downs of growing up and that means there will be bumps along the way, especially in eating and at the table. Never take your child’s eating performance as a personal testimony to your worthiness as a parent.

Your Feeding Style 

For many families, a dynamic exists between the parent and child at the meal table that can undermine eating. Having expectations of how much or which foods your child will eat are okay, but if you allow these expectations to govern the mood at the table, you’re likely to get some resistance from your child.

Learn about your feeding style as it is closely tied to how well your child eats.

Negative Feeding Practices

The tactics you use to get your child to eat his meal may be cutting you off at the knees when it comes to happy, successful mealtimes. Are you:

Coaxing your child to eat more (“Just 5 more bites before you get down.”)

Rewarding your child with dessert (“If you eat this {food}, you can have dessert.”) 

Disallowing certain foods or second helpings (“You’ve had enough of {food}.”)

These feeding rules and techniques can send mealtime into a downward spiral. Although they might seem effective, in the long run they really aren’t, and need to be curtailed if you want a pleasant, happy child at meals.

Making the Same Meals & Same Foods 

Children can send their parents mixed messages, especially when it comes to food. By refusing applesauce once, Jessie thought her son would never like it, so she catered to this one-time food rejection.

In the case of kids, they can be finicky and unpredictable, liking a food one day and rejecting it the next. One thing I do know is this: kids get bored with the same foods and meals over and over. Your best antidote is to have a rotation of foods: meals and snacks that incorporate lots of different foods and combinations of foods. The upside? You’ll be packing in great nutrition and keeping your child interested in eating.

A Meal Schedule and a System 

Kids like routine and there isn’t an easier place to set up routine than in feeding your family. Willy-nilly mealtimes just don’t work—they breed hunger and constant requests for additional food. Have regular times for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacks. Have a location identified where your children will eat most of the time (at the kitchen table or kitchen island), and keep the kitchen closed between eating times.

If you’re dreading mealtime with your family, it’s time to reboot your feeding approach. Check in with these factors and see where you can modify for the better.

Tell me, do you struggle with feeding your child meals?

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  1. This is such a great post! There’s no shame in admitting there’s a problem and getting some professional support – sometimes it takes someone removed from the situation to have the insights that will make change possible. I expect many parents can relate to Jessie’s experience.

    Solving Picky Eating

    1. Thanks Jo! Parents, professionals run into problems all the time–it’s best to seek help before things get too complicated!