The famous saying ‘I was the perfect parent before I had children’ rings true to many parents. Judging eyes or unwanted opinions may say things to you like “If that was my child, they’d have to eat it or starve”, or “what that child needs is a good smack!” However, only YOU know what it’s like to manage the children in your home, and it’s never easy when it comes to kids.
Children can wear you down. You are responsible for them 100% of the time and can’t ship them off to be ‘someone else’s problem’ – well not permanently anyway! We are constantly torn between setting our children up for the future the way we think we SHOULD and what we can actually MANAGE without completely exhausting ourselves.
Sometimes all we can muster up is toast for dinner… and that’s OK if it’s the difference between you sobbing uncontrollably in a corner. Your well being as a parent is at the absolute centre of your ability to front up for your children day in and day out. If you are feeling like you’re not coping as a parent, then number one – seek help! But number two… do what you need to keep your head above the water.
Having said that, if we continue to just ‘keep our head above the water’ for a long period of time, habits can form. It’s the same when your children start sharing your bed… if they consistently creep in every night without your redirection, chances are you’ll end up with a permanent bed buddy.
It can seem harmless to make your child an alternative meal for dinner, just to keep the peace, however if you start to see a pattern of this happening every night – they will start to think this is the norm and trying new things is no longer necessary. We make a ‘rod for our own back’, as they say.
Children are very clever. They can quickly work out what they need to do to get their desired outcome. Whether this is motivated by anxiety, fear of the unknown or a negative past experience, these emotions are often enough to outweigh the benefits of stepping outside of their comfort zone and trying something new. No matter how many times we may say “You haven’t even tried it! How do you know you don’t like it!”, the pull of their anxiety is often stronger than our parenting pleas.
Acknowledging our children’s feelings is really important in any situation when our children are distressed. You may think their response is greatly out of proportion, but to them – it’s huge. Having some kindness and compassion can go a long way, as hard as that may be sometimes. Acknowledging that you may like something, but they do not, is understanding their autonomy – their right to their own body including likes, dislikes, opinions and ideas.
There are many strategies we can adopt to help improve mayhem at meal time, however understanding that our own attitudes and emotions will impact heavily on the outcome of each day is imperative. “If we don’t feel right, we can’t think right” – Dr Haim Ginott.
This blog is an excerpt of a book in the making regarding fussy eating. I am teaming up with a Nutritionist to help parents overcome difficulties with their children at meal time. Keep following Key to Kids for further information in 2020.