Dealing With A Picky Eater

My 8 year old son is getting pickier and pickier with food. He used to eat Chicken Nuggets, Grilled Cheese, Mac N Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Burgers and Hot dogs. Now all he wants is pizza.

He refuses the Nuggets saying they are not cooked right (but they are the same as always). Hot dogs he says we burned once and now he will not eat. Burgers, can only be cooked on stove and now he is saying he does not like the taste.

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I think he has a thing with textures. All he wants is pizza or sometimes cheese tacos and only Granny Smith Apples. Any suggestions? We do try and make him eat other things but it is a long drawn out fight of wills. Is there a doctor I can take the child to and they would explain to him the importance of eating good? Help, I am so frustrated.

mom of 2 from Westland, MI

May 30, 20080 found this helpful

Have him tested for an autism spectrum disorder. He could have Aspergers Syndrome which is high functioning and usually overlooked. My nephew has it and has the same problem with food textures. He only eats chicken nuggets, cheese pizza, and macaroni. It is so frustrating because he always has to have a separate meal made for him.

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May 30, 20080 found this helpful

My son has ADHD and, although he will eat anything, this aversion to textures is mentioned often as a symptom. I think it would be a good idea to talk to your pediatrician and see what they think.

An idea might be to get a good kids cookbook and see if you can interest him in cooking things himself. I think he would be much more likely to eat something if he was involved in creating it.

Good Luck,

Jess

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May 30, 20080 found this helpful

If there isn't a physical reason ~ my friends son is autistic - just slighty - but food is a huge issue with him, the texture, temperature ~

Only make the food that you are making for meals and that is what he eats. He will eat when he is hungry. If he doesn't eat the meal, save it and when he gets hungry, that's what he eats. This is a battle of wills ~ and do you want this to go on forever? My niece did this - only wanted specific foods and it went on for years and drove the parents crazy, plus she knew she could get whatever she wanted.

Good Luck!

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May 30, 20080 found this helpful

He is eight years old, not two. Put the meal you are serving for your family on the table. If he doesn't eat, let him go hungry.No snacks! You are the parent He'll come around when he's hungry enough.

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May 30, 20080 found this helpful

Let's look at this logically. The only "symptom" that MomOf2's child has is picky eating. That in and of itself is not enough to warrant having the child tested for autism. She would be on a wild goose chase if she were to have her child tested for any disorder that includes picky eating as one of its symptoms.

Although I agree that kids with Aspergers/autism or ADHD can have textural pickiness, she describes her child as having been willing to eat several things and then suddenly refusing to eat what he was willing to previously eat. Children are both with Aspergers/autism; it's not like an injury or virus where you suddenly "get it" and then reject certain foods. I don't think the pattern she describes fits.

I do agree with the suggestion of getting the child involved in preparing the food. Kids are much more likely to eat what they've been involved in preparing. You may even want to consider growing something (something as small as growing a few carrots in a container). He might enjoy that. Or, scout out a u-pick farm in your area and take him - he might enjoy picking strawberries and be willing to eat them.

One of the posters suggested not making separate food for him. I think her advice in that paragraph is good. If he doesn't have a disorder (if there are no symptoms beyond picky eating, I doubt if he has a disorder), I think it's a control issue. If you're dealing with eating as a control issue at 8 and you lose that battle, think of the types of control issues you'll be dealing with when he's 16. If you can't win the 8-year-old battles, you'll be even less likely to win the 16-year-old battles. My advice is to pick your battles carefully but make sure you can win the battles you pick.

For my kids, it worked to put about a tablespoon of everything I was serving on their plate. They were under no obligation to eat any of it at all. But, they couldn't have more of anything until what was on their plate was gone. So, it would look like this: a small spoonful of turkey, 3 pieces of carrot, and a spoonful of rice. If they only at the carrots, that was fine and they could be done eating, but if they wanted more than the 3 carrots, they needed to eat the turkey and rice. Once they ate the turkey and rice, they could have all the carrots (or anything else I was serving) that they wanted. I never felt bad about this system, because I wasn't making them eat a huge amount of something they disliked - just one mouthful. It worked for us because I held my ground and never gave in, and my children rarely challenged it because they knew challenging me wouldn't get them anyplace. My kids learned that food was fuel and that sometimes they had to eat a very small amount of something that wasn't exactly their favorite, but that they lived to tell about it afterward. Now, at 15 and 17, there are very few things they don't want to eat, and when their friends come over for dinner, they make their friends follow the rules (I don't say anything). One of my 17-year-old's friends had to eat a 1" cube of butternut squash last month in order to get more steak, which you would think was the worst thing he ever had to do. You know what? He actually liked the butternut squash and chose to have more. His mother couldn't believe it when she found out.

