What Not to Say to the Parent of a Picky Eater

What NOT to Say to the Parent of a Picky Eater

You know, I’m not really a big fan of all those “what not to say” posts.  Because I think that most of the time people mean well, and the people who don’t mean well are going to keep right on saying whatever they want to anyway.

But hey! There’s a first time for everything, right? And today I feel like ranting about What Not to Say to the Parent (that would be me) of a Picky Eater (that would be William).

So what should you not say?  Probably pretty much anything you are thinking of saying.  Just don’t say it.  Because William is 14, and you can be pretty sure that whatever you are dying to tell me I already know about and it won’t work.  If you want a list:

  1. Don’t tell me he won’t grow or that he will be malnourished.  He is almost 6 feet tall, he’s had his blood checked, he takes a vitamin every day, and I cannot remember a time he had to visit a doctor for an actual illness.
  2. Don’t tell me that if I just don’t give him the food he wants he will eat the other foods I want him to.  There are things that William will NEVER eat.
  3. Don’t tell me to force him to eat vegetables or else.  See above.
  4. Don’t tell me that I’ve spoiled him by not making him eat whatever you think he should eat.  When you have a child who is this picky, you feed him whatever he will eat because he needs calories, even nutritionally inferior calories.
  5. Don’t tell me what YOU would do if you were me.  Let’s make a deal, okay? You do what works for you with your kids, and I’ll do what works for me with mine.

How picky is William?  He won’t eat any vegetables except baby corn cobs.  He won’t eat any fruits.  He likes pasta with salt and pepper, but only angel hair (spaghetti under duress).  He won’t eat hamburgers, pizza, or macaroni and cheese.  He likes crab, canned tuna, most chicken, rice, Asian food, ice cream, milk, some juice, bread, and most (but not all!) sweet things.  This isn’t a complete list, but you get the idea.  William’s pickiness is difficult enough that it has an impact on his life and his family’s.

William has ALWAYS been picky.  This is not my fault.  I did not do anything different with him than I did with my first three kids, who are now grownups who eat pretty much everything, and who were not particularly picky as children.  Shortly after I introduced William to solids, he started spitting out his baby food.  In would go the spoon, then squash (or whatever) would spew through the air.  It didn’t matter what I tried.  Even bananas! What baby doesn’t like those?

It’s a good thing that he was breastfed, because that continued (no lie!) to be his main source of nourishment until he was about two.  For a long time the only things he would eat were butter and sugar sandwiches and he wouldn’t drink cow’s milk unless it was sweetened too.  So really, I look at what he eats now and feel like we’ve come a long way.

I realize now that William wasn’t just going through some kind of phase like I assumed back then, and that this isn’t something that he is growing out of like I’d hoped.  He has actual issues that cause his eating difficulties, and had I realized this back when he was a baby there were likely therapies that could have helped.  But I cannot beat myself up for what I did not know, and now William is an adolescent who can try new foods himself if he decides that he wants to.
NaBloPoMo November 2015

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  1. karyl henry says:

    Wow, that is such a challenge! When I was little I was picky, but nothing to that extent. And for a long time I refused to eat any food that touched. I hope for your sakes that he eventually grows out of it, or at least most of it.

  2. My son can be a picky eater, but your story tops ours! Frustrating doesn’t begin to describe what a picky eater is like! Hugs and prayers to you all!

  3. lrconsiderer says:

    ” So really, I look at what he eats now and feel like we’ve come a long way.” <– there's the triumph, right there. And yes – he can now decide for himself about what he eats.

    This needs to be said more. The whole "Have you tried…" is a disgusting assumption of ineptness, really.

  4. MommyTalk73 says:

    Wow!! He is a picky eater! But yet likes crab? Ha kids are so funny! But my motto is.. He’s eating right? So don’t worry about it!

  5. I am so with you on this. My daughter is the pickiest and is now in her teens. She has not grown out of it. Food began causing her lots of anxiety so I took her to someone to try and find out why. We were actually told somehow as a young child something with the neuro?? in her brain stimulated a bad connection with food and texture. She is working very hard to overcome this so when people make comments it really hurts her. Thank you for sharing this.

    Thank you for playing the pinterest game so I could find you 🙂
    Jennifer

  6. My step kids are all picky eaters, and all are picky over totally different thing. At times it’s driven me to the brink of insanity trying to find meals to cook for them that they will all like. You just have to work with the kids and find out what they like. And when I find what they like, I cook it often! Or, if there’s tomatoes in a salad that one likes but the others don’t, I tell the others to pick the tomatoes out and eat the rest of the salad. 😉

  7. Jenny says:

    Two of my kids aren’t picky and the middle child is picky. I feed them all the same things so it’s definitely just a personal preference by the child.

  8. liferedesign101 says:

    I wouldn’t worry about a picky eater and feed them what they will eat. I think our bodies tell us what not to eat and that many picky eaters have food issues they may not even know about. I know a girl who eats pretty much only white bread and mashed potatoes and plain pasta ( any shape). She is healthy and beautiful. She does take a multivitamin.

  9. It must have been frustrating when he was younger. But who knows, they are finding out a lot about food intolerance (not allergy) these days. When the food is eaten it can make people feel like whatever, weak, tired, headache, brain fog etc. I spent most of my life feeling like that. Now I cut out what some think are essentials and I feel wonderful. All the best William.
    Kathleen
    Fridays Blog Booster Party #31

  10. I have a picky eater too. I just let him eat whatever he wants as long as he’s healthy and he’s not malnourished. My son even smells his food before he eats and if he doesn’t like the smell he won’t eat it.

  11. So frustrating!! Mine tend to go in phases. We have months where they won’t eat anything but cereal and fruit, but it comes and goes. A nutritionist friend gave me a great book that helped me deal with it and gave me some great ideas. It’s called, “How to get your kid to eat, but not too much.” It’s not a cure all, but I totally recommend it to anyone having picky eater problems.

  12. I so get this. My daughter will just plain not eat rather than eat something that she does not like. I grind veggies uber fine and mix them in with sauces and meat and such to fool her into veggies and like you my daughter still is growing despite her picky nature.

  13. I so get this. My daughter will flat out refuse to eat if given something she does not like. I sneak veggies in food. That is he only way she eats them. She has a texture issue and it is difficult.

  14. sara says:

    Yep! Mind your own business. Looks like you are staying positive and being a good mama (:

  15. Agatha says:

    I’ve come across many people who are called picky eaters, but why should we label them as such? It’s not a rule that we should like to eat everything that grows and is reared on our planet. We all have our likes and our dislikes, just like some people like the colour blue while others don’t like it. I think as long as we get all our nutrients and have a balanced diet and are healthy, it doesn’t matter.

    • lesliesholly says:

      I used to worry a lot about William until I had his blood checked. And he takes a vitamin every day, just in case. Every now and then he talks about becoming a vegetarian. That does scare me, because he would have very little left to eat if he did that.

  16. Crystal says:

    My niece is actually in therapy for her ‘picky’ eating. Her tongue has developed properly over time because of sensory processing issues. I also have the kids with encopresis which is also related to SPD oftentimes. I think there is an underlying genetic predispostion to sensory issues that raltes all these things.

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