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Parenting: My Child Won't Try New Food!

Updated on July 10, 2012

One of the hardest things about raising a child is dealing with their fussy mealtime routines... or lack of!

This includes:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fussy eating
  • Reluctance to trying new food

Whilst I am focusing this article mainly on a child's reluctance when it comes to trying new foods, the three above all tie in together.

There are many techniques when it comes to encouraging a broader diet with your child. The following are just 3 ways of doing so - there are many more.

The techniques outlined below for helping your child to eat new food are designed for children of all ages (ie from toddler age right up to early teens).

Technique 1: Positive reinforcement

One of the most commonly used techniques when trying to introduce a child to new types of food is that of positive reinforcement.

What it is: Positive reinforcement is a psychological term which is used to refer to the rewarding of a good behaviour.

An example: Your child has never eaten carrot. You want them to try carrot but they won't! Well, positive reinforcement would mean that the moment they put a bit of carrot in their mouth (or the moment they swallow it), you follow up with a reward such as a piece of chocolate.

Why it works: The next time you ask your child to try a new food they are reluctant to eat, they will remember the reward they got last time and it will give them a positive memory of trying new food.

Technique 2: Wolf in sheep's clothing

The fact is, if children actually try a new food they will find they like it. It's just a psychological signal telling them: "No, you're not going to like it!"

Half the battle is often getting the new food into your child's mouth.

What it is: This technique involves dressing a new food up as a type of food your child enjoys - thus tricking them into trying it.

An example: I'd like to use a personal example. My son was recovering from an illness which drained him of his appetite. Despite being 18 months old, he reverted to only eating 3 things: Dry bread, baby mush and cheese. Sure it was enough to keep him alive and help him grow, but he needed more. Every day we would coax, plead and at times force but nothing worked. Then one day while he was adamantly refusing to eat a mild chicken curry, my partner and I had an idea: We covered the entire meal in cheese. All my son could see was the cheese, and his eyes lit up and he tucked in. All of a sudden, he realised that the cheese was gone yet he was still eating... and he loved it!

Why it works: It works because - as I said at the beginning - half the battle is dealing with the psychological issue of a child being reluctant to put the food in their mouth in the first place. Quite often if you beat this hurdle, the rest will just fall away.

Technique 3: Tough love

This technique isn't for everybody, but some parents favour it.

What it is: Being 'mean' to the child in the short run in order to gain long term benefits.

An example: A child refuses to try macaroni cheese (unlikely, I know) and so for the rest of the week the only meal served is macaroni cheese. No substitute, no desert, nothing. The meal only changes once the child has eaten the macaroni cheese.

Why it works: The idea behind this theory is that the child will eventually learn to eat what he or she is given... or eat nothing at all. However, research suggests that this technique (also known as Authoritarian Parenting) is damaging to a child and should not be used. To read the wikipedia entry, click on the link above.

Is your baby gaining the right amount of weight?

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