Thursday, January 28, 2010

Finicky Kids and their Parent Enablers

Let's face it. Finicky kids wouldn't exist if their parents didn't enable them. How do parents enable their kids?

Well first of all the parents of finicky kids are so obsessed with their kids eating that they won't let the kid skip eating because he or she refuses to eat what's put in front of them. If Johnny doesn't like pork chops, Mom runs to the microwave and nukes up the chicken nuggets she knows Johnny will eat.

What's really amusing are the excuses for this kind of behavior I've heard through the years.

My favorite line is, "But Johnny is only in the X percentile for weight. He has to eat!!" Well, when Johnny gets to be an adult he'll be obese and have diabetes because you never taught him to eat right.

The other new one I've been hearing lately is, "My child has an eating disorder." The only disorder here is the one Mom and Dad have created by not having the back bone to stand up to their own child and not feed them processed junk. I can guarantee you no child in Haiti right now has an "eating disorder."

Or, how about this one, "If I don't make Amanda Kraft Mac & Cheese, then she'll only fill up on junk food." First of all, Kraft Mac & Cheese is junk food. Second, if you didn't have junk food snacks in your house, it would be impossible for Amanda to fill up on them.

Then, there's this lame line, "I've tried to get Suzy to eat an apple but she just refuses to do it." Well, if Suzy gets good and hungry that apple is going to look and taste damn good for her.

Here's another one I've gotten on occasion, "There has to be something really wrong with Brian, I made him taste a piece of steak once and he threw up." I hate to tell you, but your kid is not special. It's called a "gag reflex," and yes, quite a few kids do this in response to trying to force them to eat something they don't want to eat. My son did this several times. Each time, I cleaned him up and put the food right back in front of him to taste. Needless to say, the vomiting eventually stopped once he realized there was no getting away from tasting the food.

So, to all you parents of finicky eaters, I hate to inform you that the only problem with your kids' eating habits is you. You are the enabler. Grow a back-bone, realize that your kid will go to bed hungry some nights and you'll probably have to endure some temper tantrums to get them on the road to eating right.


  1. I think there will always be finicky eaters. However, I don't think they have to be indulged or parents have to enable that.

    In one of her books Mireille Guiliano said that in France it's expected there will be certain food that children won't like. I remember she mentioned strong tasting foods and fish. But that doesn't mean that they aren't offered to the kids. They are still offered and its expected that children will eat at least some of the offensive food. Eventually, children will learn to like them. They may not love them, but they will eat them without complaint.

    I like what Michael Pollan said in The Omnivore's Dilemma when he was talking about his (temporary, I think) vegetarianism: "On this matter I'm inclined to agree with the French who gaze upon any personal dietary prohibition as bad manners,"

    Having said all that, please don't offer me a glass of milk. Ever.

  2. I totally agree.....they will make a rod for their own back...I refused to let my kids tell me what they do or don't eat...I put carrots on their plate and they had to eat it...only smaller amounts to start with then they would ask for more...same with mushrooms..same with avocado...its the same with everything. It is the same for kids behaviour...the parents allow it and it will continue...its no wonder society is like it is these days. Khris

  3. I don't even think you need to force kids to eat. Just don't provide any other options if they don't eat what's put before them other than healthy snacks like fruit.

    My son didn't like the pork chops I made the other day. I made him taste them, but he only took a couple of bites. When he wanted something else to eat later in the night I told him his only options were a banana or apple. He ate both.

  4. Yep -- they have two choices: Take it or leave it.

    We ate out a lot when I was growing up -- it was a combination of factors which probably included the fact that my mom was a lousy cook. There were a few things she did spectacularly well, but most --well, I was cooking better by the time I was in high school. I dreaded eating at home. I ate better when we ate out. However, I ate and I don't recall complaining much. If there was something I didn't like, I ate some and managed to fill up on whatever else was being served. She did have a way with potatoes -- and gravy.

    I just realized that I don't remember eating a holiday meal at home -- always at my aunt's house until after my mom died and my dad remarried. Again, probably a combination of factors, but the lousy cooking skills were probably part of it.

  5. I actually never force my children to eat. They just either eat what I make them, or eat fruit.

    that's the rule.