My child only eats chicken nuggets.
Is your child a picky eater? Ah, that’s too bad. I’m so sorry. That must be tough.
I’m just kidding. I actually have no sympathy.
Because the problem isn’t with Junior. The problem is with you.
I’m not going to beat around the bush with a bunch of friendly introductory softening up here. Let’s just get to the point.
Your child eats chicken nuggets because you give him chicken nuggets. If you gave him something else, he would eat that something else.
That’s the solution if you’re actually looking for one. If you’d like to pay my $250 per hour nutrition consulting rate and have me tell you the same thing, that works too, I’ll take your money. But it’s a really quick meeting. I just repeat that same thing over and over.
But Junior won’t eat anything else! I’ve tried!
Uh huh. It’s not that I don’t believe you, I’m sure you have tried. Or at least “tried” from your perspective. But does it possibly go something like this:
- OK, Junior, time for dinner.
- Oh goodie. I’m starving! What are we having?
- We’re having chicken and rice and broccoli.
- But I want chicken nuggets. Like I always have.
- Let’s try something different tonight.
- I want chicken nuggets.
- Just have a bite of chicken and rice.
- I’m not going to eat anything but chicken nuggets.
- Try a bit of broccoli.
- Have a grain of rice.
- I’m not eating until I get chicken nuggets.
- Chicken is like chicken nuggets, just without the, uh, nugget.
This is where the men are separated from the boys–or the mothers from the daughters or the fathers from the sons. At this point, there are two possible scenarios.
1. You give in.
I get it. You don’t want your child to starve. You want your child to love you. You want him to be happy and (relatively) healthy and go to bed with a full tummy. You can’t bear to see him not eat.
The trouble here is that your child knows all of this and it’s part of his master strategy. He knows that if just holds out a little longer, he’ll get what he wants. He basically has you wrapped around his little pinky. Just wait until he gets into buying shoes.
If you think I’m offending you, I’m trying to. If you “give in” to your child now on this simple level of food, where do you think it will end?
The whole “stubborn until I get what I want” is a great strategy. Works really well in hostage situations, POW camps and kids who claim to be picky eaters.
There actually is no such thing as a picky eater. There is such a thing as a spoiled kid who gets whatever he wants.
2. They give in.
Someone has to give in, right? Just like a basketball game, it can’t end it a tie. Well, it can, but then there’s overtime. There’s overtime with chicken nuggets, too. It’s called dessert. If they eat something other than chicken nuggets, maybe they can have some dessert.
I realize it sounds like I’m setting this up as a battleground. It’s because it is a bit of a battle. It’s a battle of wits and pride and love and … hunger. Here’s the nasty truth that you don’t want to hear: eventually, hunger will win over. It’s just so painful to see your child get hungry. But there’s a bigger battle at stake here. It’s not really about chicken nuggets. It’s about who has the upper hand, who makes the rules and who follows them. It’s about who’s the parent and who’s the child.
If at this point, you say something like how you want to be equal with your child, you want to be friends with your child, you’re exempt. This isn’t a solution for you. This is for parents who want to bring their children up with respect for others, with an understanding that they won’t get everything they want in life and with a healthy start to their young lives.
It really just comes down to what type of parent you want to be. The choice is not theirs, it’s yours.
So what’s for dinner tonight?