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The 4-Year Hour of a Picky Eating Preschooler

September 27, 2017
The 4-Year Hour of a Picky Eating Preschooler

My son never stopped being a picky eater. It was something he was supposed to have outgrown, I thought, once he started school. His pickiness was a temporary phase, one that would end just as soon as he understood the anguish of hunger pangs.  Since I last wrote nine months ago about the saga in feeding Jrue, he has gained quite a bit of maturity in the areas of speech, gross/fine motors, and comprehension. He perceives friendship innocently as anyone he can hold hands with. Slowly, Jrue is embracing his sister’s constant shadowing and is becoming more and more accommodating in sharing with her. He is stable in his introverted personality, always carrying something around the house in his hands, and ready to put on his shoes and underwear and shirt independently to start the day. 

He is becoming, essentially, a preschooler, with faster development in some areas, slower in others. 

But, when it’s time to eat, his go-to response recently has been to turn down a good meal completely, even if it’s something he has eaten and loved before.  

This is not to say that he definitely doesn’t eat at school during the week. I imagine that the pressure of sitting at Table 1 and watching his friends eat spaghetti and fruit and pizza around him at lunchtime may positively influence him to take bites of his own food. I would hope that if Jrue wasn’t eating at all, it would be alarming enough to his teachers to bring it up to me or the hubs at pickup. 

Now that I’m thinking about it, I believe I want to inquire about his lunch eating behavior, just in case. Mostly because he won’t eat consistently for days at home! 

The last two days, for example: Yesterday, Jrue requested a banana for breakfast. I sliced it in half, cut them into quarters, and served with the Mickey Mouse waffle he enjoyed the morning before. Jrue ate two pieces of banana, then declared, “I’m done!” in his singsong announcement voice. Since he is out of school on fall break this week, Jrue went to our nephews’ for the day and enjoyed potato chips and milk for some hours. Because I knew his lunch wasn’t substantial, I thought that getting him some chicken nuggets was a probable choice so that something I knew he liked could hit the bottom of his tummy.  

He ate two. Picked through french fries. Asked for crackers and a juice box. Dumped most of the juice into my bathroom sink. Stole 4 peanut M&Ms. Gulped down a sippy of milk. 

The evening before, I composed some baked chicken since he dove into it last week. No takers this week. (Well, except Jai. Jai will eat.) He poked at his, then asked for my portion until I bent and pulled off segments from my own drumstick. As he ate, he requested, “Corn? Corn?” We had corn the night previously, which he didn’t want to eat. So, I made green beans instead. For breakfast, he had inhaled the Mickey waffle, the same one ignored the next day. 

I don’t know whether I’m coming or going with this. 

It is becoming difficult to keep track of this list of “what-he-won’t-eats” versus “what-he-wills.” I do know one thing, though: I’m not the maid or a short-order cook. It has taken this nearly one year to embrace that it does not reflect poorly on me if I offer diverse foods and Jrue decides not to eat.   

I don’t force him or bribe him to eat, but I will make alternate suggestions until I give up. It’s not okay to continue to allow him to eat solely from my plate, and I deny him more often than allow now. We substitute smoothies, per his pediatrician, during times when he shrieks against food for two or more meals. We have done the “if you don’t eat this, you won’t eat tonight” game, which doesn’t seem to faze him, but the knowledge and free will is there. The boy is “Slender McSlender,” barely holding onto his 35 pounds, and is much content in evading food when it doesn’t match his…expectations, I suppose?   

The crazier I begin to feel about his eating tendencies, though, the more I have to remember how happy and healthy Jrue is lining his cars up along the sofa cushions and using my hair comb as a bridge. He usually watches me as I eat, which has been instrumental in instituting more vegetables into our dinners as a model. He’s a quiet kid, fun when out of his box, introspective and imaginative at play. I never want to change him based on something that was bothering me, but not bothering him. 

Even something as small as how much food I think is in his tummy.  

The sharp, but genuine advice from an interview I read from BBC Good Food by pediatrician and author Carlos Gonzalez regarding picky eaters pop into mind: “Leave the child alone,” he began. “Fussy eating is not a child problem, it’s a parent problem. The parent is the one who has an abnormal behaviour. Because telling someone ‘finish your veggies’ or ‘a little bit for Dad, a little bit for Granny’ or ‘Brrrr Brrr look at the ‘plane!’ are not normal behaviours. The child cannot change. He cannot say ‘I have decided to eat twice as much from now on, so you, Mum and Dad, will be happy. . .’ Your child is already eating well, it’s you who have to change.” (Barclay, “Carlos Gonzalez: What to do if your child won’t eat”) 

 Work Cited 

Barclay, Lily. “Carlos Gonzalez: What to do if your child won’t eat.” BBC Good Food, n.d., https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/carlos-gonzalos-my-child-wont-eat. Accessed Sep. 27, 2017. 

Photo by Herson Rodriguez on Unsplash

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