I’m Proud My Kids Are Great Eaters But I Would Never Judge You For Your Picky Kid

shutterstock_143149798As parents, we all have struggles in raising our kids. Anyone who says they do not struggle with parenting in some fashion is either delusional or lying. As a mother, I pride myself on my ability to see my kids and the way I parent them with completely clear vision. I know their flaws, I know their strengths and I know my own as well. I am the first one to point out when I have done something wrong in parenting and I am also the first to notice if my kids are acting a fool. That said, my kids are absolutely fabulous eaters but I would never judge you for your picky kid.

I am not sure my husband and I did anything special to make our kids so open to trying new foods. We are not picky eaters ourselves and we love to cook and eat a variety of things but I know plenty of parents who fit that description as well and their kids are still very picky. We do not ascribe to the clean plate rule but we do ask that they try at least one bite of a food they are iffy on. All pretty standard-issue parenting, nothing out of the ordinary. Our kids both love to eat and rarely turn anything down and at ages five and nearly seven, have yet to hit even a brief picky phase. We have not looked at a kid’s menu since they were toddlers and they will eat things smothered in onions, spicy sauces and other traditionally non-kid items on a regular basis. Of course, they still love chicken nuggets and pizza, because hello, chicken nuggets and pizza, but they are every bit as willing to try beef stew or sausage, peppers and onions. I am very proud of this fact because of course, there are areas of parenting where we were not so lucky.

Our five year old son refused to sleep in his own bed for a long time and also, did not hit more than a five-hour stretch of sleep without waking until he was almost a year old. He nursed like crazy for the first 15 months of his life and refused a bottle. I took plenty of flack for these things with people telling me with complete certainty that THIS was how I could fix it and would proceed with a litany of tips to put a stop to the insanity. I used to listen politely but after some time, I began to bristle at all of the “advice” because none of it worked and only served to make me feel worse about my parenting and my son’s behavior.

After this experience, I would NEVER judge a parent for something their child was refusing to do because I know how frustrating it is and how much of it is truly out of our control. It is none of my business and it is not my place to give unsolicited advice on dealing with your picky eater just like it was no one’s place to tell me how to get my son to sleep. And to be honest, even if asked for advice on picky eaters, I’m not sure I would have any since I believe my kids were, for the most part, born this way.

We all struggle enough with parenting without facing the judgement from our brethren for things out of our control. I will proudly watch my kids consuming pasta drenched in pesto with a big portion of salad but I will not judge yours for nibbling a pickle and a cheese stick at dinner. It is my belief that so many of these things are the luck of the draw and I will just sit back and consider myself fortunate for the aspects that are going well and hope that no one will judge me too harshly for my failures.

(Image: Nina Buday/Shutterstock)

You can reach this post’s author, Valerie Williams, on Twitter or via e-mail at mommyishvalerie@gmail.com

You can reach this post's author, Valerie Williams, on twitter.
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    • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

      I am a formerly picky kid. Like, I didn’t try cheesecake until I was 24 because the idea of cheese in cake disgusted me. My mom watches me eat now and just shakes her head.

      Anyway, picky eaters are going to be picky. My mom tried everything. She tried keeping me at the table until I ate. She tried strong-arming me into eating. I even went so far as to sometimes throw up the food that I didn’t like. I have kind of a highly sensitive gag reflex, and the taste of things I didn’t like triggered it. Also, I was probably more than a little dramatic. She fought that fight her whole life, until I was teen and she let me eat what I want, and hates that she wasted all the effort.

      I have a try a bit rule, myself. Try a bit of everything, even things you didn’t like before, because tastes change over time. But beyond that, if you truly don’t like it, I don’t push you. And while we do have to eat a certain amount before any snacks or dessert are discussed, you’re more than welcome to say you are full and come back to it later when you are hungry. I just figure my kids won’t let themselves starve, you know?

