Since my son was born, he has been a stubborn, opinionated little stinker. I love him to death, but my goodness can that kid be difficult to convince. Generally I am happy that he is so firm in his perspective, but when it comes to trying new foods… not so much.
Many kids, even if they are easy going about most things, tend to develop strong opinions about what foods they like and more importantly, what they don’t like, between the ages of 6-10. This can be particularly unpleasant for parents who enjoy exotic flavors and ethnic foods. It’s not that we need our kids to like everything we like, but there is something uncomfortable about unwrapping a pb&j for your child at a sushi restaurant.
So lately I have tried a new strategy with my son that is showing great promise. I have started letting him choose new foods to try when we go to the store. We start in the fruits and veggies section, and anything he picks I will buy, but the stipulation is that he must eat at least 7 bites of it after I cook it (I chose “7” completely arbitrarily based on my son’s age). Being the logical bargainer that I am raising, he of course has included the entirely reasonable stipulation that I have to eat just as much as he does. Which works well, because sometimes even I won’t blame him for turning up his nose.
I have to say that this new system has come with some unexpected benefits. For one, I am learning to cook and prepare things I might never have gotten around to. And I am more in tune with what things my son likes and does not like. As much as I might want to think he is still my sweet little baby who loved spinach, the truth of the matter, is he is now a big 7 year old who hates spinach, but has lately developed a very unexpected liking for broccoli! (Yes this is the same kid who just two weeks ago told me he wanted to become a superhero so he could rid the world of broccoli.) If I wasn’t intensely engaged with him and giving him some agency over his food choices, I might have missed out on that.
Now, I’m not advocating for parents to take their kids to the store and just mindlessly let them fill the cart with frozen burritos, candy, and chips. I am advocating helping your kids be more involved in their own nutrition choices. My son picked out purple carrots the other day. I know he likes orange carrots, but the fact that he got to pick purple ones was both fun, and exciting! I would probably not have picked purple carrots for him, just because I wouldn’t think to try it.
So get out there and let your kid in on the decision making process. However it works for you, whether it is to only let them pick fruits and veggies, or whether it extends to a few lunch items. When kids start to feel that their opinion has been heard, and that they are partially responsible for what foods end up on their plate, you might be surprised at how much of the conflict around food drops away.