Parenting 101

How to get a picky eater to eat in 40 easy steps

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I have cribbed about sonny’s picky eating habits many times on this blog in the past. If I could have a rupee for every minute I spend per day running after our son with a plate of food or shoving down spoonfuls into his semi-clamped mouth, I would end up with a big fat bundle of cash pretty soon!

Of course, in real life, it is not all fun and games doing this day in and day out. And I long for the day when he would actually eat his food “all by himself” the way he likes to claim! However, as much as I would like for it to get a little easier, I cannot overlook the inherent humor in the situation.

I am sure a lot of moms with picky eaters out there will identify with my funny take on how to get a picky eater to eat in 40 easy steps:

1. Take the utmost care and time to prepare a scrumptious meal (making sure it is of Masterchef quality 😉 ) and of course, ignoring the basic law of picky eating – The amount of time and energy expended to prepare a meal is inversely proportional to the number of minutes taken by the picky eater to reject that meal and run away. (In layman’s terms, the longer and harder it takes to cook something good and healthy, the quicker it will get rejected by the picky eater). Yes, moms never learn!

2. Spend an equal amount of time plating the food up beautifully (After all, we eat food as much with our eyes as with our taste buds!)

3. Proudly present your masterpiece to the picky eater, who instantaneously bolts yelling “I, not eat. I don’t like food anymore!”. Huh?!?

4. Brush aside the feelings of disappointment. And breathe. Finally, the time spent reading about and learning basic yoga is paying off!

5. Go to the tiniest room in your home with the least amount of wiggle capacity and put the plate of food there. Don’t forget the glass of milk (or water or juice, basically any liquid being served that day) and a towel (for all accidental and intentional spills and spit ups).

6. Bring in the iPad to that room and play the picky eater’s current favorite show on it.

7. Don’t forget to cancel all your appointments for the next 1 hour.

8. Secure all exits, barring the main door. Now on to the task of securing the package (Read the picky eater).

9. After a game of chase round and round the dining table, catch hold of the picky eater and drag him to the room.

10. The moment he is caught, the picky eater starts wailing loudly at the injustice. Learn to ignore it. This is not child abuse.

11. Swiftly, close the main door. Don’t forget to latch it.

12. Breathe some more while the wailing dies down. It may take some time. Wait and try not to hit the roof. Getting angry makes it worse! Also, fiercely resist the urge to whip up some pancakes or instant noodles to please the picky eater during the showdown. At long last, the picky eater settles down and becomes engrossed in his show. Thank God!

13. Hubby, who up until now, was engrossed on his cell phone, decides to be “helpful” and comments “Wow! The food looks so yummy! Try it!” before you could shake a vigorous “NO!! Don’t Say It!” with your head in utter panic.

14. At the mention of the word “food,” the wailing starts all over again, this time accompanied by running round and round in circles inside the room trying to figure out an exit. You smile smugly at the futile effort. Make sure to hide that smile or you may end up getting attacked viciously with punches or may even end up being the target of handfuls of food thrown hurled in your general direction or of deliberate milk spills 😉

15. At this point, don’t forget to glare “bloody murder” at hubby, who promptly shuts up and goes back to his cell phone.

16. Continue the breathing exercises while the running and wailing die down. This time it’s quicker because the picky eater does not want to miss his cartoon show. He glumly comes back and sits in front of his iPad.

17. For the next 5-10 minutes, be “extremely” interested in the picky eater’s cartoon characters (as if you guys are BFFs). Keep the picky eater engaged in the shenanigans by asking him some random questions about the characters from time to time. He takes the bait and relaxes thinking that the food chapter is closed. His guards are down now. It’s time for the surreptitious strike one!

18. Without disturbing the picky eater’s line of sight, bring a morsel of food towards his mouth at snail pace. Remember, one wrong (or sudden) move and you will be back to square one (rather Step 14)!

19. Hold the food in front of the picky eater’s mouth for eternity. At long last, it opens up. Quickly, place the food in his mouth and at an even quicker pace, remove your hand from the vicinity of his face and pretend this sudden encroachment did not happen. Keep showing interest in watching his iPad instead. Also, don’t forget to pray ardently that the picky eater does not notice or he just decides to let it slide. Otherwise, you will have to start over from Step 14 again.

20. Thankfully, the picky eater closes his mouth and starts chewing his food. The first strike was successful! Yay! Rejoice, but without any external show of emotions or movements. If the joy is overflowing and you can’t hold it in, then you may share a quick smile with hubby behind the picky eater’s back. But be very, very careful not to hurt the picky eater’s ego by being too obvious about this little win!

21. Once the first morsel is finished, repeat steps 18 and 19.

22. A few bites down, the picky eater finally starts looking at his plate (without showing any further disdain) and starts demanding individual items from it that pique his interest. Surprisingly, he no longer behaves picky, once the eating process is in progress and tries any and everything on the plate without much discrimination!

23. Breathe a sigh of relief. It’s all smooth sailing moving forward.

24. But wait! Halfway through the food, you notice that the picky eater’s cheeks are swelling up from all the accumulated food that is no longer making its way down his food pipe and into his stomach. He had stopped chewing altogether. Time for strike two!

25. Poke gently at the cheeks of the picky eater. It leads to a few seconds of reluctant chewing followed by a semi-gulp.

26. Make the picky eater take a sip from his glass of milk.

27. Continue repeating Step 26 at a gap of half a minute or so until all the accumulated food in his mouth finally makes its way down to the stomach.

28. Continue feeding the picky eater following Step 18 onwards.

29. After a couple more bites, the picky eater no longer wants to eat more solids. He insists on his glass of milk instead.

30. You look at the half-eaten plate and debate if you should call it a day. After a quick arithmetic in the head about the calorie intake of the picky eater during the day (This would even put Shakuntala Devi to shame 😉 ), you decide that there is still scope for some more solids.

31. So, you ask the picky eater to show his tummy and his biceps, who readily obliges by pulling up his shirt and flexing his arms (to show how full his tummy is and how “big and strong” his arms are). You poke at the tummy and the biceps and tell him that there is still scope for a few more bites. You ask hubby for a second opinion, who, of course, agrees with your prognosis willingly.

32. This sounds logical to the picky eater who sits in front of his iPad again without much protest. Continue feeding the picky eater following Step 18 onwards.

33. After a few more morsels, the picky eater spits back half-chewed food onto the plate and wipes his mouth on his t-shirt. Now, he is finally done!

34. Check his tummy and biceps again and tell him how they have grown with all the food that he has eaten at this meal. The picky eater brims with pride 🙂 Now, it’s time for strike three!

35. Remove the plate of food making sure the picky eater sees you doing it. Then while he is engrossed in his show, slowly raise his glass of milk to his mouth.

36. The picky eater starts sipping it without really noticing. After almost finishing off the milk, there is a loud burp and the picky eater is done, full and final. He’s out! 🙂

37. Proudly show off the half-empty plate and milk glass to hubby. The food war is finished for now.

38. This step is extremely important. Do not to move the picky eater from his position for at least 10 minutes or more. Let the food settle down. Otherwise, you may have to suffer a volcanic eruption (read puke fest) similar to a vigorously shaken can of cola with a loose cap. You want to avoid that at all costs. Believe me, it’s not fun at all!

39. Exit the room, check the time on the clock and wonder for the umpteenth time where the time has flown!

40. Finally, breathe. Try not to think about the number of hours before you have to repeat the whole process all over again. And don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for a job well done and a battle well fought 🙂

Phew! There you have it, my very desi, “Indianized” way of dealing with the picky eating habits of sonny. How do you handle fussy eating behavior with your kids? Don’t forget to share!


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