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What should I do when my child doesn’t like the dinner menu? Should I fix him something else to eat or tell him that he doesn’t have a choice? Sometimes my son takes one look at something and says that he doesn’t like it; he won’t even try it. What do you do in that situation?
There is no hard and fast answer to this question. Does your son often reject food items without trying them? Does he expect meals catered to his specifications? Do you routinely make him his own meals if he doesn’t like what’s on the plate? The answers to those questions will affect the answer to the one you posed. However … I do have some suggestions.
First, do not allow him to reject a food item without trying it. That inconveniences you far too much, and it will not help your son prepare for the real world. Some children act as if everyone around them is supposed to be a short-order cook. The sooner they learn the truth, the better. Make him eat at least the first bite.
Second, don’t simply take him at his word that he dislikes new foods. Taste is very subjective, but if your child routinely pooh-poohs everything but a few favorites, his “I don’t like this” probably means, “I don’t like this as much as that.”
Third, don’t make a habit of preparing custom meals. If you do that while a child is young, it can be difficult to break that cycle later. Every once in awhile is OK. But for the most part, dinner is what you put on the plate.
Fourth, use some mild punishments to discourage picky eating. I’m not advocating spanking or serious grounding for children who don’t like cauliflower, but in most cases a child’s dislike of a food is not really that big a deal. He doesn’t want to eat it, but if you force the issue, he probably will. Statements such as, “If you don’t eat those beets, you won’t get dessert today or tomorrow” can help you assess whether your child is simply being picky, or whether beets truly put him off his feed.
Fifth, feel free to make substitutions that suit you, not him. If your son doesn’t want his green beans and you have leftover peas and carrots, go ahead and offer him a veggie swap. But when you put vegetables on the plate, let him know that he is expected to consume something from that food group.
Sixth, show some compassion. Yes, kids need to eat their vegetables. And you as a parent sometimes need to stop catering to a little bully and make him eat what you give him, even if he doesn’t like it. But if you know your son genuinely hates mushrooms – in other words, he’s willing to go hungry rather than eat them – stop making them for him. Prepare something else, or make two types of veggies and offer everyone a choice.
If a child bites you, should you bite back? Does it teach them not to bite, or does it just teach an eye for an eye?
Even advocates of corporal punishment rarely suggest biting as a disciplinary tool. Some mothers do get frustrated and bite their children. However, such actions generally represent a knee-jerk reaction, driven by pain and anger. If they took a minute to think about it, few of those parents would choose to bite back, and for good reason.
Any punishment is at risk of eye-for-an-eye interpretation if administered foolishly. If parents who spank only use that punishment when a child hits, that child could easily assume that the taking of an eye justifies another eye. But if they also get spanked for using bad language or stealing, it looks and feels like a punishment.
Few parents will resort to biting as a punishment for, say, failing to feed the dog. Any punishment that cannot fit into an organized system of discipline is counterproductive. In addition, biting is both intensely personal and emotional, not good qualities for a disciplinary tool.
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