There are at least 5 types of picky eaters. I believe each of my children has test driven each profile type and I strongly suspect that there is a definite progression of these types. I would expect to encounter each type in every child, just at different times.Perhaps you can identify which stage your child is in. Perhaps you might even see some of these traits within yourself.
- The Complainer
- The Gagger
- The Silent Protester
- The Avoider
- The Ketchup Addict
The Complainer is the most obvious of all picky eaters. They are generally loud in their distaste and will always make sure that you KNOW they are unhappy. Often starting their protests before the dinner table, these picky eaters can be a great strain on a well meaning parent. A Complainer is always sure that they "didn't like this last time we had it." Even if it is a meal that you have never made before. In which case, they had it at a friends house, but can't remember now which one.
Dinner with a complainer is often filled with lively conversation. They are full of things to chat about. Too much pepper, too many spices, chicken is dry... they never run out of observations! About half way through dinner, they tend to start bargaining. "If I eat all my potatoes, can I leave the carrots?" If successful with the bargaining, you tend to find the complainer back in the kitchen searching for snacks within an hour of dinner.
Thankfully, this particular form of picky eater seems to disappear as quickly as it comes. Though less frustrating than a complainer, a gagger can be much more insulting. Hearing that your dinner is no good is one thing, having someone gag their way through it is rough.
Almost theatrical, there is often a big show somewhere through dinner. This show, if done well, can be the cause of multiple lost dinners. (particularly for other family members with weak stomachs.) It is definitely dramatic, and has led to boys and girls alike receiving the title of drama queen.
In a household where family members do not all sit together, sit in front of the television or read at the table, the Gagger can often slip by unnoticed. Even without an audience, the show will go on. Fortunately, this show runs out quickly if ignored and also responds well to immediate time outs.
The Silent Protester
Frequently found in larger or busier families, time restraints often get this picky eater off the hook. Toddlers seem to be almost professionals at this game. And can wiggle through an entire meal without actually taking a single bite.
Experts in the art of distraction, they can breeze through dinner by simply focusing your attention elsewhere. In the example of a toddler, they may point out that an older sibling has dropped something on the floor. Many times, you won't realize that they didn't like your dinner until you are cleaning up the kitchen and see how much is still on their plates.
The Silent Protester never actually tells you that they don't like your meal, but it becomes clear when they devour a plateful of their favorite dinners. With a less desirable meal you know they are capable of eating it, they are hungry enough, they just don't want to.
Another of the quiet types. This is the child who is most likely to attempt dinner bargaining. They will try to get through dishing up without taking the unsavory offerings. Once served on their dish, you will see a game of fork skating ensue as this child will draw invisible barriers between this particular undesired item and all other foods on the plate. It is as though the avoider believes that if it touches any other food item, that item, too, will become unsavory. A situation involving a premixed dish of vegetables can cause quite a stir.
Closer to the end of dinner, the Avoider starts counting. Conversation slows down as they attempt to uncover the best "deal" possible. They are slightly more practiced than the Complainers at bargaining and will often clear everything else off their plates before beginning the bargaining process.
The Ketchup Addict
A great many parents have fallen prey to this picky eater. In essence, they eat everything. This child will not ask whats for dinner, argue about servings, bargain over veggies. They simply drown every item that touches their plate in Ketchup. There are varying degrees of this addiction, starting with a small amount of ketchup on the side of a plate and escalating to bathing of food into an unrecognizable red soup.
This Addiction grows slowly, almost invisibly, and many parents don't realize they can help until it is much too late. The parents mean well and often excuse the behavior with lines like "I think it's gross to put ketchup on broccoli, but at least he's eating it!"
Be patient, this too shall pass. Your ketchup addict will eventually lose the taste for it. Or, at least, so much of it.
So What Can We Do?
There are no quick fixes for picky eaters and there are a great many lines of research out there to review. If you want help, it is there to be found. Whether you become the 'one bite of everything' parent or the 'don't make dinner time uncomfortable' parent, your child WILL BE OKAY. The worst side effect of a picky eater is a parental headache. It is been said that it takes a good ten, yes TEN, attempts at trying a new food before a small child will really make a decision about it.
So, instead of beating yourself up over what to make for dinner, just plan healthy. Eat dinner as a family as often as you can and play fair as much as possible. Try to balance some tried and true meals with the hated ones.
Breathe slowly and deeply.
And keep the Tylenol handy!!