Okay, now that we’ve gotten them to sit long enough to eat, how do we get them to eat? We have to have clear, consistent rules for any behavioral change to occur. Here is a play by play.
1. If you eat what I’ve put in front of you, you may have a special treat after dinner (cookie, ice cream, etc.).
2. If you do not eat what I’ve put in front of you, there will be no separate meal, you may have a piece of cheese, whole grain crackers, fresh fruit and fresh veggies. Here is the catch: NO special treat. (You must make “special” treat, “special”. If they are eating sugary snacks all day, they won’t care about the special treat. They WILL work for the cookie and eat what is on their plate if they are not eating sugar during the day.)
3. You must try everything on your plate. You don’t have to eat it, but you must try it. This doesn’t mean you get a special treat for trying your dinner- you must eat your entire dinner to get special treat. (Remember: they don’t have to eat it, but they must try it.)
4. If you do not try it, you will sit in time out for two minutes and the time outs get longer from there. (Every time you invite them back to the table you will ask them if they are ready to try their meal. If they are 4 and up, they can go to to their room until they are ready to try the meal (sitting on their bed, no playing or television-if you have television in their room).
5. If they are not willing to try the meal after above punishments, you will get a cheese stick, fruit and cracker meal.
6. If they try the meal but decide they don’t like it, they get cheese stick, fruit and cracker meal without “special treat”.
7. If you come to the table and say “Yuck, that looks gross, is gross, could be gross” or the famous, “I don’t like that”, before a crumb has even touched your lip, that is grounds for an automatic time-out. (When they are invited to come back to the table you must remind them that it is rude to make comments about food that someone else has prepared for them. Food is a blessing.
Do not over pile your child’s plate. A good rule of thumb is one tablespoon of each side dish per year of the child’s age. If they want more, they can always ask for more.
Again, keep in mind that this method takes a long time before things will run smoothly. Studies show that children do not develop a palate for certain foods until at least ten tries.
Also, keep in mind all the benefits down the road, number one: healthy children, number two: one meal, number three: the ability to take your children anywhere and they will eat what is put in front of them.
Do not give in. Do not end up giving them special treat for eating cheese, crackers and fruit. Remember; let them work for the cookie.
We must have endurance. We must also recognize (when you have already established great ground rules) when bending is appropriate. For example: If kids don’t like peppers and the meal is stuffed peppers. Serve just the meat mixture with the whole grain rice smothered in tomato sauce. If they try the pepper, let them slide, and they get special treat. When we are flexible, our children are more willing to accept the consequences when they come their way.