Picky Kids and the Codependent Mom: Three Tips to Break the Cycle

Oct 10, 2010 by

It’s taken me awhile to figure out what “codependent” means.  What I’ve learned makes me think that codependency is actually pretty common among us parents.  If we aren’t living with an alcoholic or an addict or an abuser (yet), we may think, “That’s not me.”  But parents of picky eaters may be just inches away from falling into the role of a codependent.

Codependency is more complicated than the joke I’ve seen about you and your cat falling into those roles: he likes being petted and you like petting him. In its classic form, it’s rather that your daughter is an addict and you bail her out, cover for her, fail to hold her responsible for anything, maybe even give her money for her fixes so she doesn’t suffer, making it easy for her to continue her habit,…

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Push or Pull? When picky kids pick your dinner to pieces

Oct 5, 2010 by

This question came recently from a reader, Rosie Kate:

“How do you deal (or not deal) with a child who picks through food for ingredients he doesn’t like?  My five-year-old son went through an ‘anti-onion’ phase, in which he complained about bits of onion in his food. I told him to quietly remove them, but not to be rude about it.

Now it’s zucchini (of which we eat lots because we have lots in the garden, of course!). Same rule applies, but it kinda bugs me (I’m making sure not to let him know that, though, because then it would be a control game).”

So what would you do?  The normal, intuitive response to this situation is generally to find away to…

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How to get kids to eat at the table, Part III

Apr 6, 2010 by

Answering a reader’s question about how to stop children’s complaining, playing around and dawdling at the dinner table.


I have some more thoughts on the question.

I think you need a bit less nonchalance about your son’s behavior and a bit more nonchalance—masterly inactivity, a purposeful leaving alone—about the eating itself.

I suggest laying down the law on behavior at the table: we do not come to the table and complain. Nor do we play around and dawdle. I’m sure you don’t want him to get in the habit of fussing and whining and being disagreeable. I know you would not like him to go to someone else’s house and express himself that way. Or treat his wife that way someday. You son needs to be taught that if he wants to eat dinner with the family, he has to be polite.  I’m sure he will decide that, yes, he…

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Part II: Q&A on tiding over a two-year-old before dinner

Feb 24, 2010 by

This post is the second installment of my answer to the question of a reader, Jen, a few days ago:

My two-year-old eats really well most days, and we only have real food in the house. There are times though, when I’m moments away from having a meal ready, and he has the refrigerator open pointing at the yogurt or applesauce. I often tell him that after he eats the soup, spaghetti, red beans and rice, or whatever it is we’re having, then he can have the yogurt. I’ll say, “First we’re going to eat the soup, then we can have some yogurt.” Is this wrong? Is this like offering a reward? He usually complies without much of a fuss, though occasionally he throws a bit of a tantrum. I think the problem is he’s hungry, but the food isn’t on the table yet. If it’s going to be a…

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The right strategy to get kids to eat: Put gas in that car

Jan 28, 2010 by

“Is this wrong?” my new friend Ginger asked me today.

Last night, she said, her kids had refused to eat dinner. She knew it wasn’t that they didn’t like it. Rather, they just wanted to have power over her. So, at breakfast this morning, she made them eat the food they didn’t eat last night.

Right or wrong, Ginger’s strategy is about as useful as any when parent and child are locked in a battle of wills about eating. It’s not so much a question of whether the strategy itself is sound. What’s wrong is that such strategies are used at all and that a power struggle has formed around food.

Getting in the game of making kids eat is like running out of gas and deciding you want to save money by never buying gas again. So you ask whether it’s better to push your car or pull it down the road…

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