      • Valerie

        My good friend has a son with a bad gag reflex and it made feeding him so difficult. It really opened my eyes to the fact that not all kids who are picky have a parent enabling them and making it worse. There are so many reasons for it beyond a kid just being a brat. :-)

      • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

        I would like to clarify: I could also be a brat about it. But it definitely wasn’t because my mom enabled it. Like most cases, she tried her best. ;)

      • Linzon

        My older son inherited his dad’s sensitive gag reflex and it can make trying new things a nightmare. He loves eggs. He loves mayonnaise. He loves bread. He gagged so hard after trying an egg salad sandwich at grandma’s house that he threw up. Agh!

      • Spongeworthy

        My husband fully admits that he was a picky eater as a kid. I think it was mostly that he wasn’t very adventurous, combined with not being exposed to a wide variety of foods. Now though? He eats anything and everything. So I’m not going to sweat it too much in my kid if he doesn’t want to eat everything right now. And yea, a kid isn’t going to starve himself.

      • Amber Leigh Wood

        I was the picky eater too… I have this weird thing with texture, to this day I can’t eat a strawberry because the seeds on the outside freak me out. We did a test once and I like the taste of strawberries (i peeled them) but can’t deal with the seeds lol.
        Also today my son is the ultimate picky eater, he has a head cold and is refusing food, so spent his day living on biscuits and fruit, but I’m just happy he’s eating something!

      • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

        I think a good bit of mine is texture too. LIke I hate the feel of coconut, but love the extract or flavoring. Same with onions–I hate the feel of onions, but I’ll pour on the onion powder…

      • K2

        I was a very picky eater, and not at all because of bad parenting. Like you, my parents tried everything. I sat at the table for ages watching my food get cold because I just could not eat it! I’d have hurled. I used to gag a lot too, and it wasn’t some kind of act. I still can’t eat certain things like the fatty bits on meat.. Or bits that are squishy/soft. I think at some point they let up, though still find me irksome sometimes ;) And I am way, way less picky now!

      • http://overthecuckoonest.blogspot.com/ Wicked Prophet Kay Sue

        I think it gets better with age, so I hope parents of picky eaters find some comfort there. I feel you on the squishy bits–I hate those…

    • keelhaulrose

      Yeah, I’m that mom who uses ketchup to get her kid to eat. You name it, I’ve probably put ketchup on/in it (including soup, don’t ask). It’s the only way to get Little One to eat anything (except American cheese. American cheese works as well as ketchup, but is less portable). The funny thing is she’s not picky as long as there’s ketchup on it. Fish, lima beans, salad… they’ve all be consumed.
      I would never judge another parent for a picky kid. Their nutrition is between them and their doctor, and it’s not up to me to say if a kid is getting the right amount of whatever they need.

      • Valerie

        Right on. And my kids both love ketchup on so many things. Because hello, ketchup. :-)

      • Spongeworthy

        If she’s eating the stuff under the ketchup, I’d say that’s just fine :)

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      • mediocrity511

        When my Grandpa was diagnosed with cancer, he was told ketchup is a good source of lycopene, which helps fight cancer. So he was putting it everything. So, there can be health benefits!

      • Kelly

        Hey, if a little ketchup will get a kid to eat something healthy, I think it’s brilliant. It makes the healthy food seem normal and most kids eventually grow out of the ketchup on everything phase.

        I have a relative who will shake a tiny amount of rainbow colored sprinkles on food to get their daughter to eat. She’s gobble down vegetables if they have edible glitter on them so it seems like a good solution to me.

      • AugustW

        I started putting ketchup on mac-n-cheese as a way to quickly cool it down to kid eating temperature.

      • C.J.

        At least there is food under the ketchup. My neighbour used to let her kid eat plates of just ketchup. They came to a birthday party at our house and let the kid eat a half a bottle of ketchup for dinner. It was a good thing I had another bottle in the cupboard.

      • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

        If it gets the food in the belly, it’s worth it.

    • Obladi Oblada

      I’ve gotten the ‘picky eater’ schtick with my son before. He has a few severe food allergies that require an epi-pen to be carried at all times. Because he has to avoid these things and all things that might contain these things he sometimes gets labeled as a picky eater. He lets it roll off and for the most part I do too but sometimes it gets the best of me.

