Our children are not picky eaters. A few of them want to be, but it’s simply not allowed in our house.
I think our children are generally content to eat what is served to them because we usually follow these guidelines:
- Do not allow children to request alternate meals if they don’t like what’s being served. A child might be allowed to have bread and milk if I’m serving something I know she dislikes, but not a separate meal.
- Do not get their approval before you prepare a meal. I often solicit their input, but they understand that the final choice is not theirs.
- Don’t assume that your children will dislike all the foods that you dislike. To make that assumption is to encourage pickiness.
- Don’t avoid serving the foods you dislike. As above, this teaches and encourages children to assume that they will dislike certain foods.
- Make sure your children know that even if there are certain foods you dislike, you will continue to try them regularly to see if your tastes have changed. I use this as an opportunity to express regret that I haven’t yet learned to appreciate that particular blessing of God, but hope to someday. Except for raw onions and sushi. They’re just gross. Hubby wants me to add liver to the list of Gross Foods That Don’t Deserve to be Retried, as well the list of Foods That Will Never Be Served At Our Table.
- Likewise, expect or require your children to try foods that they claim to dislike. They don’t need to eat a full serving, but they need to be humble enough to admit that they might actually have been mistaken when they were 3yo and decided that green vegetables were abominable.
- Do not allow them to announce freely which foods they don’t like and their negative opinions of the food before them and before others. This is a courtesy issue. If they don’t care for what is served, they may politely decline. They may not announce that the food looks gross, smells gross, and/or tastes gross. Unless somebody is serving sushi. Or liver.
- Do not bring “backup food” to friends’ homes when you are invited just in case your friends serve something your children don’t like. Of course you might want to bring food when you are invited to dine at a friend’s home and you’ll probably want to bring something that your children like, but don’t let this turn into a child-centered decision. Here again, a child may politely decline and let the host assume that she is not hungry. The host doesn’t need to know how the child feels about her Bolivian Green Bean and Tomato Curry.
- Do not keep children so full of snack foods that they are never hungry at mealtime. Beggars can’t be choosers, but a full belly can be very choosy indeed.
- Avoid serving a sweet drink with every meal: juice, koolaid, soda, sweet tea.
All of our children have likes and dislikes, but they have generally learned not to be ruled by their own preferences, and this is one way to become less self-centered. None of these are hard fast rules, and there are probably situations where each guideline should be tossed down the garbage disposal but these general practices have worked for us.
Obviously, allergies and special dietary needs will create special situations – but the point is for children to learn to be thankful for God’s provision and courteous to those who serve them. And adults too. I despise olives, but I try them regularly just in case my taste changes, and I eat them graciously when they are served to me. I just swallow quickly and drink a lot of water.