Health, Kids

Serving One Unhappy Customer

March 30, 2012

Oh boy. Just look at Diego’s little face as he is about to dig in to his sweet Morning O’s and that juicy slice of orange. This is Diego’s look every time he is about to eat anything! And he loves the cereal and fruit!! The poor kid has a pajama/pizza party at school today and he is bent out of shape because he doesn’t eat pizza and he doesn’t want to be the only one who takes a lunch.

Jose and I are really surprised that Diego is a super-picky eater. Diego has been to ten different countries and has managed to find things to eat during our travels without having to resort to a restaurant that is an American franchise! We wouldn’t call ourselves foodies but Jose and I know how to enjoy a good meal. We love to chow down! And we don’t consider ourselves picky at all. There is always a diverse amount of food in our house and when we eat out, we never eat fast food (except Chipotle). We indulge in sushi, Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, and Indian food! We can’t understand why every time we have a meal with Diego (twice a day for me) everyone is unhappy, threats are made and the meal is pretty much ruined.

I can sit here and brag that Diego loves all fruits, peas, carrots and corn, brown rice, fish, meat and chicken. He loves tortillas (flour), Mexican sopitas, deli meat, all types of cheese and other dairy, whole wheat and natural peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And he loves, loves, chocolate chip cookies, Goldfish, Pirate’s Booty, cereal bars, gummy bears and M&M’s. Don’t offer the kid a slice of pizza or a cupcake or a slice of cake. Don’t offer any of the kid staples like macaroni and cheese, a grilled cheese sandwich, or pasta. This makes going to birthday parties pretty difficult. So you can say that he has a well balanced diet, he is healthy, we know what he likes, people even say that I’m lucky…so why is he so miserable every time he sits down to eat??? By the time I am done fighting with him, have counted a couple of strikes against him and my mood has been dampened by another meal-time battle, Santi, at 16 months, is finished with his portion, is screeching because he wants more or because he wants out of his high chair, and I have a whiner and a screamer in my hands. Forget trying to eat Betty. You can’t. Maybe when everyone is off to bed…again.

So after reading Raising Happiness by Dr. Christine Carter, I find that I am definitely not alone. Remember I wrote that long post a few days ago? Well, I tapped into it again and can see myself using this book for reference over and over again. Any-who, Dr. Carter suggests that I, the parent, not Diego, the child, start making some changes to improve this miserable part of our day. I have learned that changing my attitude when serving breakfast or dinner or when out at a friend’s or a restaurant, can help change the atmosphere created by our little unhappy diner. I have to create what Dr. Carter calls, “happiness habits.” So, since last week, I started calling Diego to the table like this, “Diego! Time to eat! Will you be coming to the table super happy?” With that phrase I am reminding him that I don’t want to fight and that I want a positive attitude. As he walks into the kitchen, I crack a silly joke (I’m not good with jokes, but I try). He smiles and with those little words, he is sitting a little bit happier. Then he glances at his food…remember, things he likes to eat, no pizza here, he starts to make a little fuss and I quickly ask if he wants to hear some music…distraction. I hit the Pandora on my iPhone and I feel my body starting to tighten, I hold my breath and I quickly encourage him to start eating. It doesn’t fail that withing minutes, Diego is practically lying down on the table, whining, and trying to negotiate with me what he is going to eat or not. My mood changes and the yelling begins.

I focus again on other things Dr. Carter states, be empathetic Betty, rationalize with him in a meaningful way, “Diego, all that protein is going to make you super fast at soccer”, and imply that he has a choice rather than using controlling language. “It’s your fault you won’t have anything to eat at the party because you won’t try the pizza”, doesn’t work. Saying, “you can try the pizza at school today but if you don’t want to, I can pack a lunch for you. You have a choice.” I have to also believe that meal-time disasters are going to end soon, that if we all stay positive and stress out less, things will change. But it’s tough isn’t it? I once heard that fighting over/about food is awful, we as parents shouldn’t do it with our children. But it’s hard! I don’t want Diego waking up in the middle of the night saying he is hungry!!! I also believe that it is a huge cultural thing for Mexican kids to learn to eat politely, finish everything on the plate and smile while doing it! So I will continue to work on myself, work on choosing the right words and work on being happy myself during this time in our home.

I dropped him off to school happily. In the car, I reminded him that the pajama party was going to be fun no matter what anyone decided to eat. I reminded him that trying the pizza would be great but having a good time with his friends at lunch would be better. I also told him that eating something from his lunch would be better than not eating anything at all…that he had choices. He went in smiling. Let’s hope for the same outcome when he gets out today.

Are you having the same issues? Why is eating so hard for kids? Whatever you decide to do for food this weekend, I hope it is fun and delicious!! Happy Friday everyone!
Your friend,

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  • Reply Caro Monroy March 30, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Lia- she will eat anything and everything. I have never had a problem with her. Since she was a baby I never ordered from a “kids menu” always shared what I was eating with her. The only thing she does not like at 11yrs old is raisins and school lunch, which she claims has “poison”.

    Angie- was a picky eater, but it was more the texture that she did not like. She still tries to be picky but I have a rule in the house… They can not say they don’t like something without trying it first. I then ask them. “was it horrible” 9 out of 10 times they say no and then they kinda finish it.

    Franco- most of the time is too busy playing so he does not even notice what goes in his mouth and just automatically chews and swallows.

    I once read an article that if you ask a picky eater to try just one bite of a new food you are trying to introduce, he/she will then acquire the taste after the 8th time it is offered.

