Those children that are somewhat destined to become fussy eaters usually begin to show such signs around 18-24 months, often signaling the beginning of a long and arduous battle for the poor parents. Young children who were once all too keen to eat a whole world of foods, including vegetables and fruits, may suddenly begin to reject foods without explanation. Others with open minds and willingness to try anything may begin to exhibit almost phobic behavior when it comes to new foods. Needless to say, all such behavior can be stressful and tiring for parents, leading to an array of approaches and efforts to turn the problem around. However, many such approaches can prove entirely redundant or perhaps even counterproductive, according to a number of studies by leading psychologists and nutritionists the world over.

Those involved have urged parents never to become overly worried at what is essentially a completely normal response – something of a survival mechanism that kicks in around such an age that forces children to question what they eat subconsciously so as to avoid poisoning themselves. Such in no way means that the child is a poor eater by nature and is something that the vast majority will grow out of over time. However, this does very little help parents intent on introducing new foods to their child’s diet.

Don’t let it backfire

However, the practice of restricting foods of choice or offering them only as rewards can be hugely counterproductive, as those than become unavailable are almost guaranteed to be desired even more – casting further disapproval on the new foods being introduced. Similarly, forcing a child to eat a food they do not like will be interpreted as punishment – transforming the food into a veritable tool of torture for which resentment can only grow – likely resulting in many a thrown bowl of food all over your furniture. Indeed, choosing certain foods as reward or otherwise in general naturally increases the level of reverence or disapproval the child will display for them, which can make the provision of a balanced diet all the more difficult.

The simple fact of the matter is that along with the basic survival mechanisms mentioned previously, we are all inherently born with our own likes and dislikes that must be acknowledged. However, there is no reason why food and eating habits cannot be hugely influenced and modified from an early age. As is the case with most behavioral traits, family figures acting as role models can help shape a child’s eating habits before they reach an age where such no longer proves an effective approach.

Children have been proven to be infinitely more likely to try and enjoy a new food if they can see their parents and siblings doing exactly that. If a parent makes a vegetable appear to be a treat rather than a punishment, the chances of the child following suit increase hugely.

Of course, it isn’t always as simple as it may appear on paper, as the actual process requires a huge level of patience and can be easier said than done. In short, the more a child is exposed to a new food, the more likely they are to try it for themselves, but the studies have also shown that while the average number of exposures before trying is 11, it can also range as high as 90!

Some key tips to keep in mind

Alongside such statistics, a number of clear pointers also came to light in order to help concerned or frustrated parent, which include the following:

  • Make eating fun, as a pleasant atmosphere alone can be enough to seem motivation peak and open-mindedness develop significantly
  • Use all key role models to lead by example and never allow their own unhelpful likes and dislikes to influence the habits of the child
  • Introduce new foods and tastes as early as possible to instill good habits
  • Be persistence – as we now know, it can often be the 90th time that proves the charm!
  • Don’t restrict foods or put certain foods on a pedestal – the results can be hugely counterproductive
  • Never force foods on a child that displays an aversion to them as the potential to extend the aversion for life becomes hugely exaggerated
  • Reward good eating habits with non food related treats and gestures

Susan is a mother of two preteens and writes on behalf of discount sofa supplier This guide to combating fussy eating was provided at no cost.