I don't claim to be a parenting expert, but over the last few years, I have come up with some pretty handy tricks. I'm a self-proclaimed disaster-case, what most folks refer to as a hot-mess, so you won't find my tips in any of your fancy-pants parenting books. However, I think my tailor-made hot mess mom's guide to getting your kid to eat should, honestly, be something every soon-to-be or new mom reads. No, this isn't me tooting my own horn, this is me coming from a place of realism and understanding.
I mean, tell me if the following sounds at all familiar:
You've made a healthy and nutritious meal for your family. You're especially proud because it only contains two things you foraged from a box. There may or may not be Red 40 at play, but you don't check the ingredients so you can claim ignorance. The vegetable is from a can, but the lining is BPA free so you know you're not poisoning your mini-me. You plate your creation (after finding and washing a plate from the pile of dirty dishes) and, with a flourish, place it before your hungry child, expecting unending praise and endless gratitude. Instead, you hear, "I'm not eating that!" Preparing something different for your picky eater is not an option, because really, ain't nobody got time for that.
Here's where I come in (well, me and my wondrous hot mess mom guide). You and I, and every other parent on the planet, know that the well-meaning "tips" to getting your kid to eat don't really translate into real life. So, from one hot mess mom to you and yours, here's how to get your kid to eat without losing your mind (or too much energy).
Step 1: Use Reason
"You know, your body needs food so it can grow, and your brain needs food to make you smart." If that doesn't work, you can always try your luck with something along the lines of, "Food is full of nutrients that help your muscles get strong!"
Depending on your child, the Bill Nye approach might work. If growing up is high on their priority list, they may actually fall for the "green beans make you taller" line. So step one is something like, "Eat, because science."
Step 2: Evoke Temptation
"But look how yummy this is!" "or a, "Wow, this is so good, you're totally missing out!" are always great go-to comments that can make your kid feel like they're not living their best life if they don't eat whatever it is you've conjured up for them.
Then, of course and when all else fails, you can always lie through your teeth. "These canned green beans are the best green beans EVER." Eat some yourself with exaggerated enjoyment, then discreetly spit into your napkin, because really, no one loves mushy veggies and burned fish sticks.
Step 3: Simply Beg
"Please, for the love of Pete, just eat your corn so we can get up from this infernal table and get on with bedtime," is a sentiment you'll become all-too familiar with.
Begging? Pleading? Groveling? All code words for asking "nicely." You said please after all, and that's supposed to be magic, right?
Step 4: Shamelessly Bribe
"OK, if you eat four more bites, you can have some chocolate left over from two Halloweens ago." From personal experience, I can tell you that bribery most certainly works, so don't be afraid to play hardball. After all, you have the superior negotiating power and experience.
Step 5: Basically Bargain
"You want to go to the park tomorrow? Well, then eat your sweet potatoes." "Five bites of salad will get you five stars on your star chart"
Though similar to bribing, bargaining is a little different. Bribing is when you dangle the carrot of instant gratification (candy after dinner), while bargaining is delayed gratification, or something to look forward to (a trip to the park).
Step 6: Just Start Ignoring Everyone And Everything
"I'm just going to go in the living room and watch TV. You can call me when you're done."
This one usually results in some light screaming and a few solid tantrums that, in all honesty, are pretty difficult to ignore. Then again, This is why Netflix is now a thing.
Step 7: Subtly Threaten
"If you don't finish that supper right now, you're going to bed."
There is no shame in this game, y'all. Sure, you risk scarring your child's delicate psyche, but come on; it's been 35 minutes since dinner started and your kids haven't had a damn bite to eat. Doesn't your kid know you have to check Facebook?
Step 8: Just Cry
"Why won't you eat? I must've messed you up when you were a baby and, somehow and someway, turned you into a human being who hates delicious foods. This is all my fault! I'm a horrible mother!"
(P.S. you're not a horrible mother and regressions in eating habits are totally normal.)
Step 9: Admit Defeat
"Fine. Whatever. Get up and put your plate in the sink because I just can't handle this anymore."
When it's been an hour and they are holding their ground, I say it's nothing short of acceptable to just throw in the towel. Your kid isn't going to suddenly come down with scurvy or iron deficiency anemia from one missed meal. They'll survive, and so will you.