I remember reading something a while ago along the lines of, whenever you think you know or understand something always leave a space next to it in your brain for new information. I’ve probably totally trashed a beautiful quote there and unfortunately, I have absolutely no clue where I saw it, but the sentiment really struck and stayed with me.
I think it’s just very relevant and applicable to kids and parenting – although possibly more specifically something like, don’t for goodness sake assume you are sorted with something, or a particular phase has past, or that, god forbid, you know what you’re doing!
I’ve learnt this the hard way. Daring to utter YES, MINE ALL SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT = instant sleepless nights for weeks on end. Casually sharing with a friend NO, WE DON’T CO-SLEEP, WE’VE NEVER NEEDED TO = the sudden appearance of a toddler in our bed for several months straight.
So, when the other day a Mum responded to what I do with a breezy, “Oh I know loads of people who have fussy eaters, but mine are amazing, they eat everything I feed them, I think they already know they have to as that’s the rules in our house”, I’ll admit, I kind of whispered a little prayer for her.
Her twins are 11 months.
Yes, she could well be one of the extremely rare lucky ones who have children who eat anything and everything from day one and grow into adults who relish food and make healthy choices with gusto.
And I truly so hope this is the case.
But for most children, the truth is that taste, appetite, inclination, concentration change ALL the time. Sometimes predictably (growth spurt, illness, life event etc.) but others apparently randomly.
And if your approach to mealtimes doesn’t allow a little flexibility, doesn’t allow a little room for manoeuver, I’m sorry to say you’re likely going to be in for a bit of a shock.
And sadly too, there is a good chance that this rigidity will inadvertently but oh so gradually turn into a battle of wills, a battle for control, an anxiety-fuelled push for that senselessly coveted clean plate.
And in the process, you will gradually be eroding your child’s enjoyment of food, your connection with your child and their trust in you, and switching off their innate potential to know when they are hungry or full.
Which is why my approach to eating is all about paying attention to what we are teaching our children, to the messages we are sending them about food and their body, and to the ideal future outcome we want for them in terms of their relationship with food.
And yes, it’s also most definitely about flexibility. About always leaving space in our brain for absorbing new information, changing circumstances, and most importantly, what our children are telling us.
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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