Have you said any of the following things to your kids?
“How do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tasted it?”
“Just eat one more bite!”
“You have to eat your dinner before you can have dessert”
“The vegetables are healthy and they will make you strong, so you should eat them”
“Please just sit down and eat”
“You can’t watch tv if you don’t eat your dinner”
“I’ll give you a cookie if you eat a few more bites”
“Isn’t this food delicious? OMG it’s so good! You should totally try it!”
“You ate vegetables, I’m so proud of you!”
“You ate all of your food, great job!”
I totally get it… I’ve been there. I’ve said all of those things to my daughter. What I found is that I was so focused on getting her to eat that I wasn’t enjoying my meal and making is both miserable. I also wasn’t actually helping her learn to enjoy and accept new foods. What’s helped me so such is learning about Ellyn Satter’s Eating Competency Model which is a trust model and you let your child do their job of eating and you do your job of feeding.
In Ellyn’s model you exposure your kids to new foods without ANY pressure, so completely neutral exposure. Even if you get them to eat that vegetable after a lot of begging and pleading it doesn’t mean that they’ve actually accepted it as new food that they like. More than likely, they just wanted us to leave them alone. The research that Ellyn has done has proven that repeated neutral exposure to food increases food acceptance in kids. From Ellyn’s book Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family here’s what she saids that children need: “Children need adults to be supportive and companionable, to show them what it means to grow up with respect to food, and to give them opportunities to experiment and master. They don’t need to be coerced, controlled or even motivated. Being motivated to learn comes with being a child.”
This also means avoiding positive pressure too which can look like any of the following: complimenting your child on how well they ate, making food look cute if your goal is to get them to eat more of it because it’s cute, helping your child eat and being overly excited about the food. Even hiding vegetables in food, which I’m guilty of, doesn’t help your child with food acceptance because they have no idea they are eating the vegetable so they can’t accept it or learn to enjoy it.
Knowing that neutral exposure to foods increases food acceptance really has made my meal times way less stressful. I can now relax, enjoy my food and let my daughter do her job which is eating and determine what and how much she’s going to eat.