Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Food Jags

We've entered a new phase in the Crozier household. It's as if my kids read ahead in the textbook and knew it was high time they each advanced to the next stage of feeding challenges. It is fitting, really, given that I have spent the last few weeks preparing to give a talk on feeding kids at a local Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group. My kids like to up their game and really put me to the test whenever I am about to wear my professional hat and put on the name badge as the "expert" on feeding.

My girls have always been carb-o-vores. Pasta is their weakness and their love for it has not wavered (see my post on raising Carbohydrate Lovers). Historically, I have been able to keep them mostly satisfied by serving pasta in one form or another about once a week but recently something shifted (as things often do with kids and food) and this is how dinner has been going down:


Kids lolligag their way ever so sloooooooowly to the table only after making "just 3 more laps" around our circular floor plan on the scooter, or "quickly finishing" a sewing project that literally hasn't even been started.


First kid arrives. She's my middle one, a sensitive yet stubborn soul. She's not yet within two feet from the table before she starts wailing; "No pasta!!? Again!!?!!! We NEVER get to have pasta!!!" Waaaaaaaa. Wail. Cry.

I immediately dismiss her from the kitchen, informing her that attitudes like that are not welcome at my table and she can return when she's ready to appreciate the effort I put forth in preparing her the meal.

I enjoy a few minutes alone in front of the stove (because of course the other two have not yet made the long journey from the next room to the kitchen) and continue putting the finishing touches on dinner.

Five minutes pass, apologies are said and finally, finally I am seated at the table, with the whites of 6 little eyes starring back at me. We eat (or at least those of us who are ok with the fact that we aren't having pasta do) and that is the end of that. For that meal at least.

Welcome to our dinnertime routine, every single night this week.

Things reached a new high on Mother's Day when the boys on my husband's side treated us moms to a lovely pasta lunch after church. My kids of course were in heaven and ate their fill. I expected their ravenous appetites for pasta to be satiated at least for a couple of days but I was delusional. My middle child was just as distraught as she had been in the nights prior when I called her to dinner (only a mere handful of hours after our Mother's Day lunch) to discover, alas, WE WERE HAVING TACOS, not pasta. Such cruel parents we are.

It finally occurred to me what it is we are facing over here - a food jag! A food jag occurs when a child desires one food item or a very small group of food items all the time and at most every meal. It can be very alarming for parents when their child who they would have previously described as a "good eater" gets stuck on one particular food. If this is happening in your house, be reassured! It's oh so very normal.

(Aside: it is also oh so very annoying).

How should one address a food jag?

The thing I recommend first and foremost is to keep yourself comfortable as the parent or caregiver by understanding this is a normal behavior in child development. It can be very frustrating, yes, but it does not mean there is anything wrong with your child.

Secondly, be considerate of your child without catering. Resist the temptation to avoid tension and give in to their requests for the same thing over and over. Keep offering them a variety of foods, focusing particularly on ones you know they have liked in the past (but don't be surprised if they reject them now). Don't eliminate the food jag item entirely but serve it on occasion and within reason. Reassure your child when they ask for their preferred food "we won't be having ______ again tonight but I promise that we will have it again soon."

Remember the Division of Responsibility in feeding (see my separate blog post on this topic). Check yourself and make sure you are only doing the jobs of the what, when and where of feeding. Let your child decide whether they choose to eat at meal and snack times. Do not worry if they choose to eat very little (or none at all!) at a mealtime. Your child will make up for it at another meal or snack.

Keep offering rejected food items. It takes multiple, multiple, MULTIPLE introductions for a child to accept a new food item. Don't give up when they turn their nose up after only one or two exposures. Set an example by eating a variety but resist the temptation to force them to try anything new.

Lastly, remind yourself this is a phase and you will get through it! You and I both. ;)

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posted by kelsie