No parent I know wants to be a short-order chef. What we want, is for kids to eat. For them to avoid being hungry. For them to make it through the night. For them to have the nutrients they need to grow. For them to be satisfied. The list goes on.

For many parents, it's easier to make a separate meal for the child who regularly refuses the main meal.

For others, the routine goes something like this: Parents make a meal. Child refuses. Parent begs, barters, cajoles, threatens, bribes. The child might take a taste before pronouncing the food utterly disgusting. Parent brings out the preferred food.

The key to changing the dinner dynamic is to look at this as a family system. The Internet is full of recipes guaranteed to appeal to your picky kids. But changing what you serve isn't the answer. Kids who are locked into a system where they refuse what you're serving might, on occasion, eat the perfect recipe. Indeed, they'll do this just often enough to convince you that the search for the perfect recipe is a worthwhile endeavor. But it's not. (That's why the recipe that works one night will fail the next night.)

When the family system reinforces the same old pattern, in this case the child refusing to eat what is on the table, the only way to change the outcome is to change the family system.

So here we go. You change the family system by switching your strategy. Stop looking for the right food and start teaching the right lessons. I've outlined 10 lessons that kids need to learn so you can stop being a short-order chef.

Dina Rose
Source: Dina Rose

Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.

© 2017 Dina Rose, PhD, is the author of the book, It’s Not About the Broccoli: Three Habits to Teach Your Kids for a Lifetime of Healthy Eating (Perigee Books). She also writes the blog It's Not About Nutrition.

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