Yes, it’s a pleasure to eat out and enjoy the luxury of others cooking and serving us. It is a luxury to select from a menu of items and choose exactly what you want. Ahhh…the joys of eating out! However, many of you have oddly set up a non-profit restaurant in your home. In fact, it’s quite costly, both in obvious and more subtle ways.
The ramblings of the delusional short-order cook
“It’s a dream come true! Cooking three meals every night.” These are the words of a delusional hard-working, short-order cook. It seems like and sounds like insanity. Fortunately, I have never heard those words. Most parents grow weary and tired of such constant cooking. It is exhausting. It is time-consuming. It is never getting better.
“I love cooking something & then throwing it away.” Again, more words from the psychotic! Who thinks this way? No one I have met. In most circumstances, we get upset and frustrated after taking the time to cook the requested meal…only to find your child refuses to eat it. At that point, cooking another meal is often a source of even more frustration.
“And, I really enjoy all the complaints about my cooking!” Okay, you get the idea. None of these quotes are closely related to what anyone says, and almost everyone hates the whole process outlined above. And yet many accept this daily time-consuming and frustrating process. There is much more agony with constant negotiating, complaining and misery around food.
But what’s the consequence of all this hard work and struggle? It’s a serious picky eater!
How short-order cooking nurtures unhealthy picky eaters!
So, how do we end up with the ultimate picky eater in our home? First, we start by accommodating their pickiness. That’s the job of the short-order cook. Your kids want it. You prepare it. They don’t like. You cook something else. They complain about it. You argue a bit, and eventually, give them what they want. In the end, repeatedly, we accommodate their pickiness.
Secondly, we give tons of attention and energy to their complaining, whining and crying about the healthy food we put in front of them. We argue, beg, plead, yell and negotiate over and over. All this parental attention goes into their resistance. In essence, a child’s pickiness, and all its common elements (i.e., whining, complaining, crying, negotiating, etc.), gets the huge reward of repeated parental attention.
Your child resists eating, and we talk. They complain, and we tell them they are lucky to have food. They whine, and we tell them to stop whining. They cry, and we beg them to eat. They ask for something else, and we fix it. Thus, you can easily see how we nurture picky eaters. We usually have some combination of the two parts mentioned above. We accommodate their pickiness, and we feed into their pickiness by giving it lots of attention. How do we not expect them to evolve into very picky eaters? It’s inevitable.
Why is picky eating such a problem?
Many professionals and parents have normalized picky eating. They have taken an unhealthy, highly frustrating set of experiences and made it ‘okay.’ Why have we done this? We have normalized this behavior simply because it is happening with such high prevalence. It’s not okay. It is unhealthy…and here’s why.
Kids almost always lean away from healthy foods and prefer foods containing simple carbohydrates, including bread, pasta, cereal, cookies, pancakes, crackers, pizza, french fries, etc. While we didn’t recognize the health implications of these foods fifty years ago, we know now how dangerous these foods are when consumed almost exclusively.
Not only does this carb-heavy diet limit the breadth of nutrients your child receives, but this habit also has a highly damaging effect on their body. It affects blood sugar levels in a way that not only can support future obesity but also affects energy and ability to sustain attention in school. It is also very taxing upon the pancreas, attempting to keep up with the demands of changing internal blood sugar levels. Pediatricians see an alarming rise in children with diabetes, in part to diets based solely upon eating simple carbohydrates. This is worth researching a bit, to fully appreciate the danger of these poor eating habits.
Finally, this is a habit that is hard to break. Picking eating doesn’t fade away in adolescence or adulthood. It sticks with us, limiting nutrition and thus contributing to a variety of other health-related concerns as time goes by. Not to mention the fact that it leaves the picky eater with limited access to the wide array of flavors and foods that can add tremendously to our daily pleasures of eating.
Bottom line: You can abandon being a short-order cook today! Yes, it takes dealing with a bit of drama and ugliness, but you can do it. And, I promise, it will make your lives easier, and your kids lives healthier. If you are curious about the details on a parenting plan for handling this, you can read up more on TerrificParenting.com. But for now, just resolve to end this craziness today, and bring your kids back to health and sanity.
Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit TerrificParenting.com.