For this month’s Munchkin Meals, I wanted to chat a little bit about the differences I’ve seen with food between Hailey (3 1/2) and Kaitlyn (11 months). With both girls, I used the baby led weaning method (the kindle version of my book is on super sale right now for a limited time!)
Hailey took to eating solid foods like a dream. She ate a variety of foods and, in fact, I’m not sure if there was much of anything she wouldn’t eat around one year of age. She never went through much of a picky phase besides some power struggles here and there, which I eliminated with the beautiful phrase “You don’t have to eat it.” I subscribe to the method of the parent (me) choosing what I serve and when, while giving my child the ability to choose if she eats and how much. It’s worked pretty beautifully for us.
Over the years I’ve received countless questions and emails from parents of children who didn’t take so easily to solids. I gave out my best advice, but honestly, it was hard for me to relate. Until now.
Kaitlyn is naturally much more discerning about her food choices. She’ll sort her food and select only the pieces she likes (usually fruit) or purposefully toss the offending foods down for Koda (the dog) to enjoy. However, despite these tendencies, I won’t call her picky, and this is why.
First and foremost, labeling a person as anything automatically puts them into a box. Not only does that person hear their label and often start to believe and abide by it, but others treat that person according to the label.
To make that less abstract, if Kaitlyn grows up hearing me call her picky, then she will assume that she is and eat as though she is. If I call her picky then I also will act accordingly and alter the foods I give to her to try and accommodate her preferences. I know this is true because I’ve caught myself doing it occasionally over the past few months. I’ve used the label in my head as a crutch and am now making a conscious effort to change that behavior.
I don’t believe that a child exhibiting a certain behavior at a given time is indicative of how they are as a person or will always be. Hailey having tantrums did not mean she was a bratty child; it just was a phase of behavior at a certain point in her ever-evolving life. She had to learn to understand what she was feeling and learn to express it in a more effective way. The key word being she had to learn.
Some children take naturally to eating healthy food. Others may take time to learn, just as children take time to learn other things- how to fall asleep on their own, how to get dressed, how to go potty. I didn’t label Hailey as ‘doesn’t know how to use the potty’ when she was transitioning out of pull-ups; instead I used the verbiage she was ‘learning’ how to go potty. The same is true for Kaitlyn’s eating habits. I don’t think tossing an avocado or a green bean on the floor is sentencing her to a life of assumed kid food of chicken nuggets and mac ‘n cheese; instead, she is learning about the food that we eat in our house. My job as mom is to keep our value of good food consistent.
All this being said, I am not above the frustration of watching food being fed to the dog. I get how incredibly annoying that is, and like I mentioned, I caught myself mentally choosing to not put certain foods on her tray to avoid that outcome. However taking a closer look at the situation, I’m adjusting my behavior. I want continue to expose her to a variety of foods without superimposing my expectations on the situation.
So I’m back to putting chicken on her plate and even some of the cabbage slaw too because kids are always surprising us. Last night, watching us eat it, Kaitlyn downed a couple bites of her slaw too. A good reminder for me to drop my assumptions of what she will and will not eat. This doesn’t mean she has to eat and love every vegetable ever, we all have our preferences, but consistency and patience is certain to pay off. I’ll report back.