Hard-charging Marines love challenges. They know the importance of overcoming and adapting to their environment. However, if a challenge takes a really long time and has no solution in sight, it can wear thin the patience of even the most highly trained fighting force.
Enter picky eaters – those young devil pups (Young Devil Dogs, nickname for Marines) who resist, refuse and call you out on the prisoner of war protections under the Geneva Convention. Here are a few Corps tips that I applied from my training and experience:
The Social Chow Hall
If your child is using their eating utensils as pugil sticks, there is a chance its the way you are feeding them. Gone are the eat-everything-on-your-plate days as there is a correlation to that and your child’s future behavior. Developmental theorist Erik Erikson found that children learn important social skills near two years of age under the category of autonomy versus shame and doubt. Threatening children with punishment or disappointment at the dinner table has the power of affecting the way they view you as a guide through life and decreases their future chances of trusting their own abilities. This in turn can make children anxious for the remainder of their lives.
Use the model of the Marine Corps Chow Hall for. After a hard days work, nothing is more needed that nourishment and casual conversation with fellow Marines. The best place for this is the mess hall. Focus on the social side of dinner and less on the food. I’ve found that with my terribly picky eater he comes to the table for conversation and he unconsciously starts eating all on his own.
Instead of digging a fighting hole or hunkering down for a major battle, change the environment. Take into consideration that portion size could be the problem. Cut your children’s food into smaller pieces than you have done in the past. Smaller pieces or fun shapes (eagles, globes and anchors are hard to make without a cookie cutter) can make the experience easier and more fun for both of you.
Overcome Food Jag Fright
Children can go on food jags, or periods in which they will only eat one type of food. Some children eat only from the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) which can actually relieve tummy troubles. Children outgrow them. Make sure that your children are eating food that provides a significant amount of protein (pasta can meet this need, but it is no means nutritional advice). Always consult your pediatrician. Just make sure they aren’t eating dehydrated Meals-Ready-to-Eat (if you can even open the thick plastic bag). Try mixing small portions of averse foods into their favorites so they can get more nutritional value. Improvise, Overcome, Adapt!
Children need plenty of positive support in all of their activities, especially when it comes to chow time. With a little bit of confidence, a hank of patience and a lot of dedication, food will be the least of your worries.
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