CNN has a story today about a new scientific study that attempts to solve the eternal mystery of picky eaters. After following 300 families for five years, researchers found that demanding a child eat healthy foods and restricting unhealthy foods actually makes things worse. According to Dr. Megan Pesch, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician and senior author of the study, “Eating is one of the few domains kids can exert some control over,” so trying to regulate it in any way will cause them to push back and become pickier.
I’ve been doing my own “scientific” research on picky eating for the past 12 years on account of my youngest son, who, I am sure, is playing a long game meant to destroy me. Here are some of the things that do not help a child’s pickiness:
- Limiting junk food. If you want kids to do their chores, you need to give them an allowance, which they will spend on junk food. For those of you who are all, “In my day we did chores for nothing!” our kids have the internet to share information amongst themselves, and consequently, they have organized. There is now a union minimum for chore labor, and if it is not met, they strike. I have two kids; even if one has been doing his chores without incident, the moment the possibility of allowance withholding is mentioned, there is a full work stoppage in solidarity. Let this be a lesson to you all: Never teach your children the truth about capitalism, because they will use what they learn against you. (This applies to literally everything you teach your children.)
- Forcing them to eat their vegetables. Just last night we had dinner outside, and I told my kid he was not allowed back in the house until he ate one grilled carrot, four pieces of asparagus, and four pieces of zucchini. Within ten minutes, he “accidentally” dropped all the vegetables on the floor. Since I’ve been running this “experiment” for 12 years, I procured another plate with one carrot, four pieces of asparagus, and four pieces of zucchini. He sat outside, at the table, for three hours. He finally ate the zucchini, said he liked them, then said the rest of the vegetables were cold so he wasn’t eating them. I was faced with two options: stick to my original demands and let him stay up late, or cave into the fact it was an hour past his bedtime and send him inside without eating the vegetables. He’d gamed me again, just because he could.
- Feeding your kids a variety of foods when they’re young. As I learned with both my children, after they turn five, they will suddenly despise every food you’ve ever fed them and crave nothing but McDonald’s.
- Cooking with your kids. They’ll enjoy making it, but god help you if you think for a second that they’ll eat it. They’ll say, “I made it for you, because I love you,” then go make themselves a plain cheese sandwich.
- Every piece of advice on curing picky eating that has ever been written. Scientists, psychologists, mommy bloggers—they all peddle lies. You do not “feed” your children. You engage in a psychotic game of twelve-dimensional chess that you will lose even when you win. Every child is unique, and every one of them has developed a unique plan to reduce your brain to putrid goo so that they can play all the Fortnite they want.
Were any of you picky eaters? What made you stop?