Good luck. I support you in your willingness to help your child learn that you are in charge in your home.

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May 30, 20080 found this helpful

Once you determine that the child is not autistic or suffering from another disorder put the food on the table and let him eat or starve. I have 4 boys and I know beyond doubt that he won't starve. I have a fridge magnet which says "Today's menu... Take it or leave It" I stand firmly by that.

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May 31, 20080 found this helpful

Sorry I stirred up such a hornet's nest. Asp. and other autistic behaviors CAN just SEEM to appear. He had a limited choice of food before (and those foods are the ones usually preferred by asp. children). Don't make it a battle of wills--THEY WON"T EAT when hungry. My nephew will go days without eating and lose weight if he doesn't like the food. My "normal" 16 year old will do the same--until he chooses to fix his own because he hates mom's cooking. I think people underestimate the ability of children to starve themselves for long periods--look at anorexia in ever- increasing numbers in younger children. There seem to be all sorts of physical and psychological problems now that weren't apparent in the last generation. Also--don't trust the first doctor you talk to. My sister went to several drs and they just said her son was a picky eater--but going to school became an impossibilty for him, so they went to specialists who confirmed asp. He lost several years of treatment due to drs saying he was just a picky eater.

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May 31, 20080 found this helpful

Thank you. I have tried sitting the food out for him and he will sit for hours and not eat it. Doctors say he is fine. I do see a possible very mild (really) mild Aspergers. No one will diag. him though. He does great socially just very bossy. He is about everyone in his class in reading and is already on division in math. I am just confused on how to help him to eat better and more things. He gets grossed out by a little thing on a food that he like and then he will not eat it anymore. Very frustrating.

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June 2, 20080 found this helpful

Here's a thread to check out: http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf62628875.tip.html

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June 2, 20080 found this helpful

You're not far from Dearborn. You might call the University of Michigan there or at Ann Arbor and get an appointment with a pediatrician at their university hospitals. Once you get a diagnosis, you and your son can learn to handle it together.

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June 2, 20080 found this helpful

Can I be very candid with you? It sounds as though your son runs the house. If he really has no problems then I'm in agreement with just let him go hungry. He will eat. If you decide to go this route you absolutely cannot back down or you will lose the fight. I would like to recommend a good book it's called LOVE AND LOGIC. I hope you can figure this out. As a mother of 4 I know how maddening this kind of thing can be. God bless you!

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June 2, 20080 found this helpful

You make a nice nutritous meal. He has fifteen minutes to eat whatever he wants. You throw away what he didn't eat without comment. Problem goes away in a few days. You never ask what he wants unless it's his birthday.

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June 2, 20080 found this helpful

The foods he prefered are not neccesarily an asperger thing; these are just the foods that most kids like! Don't worry -- I promise that he won't starve to death. When you make a meal, give him the same as everyone else, but try to include 1 food he likes. Tell him that if he takes 2 bites of everything on his plate (really takes 2 bites and swallows them -- no cheating!) then he can have the food he likes. That's how I did it with my kids. They had to "taste" every food on their plates, and 2 bites was how I defined "taste". And they knew that they had to do this. Now, they are grown and they're very adventurous eaters. My 21 year old son is in the Navy and was telling me not long ago that he and some friends were getting ready to fix calamari! My formerlly picky eater was eating squid! There's hope.

Best of luck w/ this! :)

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June 3, 20080 found this helpful

You are creating the problem by running a resturant for him. Make healthy meals, serve them and throw away what he doesn't eat at the proper meal times. (Don't allow snacks) It took only 2 days of this with my daughter and she ate what was put on the table. ( Don't argue with him about it, he has the choice of eating anything that is served at this meal.) Don't expect him to chose a balanced meal, that will come with time.

My sister has the same thing with her son and let him dictate what he would eat and he still is a picky eater. He is now 17 and won't eat anything at family get togethers because it's not his favorite things and complains about not having his favorites. He is not a welcome guest because of his pickyness.

Stop you sons problem before it gets to the point he isn't welcome at other places because he won't eat what is placed in front of him. He doen't have to eat everything, he just has to be quite about what he doesn't like to eat.

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June 4, 20080 found this helpful

The best way to deal with a picky eater is give him two choices for meals: Take it or Leave it. When he's hungry, he'll eat what's given.