      • Katherine Handcock

        Please tell me the people who are labeling your son a picky eater don’t know he has food allergies…please. I need some faith in humanity to go about my daily business!

      • Obladi Oblada

        Only after we tell them. ;)

      • ChickenKira

        Sorry to be this person, but it doesn’t get any better as you get older either.
        I’m allergic to raspberries, not anaphylactic, but my lips swell, my face becomes covered in hives and my eyelids swell, but my airways stay normal, luckily. I’m 25 years old and people STILL label me as a picky eater when I ask “Do these muffins have raspberries in them?” “When you say berry pancakes, which berries do you mean?” or “Can I have one without the raspberry sauce?”

    • Kate

      Love this (well, I am totally jealous but love the non-judgy aspect!) :) Ha ha. I have one picky eater and one who will eat anything as long as it came from Mama’s plate first. Seriously, I should be skinny because my daughter steals all of my food (somehow I am managing to keep this baby weight on, however!) :) Same parents, same food, same dinner table rules. And two kids with wildly different palates and tolerances for new foods. So I am chalking this all up to biology and wiring and calling it a day. I have bigger fish to fry (ha ha! pun intended!) than getting my panties in a bunch over my kids eating (or non-eating) habits! And I haven’t the time to judge others for this either!

    • Spongeworthy

      My kid goes in stages…some weeks he’ll eat whatever, other weeks not so much. I’m not sweating it too much, as he is growing and has tons of energy. The bigger thing for him is that he never seems to eat much in one sitting. He’s more of a grazer. He usually eats fruit as his between-meals snacks, so I don’t mind really, but he’s just never been one to sit down and put away a ton of food in one sitting. He’ll have a few bites, then say he’s done. I don’t push it, because I don’t want him to stuff himself just so he “cleans his plate”. And he doesn’t ask for junk food after, so it isn’t a ploy to get out of eating his meal. He just doesn’t eat a ton at one time.

    • Lilly

      I also have a good eater but I have always attributed it to dumb luck.
      I do think that there is a point when enabling the pickiness can cause the problem to get worse, I see friends who short order cook for their kids and as such the kids know that they can get what they want just by complaining. I have another friend who doesn’t do this even though she has a picky eater (she tries to always have a reliably eaten item or adds cheese/ketchup) and I she her daughter is slowly becoming a bit more adventurous.in her eating.
      For me that is a more effective response to dealing with pickiness (but my sample size is like 3 families so what do I know).

    • Use

      So much yes

    • Ursi

      I don’t judge picky kids but I can’t help shaking my head at adults. But I eat everything put in front of me, I can think of one or two things I won’t eat in the whole wide world of food and even then if someone makes it and offers it to me I won’t say no because you can’t not eat what’s put in front of you. I wasn’t raised to do otherwise.

      We have a picky adult eater that never grew out of picky child eater in my family that I sometimes cook for. Things picky adult will not eat:

      onions, mushrooms, carrots, peas, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, hamburger meat, any fruit except apples, whole grain bread, rice(!!), chickpeas, couscous, quinoa, green beans, chicken unless boneless, pork chops, ribs, steak, olives, green peppers, almonds, walnuts… to name a few

      Please do not let your child become this person. This person lives on a steady diet of sandwiches and cereal.

      • shainamaydel

        I’m a picky eating adult (although much more mild than your cousin, it seems). I think there are many reasons for it–partly my parents’ fault (they figured it was a phase and didn’t do anything to help, and made me feel embarrassed about it as I got older), partly my nature (i do think i am super-sensitive to certain flavors, especially bitter, and spices like pepper), and partly just that I’ve eaten this way my whole life and it’s hard to change. I do believe with early intervention I might have conquered some of my issues, but at this point I’m pretty comfortable with my diet and it would be really hard to fix.

        But! I go out of my way to NOT give picky eaters a bad name. I’d rather go hungry or bring my own food than force someone to cater to me. I look up menus beforehand and won’t go to a restaurant if there’s nothing I’ll eat without many changes, because i don’t want the waiters/chefs to hate me. Etc. I only eat three vegetables and no red meat, shellfish, or pig products (I’m Jewish), but i’m actually really healthy, happy, and not overweight, so it’s not the worst thing in the world!

