FUSSY EATER MYTH #4: CHILDREN REFUSE TO TRY NEW FOODS BECAUSE THEY ARE STUBBORN OR ‘TESTING’ BOUNDARIES
Without doubt children have very different personalities and some are much more on the feisty end of the scale than others, but this is NOT directly related to refusing to try or eat a particular food. Passive, laid back children can be just as fussy when it comes to food as extremely big characters. In fact, some estimates now suggest that around 50% of children will be identified as ‘fussy’ at some point.
And here’s one of the main reasons why…
At around 18 months it is extremely common for children to develop a degree of what psychologists refer to as neophobia, fear of new foods. It is thought to be the remnants of a survival instinct to keep newly mobile neanderthal toddler safe from eating new foods such as berries that could potentially have been poisonous.
So, they are not being stubborn but just protecting themselves – and as annoying as it is, it’s also pretty clever!
Some of the forms that neophobia can take include refusal of any food that:
>> They have not been seen before
>> They have had before but that looks slightly different e.g. different packaging, different type or shape cracker, different colour jelly
>> Looks like something they tasted once and disliked
>> Is broken (e.g. biscuit) or has black or brown specks in it e.g. Burnt toast or banana seeds
>> Is mixed together so they can’t see what it is made up of
>> Is touching or contaminated by a food that they don’t like
>> Looks like something disgusting e.g. spaghetti because it looks like worms or I remember my son refusing to eat a rice cake because he could ‘see’ a spider in it.
So when you understand WHY this behaviour is happening and that your child is not being ‘difficult’ but is genuinely afraid and unable to explain or understand it themselves, it makes it a LITTLE easier to tolerate!
The good news is that these fears tend to pass by around age 6.
The bad news is that if we are unprepared for this stage and are unsure how to handle it, we can easily make it worse and BECOME a longer-term problem. This is particularly the case if it causes significant parental tension and stress and the child starts to feel controlled or to associate strong emotions with mealtimes or particular foods.
HI! I'M DR. NICOLA FARR
I'm a mama of 3 and a parenting coach specialising in picky eating and mealtime stress.
I'm passionate about inspiring parents to enjoy mealtimes & help their children develop a healthy long-term relationship with food.
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