“I don’t like it”

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When you put a new food or combination of foods in front of a small child (or a big child!), it is not uncommon to hear “I don’t like it” And what do you, the parent, usually say? If you are like me or a lot of parents, you say, “how can you know, you haven’t tried it”. And then proceed to persuade the child to take one bite.

I am a big believer in no pressure at meal times. Pressure leads to power struggles. A child will only get more stubborn in the face of your pressure. And that makes sense if you think about it. Here is a child, who has resistance to this food and no one is honoring his or her feelings. In general, I follow the no pressure rule. I am in charge of making the food and he is in charge of eating it (or not). Period. But the argument of ‘I don’t like it’ when they have never tasted it, sparks an urge in me. I counter a child’s illogical statement with a logical one, ie: you haven’t tried it. But what does a child really mean when he says he doesn’t like something he has never tried.

I read an article written by Maryann Jacobsen recently and it changed my understanding of what is actually going on with a child when they say “I don’t like it”.

A child probably means that he is not ready to eat it, that he is unfamiliar with this food and that makes him uncomfortable or even scared.

So at this point we should either

  • honor our child’s feelings and leave them alone. This doesn’t mean we can’t still offer the food at future meals. We have known for a long time that it takes a child 10-15 exposures to a food before they try it. Maybe now we can understand why.
  • try to give them the support they need.
    • Ketchup, ranch dressing or cheese can make an unfamiliar food familiar again
    • Ask your child, what could be done to the food to make it yummier or more appealing?
    • Have them help you prepare the food, so they see what it is, where it comes from, etc.

Most of all: be patient. As always, don’t make a big deal out of this. That only leads to power struggles and more resistance.

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net