Saturday, January 24, 2009

Practical Help for Your Picky Eater: IV

There tends to be a lot of negative talk around picky eaters, and it's not just limited to children. Yes, you will find picky eaters complaining, grumbling, and whining about the food on their plates, but just as significant and remarkable, you will find parents complaining about their children's picky eating.

If you let your children, they will control mealtime and most likely, they will control it with their words. In our house, our children are not allowed to speak negatively about food, even the picky eater. Or maybe I should say especially the picky eater. We got to the point where we just had to raise the bar and establish a rule on no negative talk about food. We had to...the negative talk was just all-encompassing for our picky eater and it became contagious to our other children. While my husband and I are interested in our children's opinions about the food we serve, we believe that there are edifying ways for them to convey what they are thinking and feeling. "This is not my favorite" is what we allow. Not "I don't like that." Not "Eeeeuw, that looks gross." Not "Do I have to eat this?" "This is not my favorite." Period. Nothing more.

We established the no negative talk rule because we want our children to have a heart of gratitude. We want them to be grateful for the healthy meal placed before them, thankful for the time spent on the meal's preparation, and appreciative for our efforts in keeping their picky eating in mind--despite their personal views of the actual food. It's a two way street. I'm willing to help my picky eater as much as I can by learning new information, trying new things, and making sure that there is always something on their plates that they will enjoy. That also means, he needs to be grateful for me and my efforts. By not allowing our children to focus on negative things, their hearts are more open to the positive aspects of meals, and we are no longer engulfed in negativity, but in gratefulness.

However, the unwholesome talk does not exclude us, the parents. Lets strive to not have negative talk come out of our mouths either, especially about our picky eater. I frequently refer to my son on this blog as a picky eater, and I do so for clarity, but in real life, I need to choose my words much more carefully. I realize that there are times when we need to speak about picky eater, especially when we are seeking the wisdom and advise of others. In those times, let's just make sure our picky eater is not in ear shot. All other times, let's make sure we are not using the words "picky eater" to describe, define, or label our picky eater in conversation.

We need to do this for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, we want to honor our children. My son is not defined by his picky eating; there are just many more dynamic and wonderful qualities about him than that. My picky eater is a smart, quick-witted, and funny child, and without ever personally meeting yours, I know that he/she has many wonderful qualities too. Lets honor our children by focusing on those qualities instead.

Second, we don't want our children to label themselves as a picky eater. In my house, we are aware of our son's eating habits and preferences, but we are optimistic. We fully, whole-heartily believe that our son will not be a picky eater one day. We do not want him to label himself now so he gets caught in a place whereby he is limited by this label in the future. In psychology this is called a self-fulfilling prophesy, meaning you say something so many times, that you believe it, and cause it to be so in the long run. If our son continuously hears me, his dad, his brother, and/or his sister referring to him as a picky eater now, we are laying the foundation for this to be so for his lifetime. The same is true for your picky eater too.

As a parent, I get it. There are days when you just feel like waving a white flag and surrendering to the complaining as well as the picky eating. It is much easier to talk ourselves into believing that this is just the way my child is than to do something about it.

Instead of waving the white flag, let's start by changing our mindset and raising the bar. Instead of giving up, let's do everything in our power to help our picky eater. Instead of speaking negatively about our child, let's honor him/her by choosing our words carefully. Then, let's expect the same positive choice of words from our children, especially the picky eaters, and especially at the dinner table.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

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