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Navigating Picky Eating: Should You Send Your Child to Bed Hungry?

Mealtime struggles are a common challenge for many parents, especially when dealing with picky eaters. The age-old dilemma of whether to send a child to bed hungry if they haven't eaten their dinner is one that often sparks debate among parents. On one hand, there's the concern about ensuring children receive adequate nutrition, but on the other, there's the fear of creating negative associations with food. So, what's the right approach when faced with a picky eater who refuses to eat dinner?

Before jumping to conclusions, it's essential to understand the root cause of your child's picky eating habits. Picky eating can stem from a variety of factors, including sensory issues, food aversions, or simply a preference for certain tastes and textures. Understanding why your child is reluctant to eat certain foods can help you approach the situation with empathy and patience.

Sending a picky eater to bed hungry as a form of punishment can backfire and potentially exacerbate the problem. Children may develop anxiety or negative feelings towards mealtime, making it even more challenging to introduce new foods or encourage healthy eating habits in the future.

Instead of resorting to punitive measures, consider adopting a more supportive and nurturing approach to address picky eating. Here are some strategies to consider:

Set up your routine with 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day: This will ensure your child has multiple opportunities to eat throughout the day to get adequate calories and nutrition, this will also help to reduce grazing and take pressure off dinner if this is a sticking point for them.

Offer a variety of foods: Encourage your child to explore different foods and flavours by offering a variety of options at mealtime, including at least 1-2 preferred foods. Be patient and persistent, as it may take several attempts before they're willing to try something new.

Lead by example: Children often mimic the behaviour of their parents, so be sure to model healthy eating habits yourself. Sit down together as a family for meals whenever possible, and demonstrate an adventurous attitude towards trying new foods.

Create a positive mealtime environment: Make mealtime a relaxed and enjoyable experience by minimizing distractions and focusing on spending quality time together as a family. Avoid placing undue pressure on your child to eat, as this can create unnecessary stress and tension.

Involve your child in meal preparation: Encourage your child to help with meal preparation, such as choosing recipes, shopping for ingredients, or assisting in the kitchen. This can help them feel more invested in the meal and more willing to try new foods.

Seek professional guidance if needed: If your child's picky eating habits persist or are causing concern, don't hesitate to seek guidance from a paediatrician or a feeding therapist. They can offer personalized advice and strategies to address your child's specific needs.

Sending a picky eater to bed hungry should be a last resort rather than a go-to solution. Instead, focus on creating a positive and supportive mealtime environment that encourages healthy eating habits and fosters a positive relationship with food. By approaching picky eating with empathy, patience, and understanding, you can help your child develop a varied and nutritious diet that meets their needs for growth and development.

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