fussy eating

Aware Parenting on Fussy Eating

When your little one won’t eat it can be very stressful. We’ve invited some questions for Rebecca Sheikh who runs workshops in attachment play and aware parenting for parents who want to find a positive way of gaining cooperation with their children. Fussy eating came out on top!

Mum from Tower Hamlets:

“I have a very strong willed toddler and would love to hear more tips to beat the crying/moaning tantrum. Particularly sitting at the table. He is a terribly fussy eater and just getting him to stay at the table is a challenge?”

Rebecca Sheikh:

Ah yes the infamous food struggles! Fussy eating struggles might be directly to do with food (for example, if they were made to eat something that they didn’t want to at nursery, they may become fussy about more foods or if they were fed roughly by a nurse with a bottle as a new born they may be reluctant to take a sippy cup), but it can often also be a symptom of things like accumulated feelings, powerlessness, and our own stress and tension around food. Dr Solter suggests there are 3 reasons why children ‘misbehave’.

1.They have an unmet need.

2.They lack information or

3.They need to release their trauma’s through crying, raging or laughter.

If it is the first reason it may be that he needs some connection before eating, so you could prepare the food together or put on some music and dance together before sitting down to eat. Here is a list of possible list of needs. If he has a need for choice, ask him if he could set the table and choose which place mats to out out today. Very often children’s lack of co-operation is down to the fact that they feel powerless or disconnected.

If it is the second reason we could get some books to explain food and how it helps our body grow.

I have however found though that many food related issues come down to the third reason. It can be fueled with our own anxieties our food and children use this opportunity to release pent up feelings of powerlessness. Dr Solter calls the tantrums that occur when children seem to by crying over ‘nothing’ the ‘broken cookie phenomenon’ as it’s just that, they are crying because the cookie is broken and you can’t fix it. In fact they are using this as an excuse to release pent up emotions about little traumas that occur in their daily lives. This may have been they way we looked at them this morning when we were cross, leaving them with a childminder, fighting with a sibling etc. When we realise this, we can give children the space to release these strong feelings of sadness, confusion, loss, overwhelm and disappointment through crying and raging, after which they will be more ready co-operate. It really is worth being present and connecting with your child through the feelings to the ‘other side’ otherwise they will keep finding opportunities to release if not given the opportunity to do so.

Luckily it is not only crying and raging that can help children move forward but also the power of play! Laughter also helps to release feelings of frustration, helplessness, fear, anxiety and overwhelm. Here are a couple of games to help fussy eaters see the fun side of eating together, once you get the hang of it I’m sure you’ll come up with ones that work even better for you.

“The birthday cake game”
– you open your mouth and close your eyes, making a big deal out of them giving you
some birthday cake, and then they give you vegetables instead and you make a
big yucky sound of disappointment!

“The cement mixer food game”
– The cement mixer comes with the food, then it is the digger and the tractor, the
jumping kangaroo, etc. Remember that this is different from distraction, because it
is all about connection and laughter!

“The don’t stay at the table game”

Say what ever you do, do not sit at the table to eat. No one is allowed to sit at this table today.

Act really surprised if he is sitting at the table! Keep playing!

Aware Parenting Workshop

We hope these fussy eating tips work for you. If they do, why not take it further? Dr Solter, the founder and author of several books on Aware Parenting, who once studied with renowned Swiss Psychologist, Piaget, is coming to London this September. She’ll be conducting a 2 day workshop that can help you have a more positive cooperative relationship with your child from infancy to teenage years. #THMsmembers get 20% off!

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