E: Eat It… Or Don’t

Fussy eater

Ok, finally here. The fussy eater solution:

Let’s begin with a little background information for those of you who don’t know. I love planning. I plan everything, from my years to my half-hours. Almost everything is made in plans or schedules or tables or graphs. I always try to make a system that will work for Max. So it was inevitable that this would, one day, come up. I was so proud of myself when on Tuesday, Max happily ate up the onions in his soup and filled in a box in the onion row on his chart.

Basically, this system encourages eating of “yucky”  foods but by choice, not by being told. It is supposed to break the habits of not eating certain foods. Daddy says there’s a lot of research about making new habits. You can’t just tell someone to stop being a fussy eater, you have to replace an old habit with a new better habit.

In my experience, kids are more likely  to do something they don’t want to do by encouragement and choice rather than someone (a grown-up), telling them to. Some of the things Max “doesn’t like” are actually a problem because of power struggle, not because they’re actually bad. Some things, like onions, are rarely  even noticeable they just blend in with everything else. Also Max loooves Trader Joe’s mushroom turnovers. They are pastry pockets filled with a mixture of mushrooms and onions. He says that those are different from all the other mushrooms and onions he has ever refused to eat. I don’t believe him.

In our family everyone is allowed to have one food they don’t like in addition to allergies and things almost everyone likes like pineapple or melon. So I made this chart showing Max how even grown-ups and non-fussy eaters (me) are allowed to have some foods they don’t like. We asked mama what foods she didn’t like and asked what foods daddy didn’t like and we put down my foods too. We decided on one food for max’s “don’t eat” food and this showed him that the power struggle is worthless because everyone is allowed to have one food that they don’t like. I put a big, blue no sign to show everyone that those are the “no-no” foods. Then Max was ready to start.

This is how I made the system:

I had him tell me all the foods that came to his mind that he didn’t like and I inserted them into a table. Then, I inserted 15 columns in front of the “yucky” foods. Every 3rd box I put A star. The more boxes you put in between point boxes (boxes with stars), the harder the “game” gets.

Every time the child, (or grownup) eats the food that they don’t like, prepared how they don’t like it, they fill in one of the boxes in the row next to that food. They must go left to right and are not allowed to skip any boxes. As soon as they fill in the box with a star in it (in my case every 3rd time max eats a “yucky” food), they get a point.

This is the fun part of the game: When they get a point they can record it on their “point chart”. The “point chart” is a 11×5 table. In the top row there are 5 levels, each level increasing by 1 every box (if you want higher levels possible just increase the number of columns). For example, Lvl1 is the first box. The eater can fill his point in anywhere on the chart as long as there is a point directly to the left of it. For example, I could fill in a lvl1 box and then a lvl2 box in the first row and then I could fill in a lvl1 in the second row but I could not then fill in a lvl4 in the second row, I would have to build up to it. The eater can turn in their row for a prize at any time, however, they can only use each row once, so I couldn’t get prize 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in the same row. The eater would pick a goal and then work up to it or need to turn in their prize in the spur of the moment and get whatever level they already had. They cross out a row when they turn it in for a prize.

Now you might want to know what prizes you should use. I’m using a small cookie or candy for lvl1, a piece of marzipan or two lvl1 prizes for lvl2,  one medium-large cookie or 3 lvl1 prizes for lvl3, the eater’s choice of a batch of homemade cookies to share or 4 lvl1 prizes for lvl4, and finally their choice of an ice-cream sundae or another ice-cream treat of equal merit for lvl5.

This system has worked both of the two times that there was something “yucky” in dinner and is also worked for me. No, I am not a fussy eater… well… unless there’s wiggle on the meat but I use my system for every time I drink 5 glasses or more of water in a day, every time I turn off a bathroom light, and every time I shower in under 5 min.

I love my system and I highly recommend it. It shows the eater that they have the power to make good decisions. They already know that, everyone does, but my system puts proof right in front of them for all the world to see. It’s surprising to think how much one little bowl of veggie soup or plate salad adds up and if you keep going it doesn’t feel like much effort; just a new good habit. Eaters can now make good choices and they probably will, but just remember that everyone is different so you might have to keep trying. Just remember-give them the power to choose.

Good Luck!

If you have any questions regarding my fussy eater solution post them in the comments section (you will find a link to it at the bottom of this post).


One thought on “E: Eat It… Or Don’t

  1. That’s quite a system! All you need now are color pencils and Grammy will want to use it!!!
    I like the idea of helping someone see that a change is his own choice and stepping around the whole power struggle. It reminds me of Tiffany Aching and “This I Choose.”

    Do you think that he will keep eating and trying new things after the chart is gone?

    I think it’s a little funny that you are experimenting with “systems” on your brother who is not such a “systems person.” I guess if he was, he would want to use his own!

    – Daddy

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