      • Katherine Handcock

        It’s a totally different deal to me when you don’t let your food preferences affect others.

        And to be honest, you might be surprised at the change you could make to your diet – if you decide you want to at some point. My husband grew up with very bland eating, and there were a lot of things he didn’t like/wouldn’t eat when we got married. But over time, he challenged himself with one things after another, and now he’s pretty omnivorous. But honestly, if the only person it’s affecting is you, and you’re healthy, in the end it doesn’t matter.

      • BexleyS

        My husband was exactly the same! His diet consisted of red meat and bread when we met. I was vegetarian so he had to branch out a bit. Now he’s realised that I’m a terrible cook and he is actually much better than me, there’s not much that he won’t eat. Even now when he goes to his mum’s she’ll say “oh he doesn’t like that” and my response every time is “I don’t put up with fussy eaters : )” How can you tell your children to try things when one parent won’t touch vegetables for example!?!

      • the_ether

        I’ve done that! I discovered that my hatred of asparagus stemmed from being served tinned stuff – fresh asparagus, lightly grilled, or tempura’d and put on sushi, is crisp and delicious. Still can’t do raw onion though.

      • http://wtfihaveakid.blogspot.ca/ jendra_berri

        I was picky as a young adult and not eating veggies was due, I think, to canned veg as a kid. It’s truly the worst way to eat produce. Bleh. Fresh? Yum!
        And I taught myself to like various things by drenching them in sauces I like until I grew accustomed to them.

      • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

        I have a relative who will (apparently) literally only eat meat and potatoes, and corn but only if it’s off the cob. But it can’t be fresh corn that you cut off a cob, it has to be frozen or canned that comes off the cob already.

      • Alexandra

        And this person has scurvy? Geez I’d die (probably literally) with that diet!

      • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

        Wellll….not to gossip, but he did have a (not fatal) heart attack quite young.

        I’m assuming he takes vitamins???? I have no idea. I only see him once a year at most, and true to form, I’ve never seen him eat a vegetable other than corn. I have thought that people must be exaggerating when they say he doesn’t eat any veg but I’ve been told it’s no exaggeration.

    • mediocrity511

      I think it’s a matter of proportion. We had a family friend’s child who would only eat marmite sandwiches on white bread,no butter and the crusts cut off, or chicken nuggets. We fed him Quorn nuggets once, because we’re vegetarian and he wolfed them down. Of course when he found out it wasn’t chicken he said it was disgusting! But he was a very spoiled child and his pickiness stemmed from that. But it was his parent’s choice, it just meant they were less likely to get invited along on days out with us because all the kids would end up hungry and grumpy while we hunted for somewhere that served his food.
      We were allowed up to five foods that we didn’t like and therefore didn’t have to eat. It was a good system because it allowed us to avoid things we genuinely didn’t like, but we couldn’t be unreasonable about it and say we disliked everything.

    • Katherine Handcock

      I’ve got one of each right now – an “I’ll try/eat anything” kid and a “no thanks, I’m good with three bites of bagel and some milk” kid. Nice to read an article like this :-)

      Honestly, the only time picky eating really bothers me is when people make it affect others. Once a kid isn’t an infant/toddler and COULD eat what everyone else is eating (say, at a party or something), I don’t like it when request something special for the kid. I’d rather tell my kids, “Well, this is what’s here; when we get home we can make you a sandwich.”

      Also, I laugh at some people I know who declare their kids are SO picky — but they go to daycares or schools that provide lunches/snacks, and eat whatever’s in front of them there. That’s a real giveaway about whether a kid is genuinely picky, or whether it’s become a case of “can I convince Mom and Dad to make me what I want again?”

    • Kelly

      I admit I judge sometimes. I have a friend with a son who will only eat pizza. He’s 13 now, still eats pizza every day. I keep my mouth shut but I can’t help but think she’s hurting his health by catering to his demands. It’s not like he eats a varied diet otherwise, just pizza, pop tarts and fast food. It has to be affecting him.