    • Betty
      Reply Betty April 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      Lia is brilliant.
      Angie knows what’s up with certain slimy or chewy textures. I get it!
      Franco-God bless him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pass it on to my Diego please!! LOL
      But Caro, it’s not the picky-eater part I dislike…Diego eats super healthy. I worry that he doesn’t enjoy eating. πŸ™

  • Reply Jessica Sanchez March 30, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    OMG! So I totally don’t have kids, but this is such a cute blog! I can’t picture you getting angry at anyone especially your babies.

    • Betty
      Reply Betty April 2, 2012 at 12:11 pm

      Thanks Jessica! And yes, I get upset with these boys! LOL xoxo

  • Reply Nancy March 30, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Hay Betty, this is one of the biggest struggles as a parent, all we want is our children to eat healthy so they stay out of the doctor’s office. I love eating and I will try anything no matter how gross it looks, but when I was little a remember my mom shoving food in my mouth, Easter was the worst season for me, how did I used to hate eating abas y albondigas de camaron and now I love them so much. I have to admit it, I do force my children to eat certain foods, I don’t feel bad about it because I feel like I’m doing something good even if they cry. Melina will eat anything, Christy on the other hand is a bit of a picker eater, but what annoys me the most is her distraction while she eats, if I’m not sitting next to her and watches her like a hook, she will get up and do other things 50 times. It drives me crazy. She does same with homework anything is more important than sitting doing homework. I had a talk to a teacher about homework and she said to time her And if she did not finish on time to send her to school without her homework, and it worked now I do same with food when I time her she focus and finishes fast. Now with baby Frankie is another story, he spits out everything he does not like, he has eyes in his mouth I could mix a piece of carrot with pasta and he will feel the carrot in his mouth and spit it out immediately. I’m struggleing with him all i care now is for him to eat something, So I do try to give him what he wants as long as he eats, but I still don’t give him junk food.

    • Betty
      Reply Betty April 2, 2012 at 12:11 pm

      Nancy! Try the creating happiness habits for Christy. Positive communication, be empathetic, “I know you don’t want to do your homework but the faster you get through it the faster we can go play _________ (whatever she likes to do with you)”. Rationalize with her, “It’s so important that you do your homework because……” and finally, and imply that she has a choice instead of using controlling language, “You can finish your homework in 20 minutes or you can turn it in half done. Ms._________ will talk to you about it tomorrow.”
      Good luck!!!!!!! xoxo

  • Reply Jenny Gamboa March 31, 2012 at 10:42 am

    When my girls were younger I never forced them to eat anything they liked. I remember my mom would make us eat peas and other foods we didn’t like. We learned a trick and took a mouthful and put it in a napkin and say we had to go to the bathroom. Worked fine until with didn’t have any more napkins. When I introduced peas they had the same reaction. Lol. They do eat other veggies. We always ate what my mom gaves us or we would go to bed hungry.
    When I started going around my husbands family his one niece always had her own food and never what we ate. Parties or anything she packed a pb and j sandwich, fruit, applesauce or yogurt and a glass of milk or water. She refuses to try anything and she is 14 now. My sister in law is a nurse so she always gave her food that was healthy for a picky eater. My niece would come up with excuses not to eat. She had a lot of patience. Good luck.

  • Reply Carla March 31, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Hey Betty! Love the blog, great job! Don’t stress over Diego not eating pizza and macaroni and cheese, neither are good for you. A little hunger always helps at our table… cut the snacks if he has them and let him feel hungry. It is not a bad thing.. love you! Carla x

    • Betty
      Reply Betty April 2, 2012 at 12:03 pm

      Hi Carla! Def. not stressed about Diego not eating “kid-food” (!). I’m stressed that he is so unhappy to eat period. Ugh. I’m going to cut down the snacks like you suggest. Miss you! xoxo

  • Reply Nancy April 10, 2012 at 1:17 am

    Thanks Betty for your advise I will try that tomorrow, I feel so not fabulous today because she wanted to watch a movie and I said yes as long as you shower quickly and get ready to bed, and so like Christy,, it took her for ever to shower I asked her to get out and get dressed, 5 min later she is standing in front of her dresser staring at something doing nothing, and I got so mad and I said no movie, she stared crying. And then I just don’t know what do do or say. I already said no movie. I really did not mean it but if I changed my mind then she would think I’m not strong enough, very frustrating, I just need her to focus, I run out of ideas. I will try the more rational talking, see what happens. Thanks again

  • Reply raquelito April 27, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Many people say “I Love to eat!” Obviously Diego isn’t one of them. LOL I wonder why he doesn’t “enjoy” eating? It is because he rather be doing another thing? I am alittle taken back by him not enjoying pizza. My Emma’s eyes LIGHT UP when she see’s it. Guero and I are both picky eaters and I often worry if our girl will ever enjoy the variety of foods available (seafood, Thai, sushi, or mustard) if we don’t expose her to them. The one food I am super happy she enjoys is vegetables (except mushrooms)! I act super excited when I eat them (just did this) and continue to say my favorite line “estan deliciosos!” Since her papa only eats corn, aguacate and potatoes someone has to model the expected behavior. Positive reinforcement is not easy but worth the effort. I will continue to do the “thank you bite” She has to put it in her mouth and try it once. I do it with Guero! LOL

    • Betty
      Reply Betty April 29, 2012 at 9:16 am

      That is what baffles us! Jose and I eat EVERYTHING!!! Yet, Diego just doesn’t enjoy the act of eating! One day, I hope…
      I love your idea of the “thank you bite”! Going to try that. πŸ™‚

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