Imagine that you popped over to my house for a cuppa and I put a plate of snacks in front of you.
And then instead of saying, “Here, help yourself!” I said, “Look at this yummy food I’ve got for you, try it! Have some! Just one little bite, go on, I’ll give you a sticker!”
Aside from thinking I was plain bonkers, what else would you think?
Probably something along the lines of…well, I thought it just looked like a plate of biscuits but I’m not so sure now. There must be something pretty gross about it that I hadn’t spotted. I wasn’t that hungry anyway but I’m definitely not now.
You’d be highly suspicious, right? And immediately tag that food as something that’s likely to be horrible, something to be wary of.
And yet, this is the advice most commonly given to parents of fussy eaters.
In fact, I came across an article the other day entitled ‘Psychologists may have found the key to making kids try new foods’. It cited a recent study that had successfully used this ‘exposure’ method coupled with positive attention with two autistic children with severe food aversions.
But here’s just three of the reasons why this kind of article soo frustrates me:
>>>>The implication is that this approach based on a sample of TWO very EXTREME children is therefore applicable to ALL children. It is NOT. Unless your child has a medical condition or is losing significant weight there is absolutely no NEED to enforce a strict ‘tasting’ rule, and in fact, I strongly question the effectiveness of doing so for long-term eating habits.
>>>>Rewarding, persuading, bribing, pleading, begging, demanding that your child tastes or tries something does not ‘teach’ them to like it in the long run. Quite the opposite, in fact.
>>>>Advocating this kind of approach to ‘get’ children to eat is based on out-dated parenting methods. In my book it is just as disrespectful to use such methods with our children as it is with our friends or other adults. Children are not a sub-standard species, they have merely spent a little less time on the planet than us.
Which is why I never advise my clients to INSIST that their children ‘try’ or ‘taste’ anything.
Yes, definitely keep offering; offer as much variety as you can and have the energy for. Yes, definitely keep modelling; enjoy eating as much variety in front of your kids as you can.
But please, please, let’s stop forcing them to ‘taste’ and just let them explore and enjoy food independently and in their own good time.