      I think it’s ridiculous. He couldn’t eat pizza every single day of his life if she didn’t provide it and I don’t believe he’d starve to death. He spent a weekend with me and didn’t get pizza once. Guess what? He ate food that weekend. He even decided he liked broccoli but went right back to pizza and pop tarts as soon as he got home. It’s sad.

      • guest

        Unfortunately, you may be right and she very well could be hurting his health. My son was very picky, and as the kids got older I got less vigilant about what he ate. At 20 he was diagnosed with fatty liver, a direct result of unhealthy eating. We have now been trying to reverse this, and he’s doing pretty good on eating healthier, but his liver has still not returned to normal. If I could go back and do it over again of course I would, what they eat really can impact their health, and at an early age too. It’s scary, and I have a lot of guilt because I should have been more aware and not allowed it to get to this.

      • Kelly

        I’m so sorry your family is going through that. I hope your son’s health improves.

        This is exactly the kind of thing I fear. I know my friend would be devastated if her son became ill over his diet and I hate to think of him being sick, he’s a nice kid. I’m sure you love your son very much and we all have things we wish we could go back and change. Please don’t be too hard on yourself. You know now and you’re supporting his healthy changes. That’s a wonderful thing.

      • guest

        Thank you very much, I really appreciate your kind words.

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    • melena gasper

      Some kids (like both of mine) have sensory issues and eating is often a really overwhelming experience. We serve a lot of single texture foods and practice “food chaining” to expose them to new things, but it’s a pretty big challenge. They’re little yet, but my 3yo has expanded her palette to about 30 foods. I think there are probably children whose pickiness is a result of parenting, but it’s good to keep in mind that there also might be an underlying neurological or medical reason

    • ILoveJellybeans

      My four are all different-I have one who eats everything, and I have yet to find a food she doesn’t like (and she absolutely loves vegetables), one who has a huge appetite but hates vegetables, one who used to be very picky but now likes vegetables and eats most things, and one who is very picky. She used to eat only chicken nuggets, plain cheese pizza, sausages and bread, but has now decided that she likes rice and pasta as long as there is no sauce on it, and once ate a few peas and survived. I think she prefers bland tastes, and finds everything else too strong.

    • NYCNanny

      Sorry but for the majority of cases, the parents are enabling the picky eating. As a professional nanny (to multiple families), I’ve seen my share of picking eating enabling. Parents that claim their kids won’t eat anything but pasta and snacks are ridiculous and lazy. Every single family I’ve worked for…within a month, the kids are eating healthy, well balanced meals. And they’re happy about it!! The kids ASK me for evoo over butter or broccoli over fish sticks. The parents are delighted their kids are eating better (of course I never get any credit, but who cares)…
      The saddest thing is, as soon as I leave a family, the kids go straight back to chicken nuggets and pizza. When I visit them months of years later, same old crap food. It’s 99% parents. It’s your job to introduce them to healthy food. How else are they going to learn that one can NOT be healthy eating cheese and carbs and hotdogs…?

    • The Kez

      It’s a bit strange to be “proud” about something you say you have no control over. I have one great sleeper and one crappy sleeper. I’m not “proud” of my kid who sleeps well. It just is what it is.

    • ChickenKira

      I honestly believe that most cases of ‘fussy eating’ aren’t actual fussy eating and just people being nitpicky about kids behaviour. I guess I feel this way because I have experienced a fair bit of adults slapping this label on kids that aren’t fussy.

