Moving from GET to LET: Supporting the Child with Picky Eating

“I couldn’t get him to eat anything.” While reviewing the progress of the children in my feeding program with my graduate student clinicians, I hear this type of statement all the time. There is sometimes so much ‘get’ that I have to stop the discussion and tell the students to remove that word from their vocabulary during feeding therapy. Why? The words we say out loud, and even in our own heads, can make a huge difference in how we think and feel about others, ourselves, and our actions. How we behave is influenced by what we’re thinking . . . and words are a direct reflection of our thoughts. Words matter. They shape our thinking and other’s perceptions of our message. They can color a conversation, and can change someone’s mind. Words can drive a wedge between partners or support someone so they can go on to change the world.   Henry Ward Beecher said “All words are pegs to hang ideas on”. If we view words in that way, it can help us to see how our language can make a huge difference in not only how our children react to us, but how WE react to THEM. If you have an agenda and the child isn’t cooperating, your instinct is to do something to GET them to play along. So many parents I work with say the following types of things: “How do I GET her to eat more?” “I can’t figure out how to GET him to drink.” “His doctor said we need to GET 24 ounces in him.” “I just can’t GET him to...

Say Cheese! Exploring Preference and Changing Tastes with Picky Eating

When I was a child, I hated cheese. I couldn’t imagine eating it. Although I ate pizza, it didn’t really register that it was cheese on top. Once, when I was about 12, a good friend thought it would be hilarious to force me to eat some cold cheddar cheese. She easily held me down (being quite a bit taller than I was) and crammed a large chunk of cheese into my mouth and then kept her hand over my mouth so I couldn’t spit it out. In my memory, fumes were coming out of my ears. It was traumatic, and I haven’t ever let her live down that little stunt. Early in college, I went on a trip to Europe with my dad and we spent two days on the Orient Express. Every afternoon on the train, they served stinky French cheeses at tea. I literally had to stick my head out of the tiny window next to my seat while my father enjoyed the array of veined cheeses. My senior year found me at a friend’s parents’ house where they served us wine and, you guessed it— cheese. This time, though, there were grapes and strawberries and crackers to go with it. I voiced my apprehension, and my friend gently explained how I might enjoy Brie or Gouda since they were milder. And she suggested I try a small amount on a large cracker— with a grape in the same bite. To my surprise, I enjoyed it. And my love affair with cheese began. Mealtime Hostage blogger Skye VanZetten discusses her son’s journey toward cheese in this...

He’ll Grow Out of It? Disappointing Guideline from Picky Eating Study

An observational study titled, “Trajectories of Picky Eating during Childhood: A General Population Study.” (International Journal of Eating Disorders) had some interesting findings following over 4000* Dutch children through age six. Unfortunately, the guideline offered in the conclusion will do little to help clinicians help children with picky eating. First, what the study showed: At 18 months about 26% of children were reported as “picky” At age three, about 27% By age six the number declined to 13% 46% were described as picky at some point in childhood The following factors were associated with “persistent” picky eating (beyond age six): male gender low birth weight non-Western maternal ethnicity low parental income shorter duration of exclusive breast feeding and early intro to solids This study confirms findings from other studies that typical picky eating is often a phase. It did not delve into the experience of the persistent picky eater or severity.  And the problematic conclusion and discussion: “Commonly, health professionals tend to regard picky eating as a transient phase of the development of the preschool child. However, many parents of picky eaters seek medical help for their children’s pickiness, and express frustration with physicians for dismissing their concerns. We argue that indeed picky eating between the ages of 0 and 4 years may in general be considered as part of normal development. As a guideline, health care professionals could focus on a duration >3 years of picky eating, non-Dutch (non-Western) descent and low family income to monitor for risk at becoming a persistent picky eater.” This makes those of us supporting parents of children with extreme picky eating slap...

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