How to Handle Child Nutrition Critics
This article comes to us from guest blogger and child-feeding expert; Kristen Yarker .
In my world of being a child-feeding and nutrition expert, I’m asked questions by parents all day, every day. Trust me, I’ve heard it all! But there’s one question that causes me to have a sad heart. It’s when parents ask me how to handle the parenting and food critics. In other words, how to get others on-board with supporting your picky eater to try new food.
For example, here’s what this Mom in the Baby Sleep 101 community asked:
My in-laws just left and I got “the look” when we didn’t try to force [son’s name] to eat or to sneak food in. My Mother-in-Law just kept saying “there are ways to get food in, sneak it in. You have to sneak it in, or just give him whatever he wants”.
Why does this question cause me so much distress?
One reason is that I know how worrying, frustrating, and guilt-inducing it is when kids are being picky eaters. Having a child refuse to eat the food you make for them strikes a deep nerve. Parents, especially Moms, confess to me that it makes them feel like a failure as a mother. When they reach out to me they’re being incredibly brave. They’re admitting that things aren’t going well. And, they’re seeking help. While they know that I’m an expert, it takes trust to make the changes that I recommend – to change routines and create new family rules. What these parents need is support; not for those who matter most to them to question their decisions. To hear that they aren’t being supported during this difficult time breaks my heart.
The other reason that I’m stressed when people ask me this question is that I don’t have a clear path to improvement. I’m an expert in child-feeding – not extended family relations. What I can do is share with you three strategies that clients have found to be successful:
- Family heart-to-heart. Do you have a family where you can openly discuss your feelings? If so, create a time to sit down (without the kids in earshot) to discuss the situation. Acknowledge that the other person’s parenting choices worked for them. But, that you’re choosing this method. And, it would mean a lot to you to receive their support.
- Use the Expert. Feel free to blame it on me – I can take it! A number of clients have shared my website, book, and/or weekly emails with their critics to convince them that these methods have value. Sometimes it opens up critics’ minds to know that these techniques come from an expert.
- Water off a duck’s back. To paraphrase Danielle LaPort (whose wisdom I enjoy): “Wide open heart. Big f@#king fence.” In other words, not everyone is able to be supportive of you. Whole heartedly love those whom you choose. And keep the others on the far side of the fence. Unfortunately we can’t control others’ behaviour. We need to accept them for who they are. Thank them for their concern for your child (because they’re likely acting out of the best of intentions and love for your child). And then let it go. Yes, this may mean that there is one set of rules when the kids are at grandma’s house and a different set of rules at home. Don’t worry. Kids are smart – they’ll figure it out.
Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD
Helping Moms and Dads support their picky eaters to try new foods on their own (without being forceful or sneaky)