      There have been many instances where I have seen kids be labelled as fussy when I would have personally called it something else:
      - You have served up such a huge portion for your child and they ate all the pasta/chicken because it’s their favourite and are now too full to eat their vegetables.
      - You started threatening the child with no ice cream if they didn’t finish their dinner before their meal was even brought to the table, what the hell man?
      - Your peas are overcooked and taste like shit and honestly I don’t really want to eat them either, neither does half the table that’s why they’re hiding them under meat bones but the kid doesn’t know how to do that yet.
      - Your kid asked for a glass of water and you said no because they will fill up on water and not eat and now they are not eating and that’s probably because your potatoes are really grainy and are making your kid thirsty and all the adults have wine so we’re good, dammit just give the kid some water.
      - You stuck your fingers in your kids meal then tried to shove pieces of fish that had been smooshed up in your fingers in their mouth while they were sitting happily and eating their corn on the cob, eww use a fork or better yet let them eat their own food.
      - You made your kids food into the shape of a kitten and now they don’t want to eat the kitten because they don’t want the kitten to die.
      - Kids eat slower than adults because they are less efficient at the whole cutlery thing and sometimes struggle to get things onto their fork and the table is at an awkward height because they’re smaller and have you ever tried to cut something with a plastic knife? It doesn’t work properly and you are rushing the kid and telling them to hurry up and eat and just leave them alone.
      - Your kid told you 100 times that they don’t like corn, they ate their peas, carrots, pumpkin and beans but you are making a huge fuss out of the corn, they’re allowed to have food that they don’t like. Not liking one thing is not being fussy, it’s called having your own tastebuds. You don’t like every single food on earth, you just have the benefit of being the person who is purchasing and cooking the food so you don’t buy/cook what you don’t like, and for all you know your child could end up loving that thing, then you would be the fussy one, wouldn’t you?
      - You use dinner times as a time to tell them off for everything they have done that day. Nothing says appetite enhancer like being yelled at across the table.

      Sure there are many fussy eaters out there, I just think that there are no where near as many as people like to make out. We generally have pretty appalling attitudes towards children and food, we touch their food, we take their forks and stick it in their food and mix things around, we expect them to eat at our speed, we load up their plates with the amount an adult eats, we don’t let them have any say in portion or content (within reason). It’s no wonder so many kids are labelled fussy, we keep screwing with their food and plates.

      On another note, a relative labelled my daughter fussy because she eats her food one ‘item’ at a time. She will eat all her pumpkin, then all her fish, then all her spinach, then all her rice. She eats it all, but apparently she’s fussy because she doesn’t mix her foods up. We use the word fussy a bit too freely.

      • K2

        Great comment!

      • Alfreda Wells Morrissey

        Thank you!! It bothers me so much when my husband berates my children because they didn’t want sauce on their chicken even though they are fine with chicken and veggies sans sauce, or don’t want Swiss cheese in their sandwich because they don’t like it. They are allowed to have taste buds that are different than yours.

    • SHM

      This makes me feel slightly better. As it turns out my 14 month old is a picky eater and it kills me. I am a firm believer that picky eaters are created. I spent years working with children who had very strict feeding protocols because at the age of 7 they would only eat Cheese Curls, which obviously meant a severe lack of nutrition in her diet (not to mention everything she touched had this lovely orange sticky powdery film all over it). I told myself I would never ever ever have a child who is picky because they are created by the parents.

      I made all of his baby food and gave him all kids of experiences. He would get things like curry chicken for baby food and he would gobble down his fruits, but now nothing. Actually, it is so bad that he touched (yes just touched a blueberry) and started gagging uncontrollably. He looks at watermelon like it is toxic waist from Chrenobyl that I am feeding him.

      Gah! How did I get to this point. I mean he loves loves loves his meat, cheese, and yogurt. Which I consider a win and I don’t feed him crap, but seriously how did it get to the point that scrumptions mouth watering blueberries induce such a bad gag reflex……such a weirdo. I jsut keep thinking this must be my fault somehow.

    • Alexandra

      Request from a server – please DO NOT bring your picky eating child to an “adult” restaurant. So aggravating.. And are you mental – since the owner will still charge you 26.99 for that portion of plain pasta (of course if there’s no kids menu).
      Yea I do have better things to do than complain about this. But it’s so annoying – “do you have a children’s menu?” “no” “ok well do you think you could make little cloudbeam some pasta with butter?”
      just get him something off the menu – he’ll eat it or very least you’ll have something to bring home for yourself that’s actually worth the money.