I know it's hard as a mom not to feed your kid, but he IS old enough to know if he's actually hungry or not.

When I first got my girls (my hubby's from his first marriage). They were incredibly picky also. This is what I did. I made dinner and said "this is dinner. You don't have to eat it, but THAT'S what's available." then every time they came to us wanting food. We'd send them to the left overs from dinner. If he wont' eat, he's not hungry enough.

Be well in heart and strong in spirit.

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June 8, 20080 found this helpful

Almost all children go through this and outgrow it just fine. The problem I had was my mother thought she was a short order cook. My take on it is don't cook special and keep the snacks out of the house. Stand firm and the problem will end. I always thought that this was something all kids went through. Unless your son has other problems I would assume that it is a stage he is going to.

Why is everyone assuming he has a problem as major as autism? Why would you think that an otherwise normal child has all of a sudden developed a major problem? I have ADHD and I would still be very aware of when I need to eat.I know several kids who have this and they still know enough to eat.

I feel that you in your answers are being destructive to the this families well being. I need you to think about how you would feel if it was your child who stopped eating and you were told he had a major problem. I have some very unladylike thoughts in my head at the moment. Personally I think you have blown this out of proportion.

Are you trying to tell me that all of the kids were perfect eaters? I personally have never heard of a kid who didn't do this at sometime. Please support this mother instead of making her have nightmares.

I feel that your kid is fine and that if you stand firm he will come around. Should the child not eat to the point of losing weight then the problem IS bigger and should have the doctor run tests.

I need to say I am not trying to say ADHD is nothing, as it has had a major inpact on my life as a child. Do NOT put off treatment if you think that is a problem. I know I was showing problems from early childhood on.

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June 9, 20080 found this helpful

I read about having the picky eater help make the meals...pick what he/she wants, help make it, and they HAVE to eat what they pick and fix. Heard it works if you stick with it.

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June 12, 20080 found this helpful

There can be several reasons why kids are picky with food, - control issues, lack of exposure to other foods, medical or there are maybe some other emotional issues that need to be looked at. My kids are 12, 9,& 6. We have several episodes over the years of kids being fussy. I asked the kids was it was about the food that they did not like - taste, texture, smell etc. I also showed them a nutritional chart of what they were supposed to eat and we looked at the different foods in each section.

The only rule was that they had to have something from each section. We started with fruit smoothies, fruit bread, bananas and cheese and salad wraps. Each week we would look at the chart and see if they wanted to try something else. We also looked at cook books and went to food halls etc to see how different foods looked and tasted. We tend to eat a lot of salad, so I have several large serving plates that I put the salad, bread, meat etc on and the kids help themselves.

For hot foods, they come to the kitchen and tell me how much of each item they will eat. I record what has been eaten day and at the end of the week we look at the chart and see if they have eaten a balanced days foods. We talk about what other foods might be added if the balance isn't right. My 6 year old son hates meat - he will eat mince, bacon and chicken on pizza. I make burritos, which he make himself, BLT's and different pasta dishes.

I make homemade pizza and home made muffins and cakes that I can add sultanas etc into. He hates having foods hidden in favorite foods. I don't cook special meals for him. I have adapted some of my recipes to suit him. If he does not eat what is served, He knows the alternative is fruit bread, some slices of cheese, carrot and cucumber sticks and a glass of milk - but this is only on offer 3 times a week.

At the food hall we look at different foods and maybe buy a small plate so we can sample different cuisines. He tried Fried, vegetable curry etc several times and now loves them. I also use the method described above - we all sit at the table to have dinner and the kids have 30 minutes to eat. If they play with their food - it goes on the counter and is covered with glad wrap. If they don't eat - there are no snacks.

I have also started giving the kids a bigger afternoon tea of several fruits, cheese, crackers, nuts and one sweet item. As they are hungrier after school than at tea time. I make savory muffins, fruit scones and piklets that can have fruit added to them. I found the chart works great as the kids get healthy eating lessons in school (in Western Australia they do) and it is surprising when they look at the chart what they pick up.

When we go out - I give the kids a snack before we leave and ask the host if I can get the kids to serve themselves. I find this works really well. If the kids don't like what is on the table, so be it - they just have to sit quietly while everyone else is eating. Any complaints or whining is dealt with by been given a warning and then time out in a quiet spot.

A nutritionist or dietitian may also be able to help. My doctors advice was to write down what they ate during the day to see what they were eating. Good luck

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