My friend recently posed this evergreen question to me: “What happens when your kids used to like something, and then they wake up one morning and decide, nah?”
This is a killer, but a situation that happens all of the time. One day, it’s “yay, soup!” The next, “gross, soup.” One day, it’s “ooh, steak!” The next, “I hate steak.” What to do?
Get frustrated. To put it mildly. You will probably not be able to convince your kid that this food, which they found perfectly acceptable – nay, even likeable – just days before is still a friendly food. You have to just swallow hard, shrug, and say, “huh, so steak isn’t your thing today. Okay we’ll try again another time.” This is hard, especially when it’s dinner, but forcing the issue usually cements it into place even more dramatically.
Here are a few tips that may help turn the situation around:
- See if they might not want to help in changing up the seasonings next time. If the meatloaf made with ketchup and oregano is no longer to their liking, invite them to poke around the spice drawer, unscrew the caps of this, that, and the other, and pick a new herb or seasoning to try. Ask them if they think barbecue sauce might work better. Let them pick a shredded cheese to add to the dish. Sometimes letting them be the decision maker in the process opens the door to the dish in a different way.
- If you find something your kid enjoys while you are eating out as a family, make it a mission to make your own version of that dish at home. The excitement and experimentation of trying to recreate something they liked outside the house may ignite new interest.
- Play the name game. If your son or daughter is no longer interested in “Mommy’s chicken,” let them pick a dish and name it after themselves. That way, when it’s time to figure out what to make, saying, “Hey, do you want to make Henry’s chicken,” or “Molly’s lasagna” may prompt a favorable response.
- Play with the serving presentation. Back to the meatloaf example, one big meatloaf sliced into slabs may not be as enticing to a kid as their own individually-sized meatloaf.
In the end, these ebbs and flows happen to all of us, and most of the time, they have to run their course. But that’s okay. Getting them involved in the process, and letting them discover, and later (sigh) rediscover new foods is part of developing a more well-rounded palate, which is the ultimate goal. If we could all move in a steady path towards this, by simply adding new foods to the family’s repertoire, it would be easier. But you never thought raising kids was easy, now, did you?
When my son was 5 years old, he invented “Caleb Bites” — something he eats to this day (he is now 12). It is as simple as can be — any food that can be wrapped in a small spinach leaf is a “Caleb Bite” — it is amazing how much spinach a little boy can eat when he gets to wrap it himself. So when he fusses (and what kid doesn’t?), we yank out the spinach and put a mound on his plate with whatever food he claims not to want to eat (does NOT work well with soup or stews) and he will at least eat 5 or six Caleb Bites. And so the battle goes on. Take care.