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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Determining Your Child's Place in the Family

I visited my GP with the 4yr old the other day.

Firstly, he was due for his vaccinations. (They went relatively well. He was a little upset, but the fact he got two lollies for two shots seemed to cushion the blow a bit).

However, I was also there to ask her about my son's eating habits.

Since the 4yr old first started eating more solid food rather than the baby mush, he has always had an issue with eating solid pieces of fruit or vegetables (except hot chips, that is). He'll happily munch away on meat, cheese, bread - pretty much everything else - but when it comes to apple or carrots or grapes or cucumber...it's a no-go zone as far as he's concerned.

It's not that he doesn't like the taste of fruit or vegies. He'll happily eat pureed fruit (but not mashed banana) and I'm always grating up carrots or chopping mushrooms finely to sneak in to the family spag bol. He knows they're there, but eats them anyway.

It's the consistency of the fruit and veg that seems to be the problem. Take, for example, the grape he attempted to eat during our recent family holiday. No sooner had he popped it in to his mouth, he started to dry-reach. This has always been an issue with him eating fruit. As a baby, the dry-reaching would sometimes turn to vomiting.

My GP assures me this is now a psychological issue. The fact that he can eat others foods means he doesn't have an issue with swallowing (which was my concern). She gave me the following ideas to help encourage his trying some fruit:

- Create a sticker chart. Don't make a big deal of it. Just create it, put it up in his room and tell him it's there if he eats some fruit. Don't put it in front of him beside the plate of fruit - just let him know it's ready should some fruit be consumed.

- Make a fruit platter together. (We actually do this already.) Create a person using fruit (we make fruit flowers sometimes), then put it beside him. If he tries it, fine. If he doesn't, don't worry. Don't make a fuss.

- Try peeling and then cutting apple up in to very fine cubes. The size of sultanas (which he will eat). Don't overwhelm him with the amount. Just give him a small serve.

Apart from that, she also said something interesting during our conversation. She said, "You might find that this is now his place in the family. He has become, 'the one who doesn't eat fruit'. If you make a big deal of it, he'll almost feel obliged to take on that role."

We then went on to discuss this a little further, as it's something I've always thought about. Just like when a child is called 'sporty', 'creative' or 'academic', or when we label our kids with 'the middle-child' - relating it to their behaviour (I've done this) - we have the ability to determine our child's fate almost. Are we putting them in to a certain box? Categorising them in order to make sense of their place in the world? Are we limiting them by doing that? I tend to think so.

So I am now determined to avoid labels, starting by not making a big fuss over the 4yr old's eating habits.

Do you think you had a label as a child? Do you label your kids? Do you think you're determining your child's place in the family?

Oh - and if you have any tips for my 4yr old, I'd appreciate it. 

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