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How to Parent a Picky Child

Children are known for being notoriously picky. Whether it's about the foods they eat, the clothes they wear or even the cup they use to drink their milk, parents universally agree that when it comes to being picky, kids take the cake. At times, it may seem like there's no limit to the pickiness.

Being picky can take many forms, but since food choices are often involved, let's start there. Do any of these statements sound familiar?

  • “My son won't eat broccoli as he hates the texture."
  • “My toddler has a fit if the food on his plate touches."
  • “My daughter refuses to eat anything but chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese."

According to Bridget Barnes, Boys Town Common Sense® expert, “The best way to prevent kids from becoming picky at mealtime is to expose them to a variety of foods." She offered the following suggestions:

  • Beginning as early as 8-12 months, when children start to pick things up, provide them with more eating choices like nutritious finger foods and small pieces of what adults are eating. Offering a variety of colorful and different foods is key.
  • Avoid introducing sweets early on. If children are regularly exposed to sugary choices, they are more likely to crave sweet foods and refuse other healthier options.
  • Don't overuse certain foods to compensate for picky eating. For example, things like milk, chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese shouldn't become the immediate “go-to's" when a child refuses to eat. It's also important to talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child's nutrition.
  • Above all, don't give up! Keep introducing healthy foods to your kids in new ways and give them choices. As kids get older, they are less likely to complain if they have been involved in making some of their own food choices or helping to prepare them.

Other issues that fall into the “picky kids' zone" often involve clothes and other items like a favorite drinking cup or plate. When a child starts to throw a tantrum at bedtime because their favorite pajamas are in the wash or they refuse to eat unless dinner is served to them on their favorite plate, Bridget encourages parents to, “Deal with the tantrum first. Once you and your child have calmed down, then you can begin teaching more appropriate responses, stressing that it is not a fight, but about making good choices. The best approach with children of all ages is to set a good example and model the behaviors you want to see."

For more ideas on ways to deal with picky kids, visit www. Boys Town: Saving Children, Healing Families, Parenting Tips | Coping with A Picky Eater Boys Town also offers valuable resources for parents including classes like Common Sense Parenting and parenting guides, articles, videos, tools and quick tips on a variety of subjects developed by Boys Town experts. For more information, visit