Sometimes the best thing to say when your fussy eater refuses a food or pushes a food away is...(drumroll please)... nothing at all.
Hear me out on this one, we know (firsthand) since we too have used these well meaning words to get our fussy eaters to at least try a new food.
"just try it I know you will like it"
"two bites of your broccoli and you can have dessert"
"remember you had this at grandma's house and liked it"
"its so yummy you have to try it!"
"your brother likes it, why don't you eat it?"
Does this sound familiar? I am yet to meet a parent who has succeeded in introducing a new food to their child's diet through pressure. "My mom bribed me to try broccoli and now I love it! Said no child ever.
So why do we do it?
Was it Einstein who said: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result".
Bribery or persuasion can work in the short term, for example, your child may be persuaded to take a bite of their broccoli to get dessert, but it still won't make your child learn to like broccoli.
What is the alternative?
If you have been using the well-meaning strategy of persuasion to get you fussy eater to try more foods at dinner, try this instead - eat your words and don't comment. The reasoning behind this is that we need a complete reset so that your child will not associate mealtimes with pressure at all.
Once you feel your child is more relaxed at mealtimes (you will also be!), start to bring a different vocabulary to the dinner table.
A different vocabulary to bring to the table:
Eat the food that you would like your child to try and comment on what it looks, feels, smells, sounds and tastes like. Avoid using words like "yummy" or "it is so delicious!" and instead just focus on the sensory properties of the food.
This is so important because it helps your child to learn about what it will feel like in their mouth once they decide to eat it. In other words, it makes them more comfortable and confident to try the food.
"this mashed pumpkin is soft, sweet and smooth"
"this carrot is crunchy and sounds loud when I chew it"
"this chicken is salty and I had to chew it ten times!"
This capsicum has a smooth layer of skin on the outside and is juicy and sweet on the inside"
"this asparagus has a little flower at the very tip! The top is soft and the stalk is hard and crunchy"
Once you have made the comment you could ask your child if they would like to describe the food based on what it looks/feels/smells/sounds or tastes like.
Don't ask your child to eat the food and move on if there is resistance. Doing this consistently at mealtimes will make your child curious to try the food or at least engage with the food that they are so good at ignoring!
Food play away from mealtimes is a great way to help your fussy eater move past the fear of trying a new food. Be sure to read more about it on our previous blog posts and follow us on Instagram for lots of food play ideas.
You've got this!