If you were to guess the opposite occupation to a kids feeding specialist, what would you say? I would put astronaut, outback road-train driver and fisher for Alaskan king crabs at the top of my list. Commander Chris Hadfield had me hooked in the first chapter though and I couldn’t stop comparing his insights to a child learning to eat. Some of the more memorable lessons I’ve had in life come from the least expected sources. Whilst reading “An Atronaut’s Guide to Life On Earth” last year, I was amazed at how pertinent the lessons were for feeding kids, especially uncertain / anxious eaters. And because I STILL reflect on this book and the little pearls of wisdom I found there, I thought I’d tell you about my 4 favourite pearls and how they relate to picky eaters:
“Sweat The Small Stuff”
I first wrote about the importance of sweating the small stuff with anxious kids & parents dealing with picky eaters in this blog post on the 9 things you shouldn’t say to parents of picky eaters.
As Chris points out, when you have worries, they can make you restless and amplify your uncertainty. So, by sweating it out, understanding it and getting proficient at ALL the little things, you eliminate wasting headspace on worry. It’s important as an astronaut to know which maneuver to execute on the off-chance of a gazillion little things going wrong. Just like it is for food-anxious kids to know a bit about their food before they launch right in. Giving them the right strategies to allow them to sweat the small stuff will boost their confidence around new foods.
“There is no problem so bad that you can’t make it worse”
If you are zooming through space and something goes wrong, I bet there are a million things you can. And so many of these options would spell disaster. This rang true for me because being aware of our words, actions and longer-term goals is really important in making the best decisions – even in the heat of the moment. Not every meal will go to plan, but having a back-up strategy and an arsenal of tools to get you through the hairiest of mealtimes pays dividends. Nobody wants to be on a rocket ship that’s on a doomed trajectory & spiraling out of control. Kids are especially sensitive. They can push your buttons. They can seem to want to make the meal bad (almost intentionally). However, we can work with them to find the root cause without blasting off on a rocket ship to tantrum town.
“Allow yourself to be victorious every day”
It’s important to find the good in the parenting moments, even during meals. It can feel like days or weeks can go by in a blur of uneaten meals, tantrums, short order cooking picky eaters a special meal, beige-only diets or flat out food refusals. But there is a definite need for you to feel
good VICTORIOUS every day. And this is not a call to arms against your child…. but rather a call to make them your ally. If they are your crew on the space station, you need to help them be the best they can be and NOT be in competition with them (or fighting them). Their proficiency on the space station is crucial for your survival. So, for our kids we need to work out their WHY. Why is the food so hard for them right now? Team up with them. Find your victories. Is it a kiss of some pizza this week? Is it smelling the strawberries at the farmers market? Or just helping you set the table? Keep the victories internal (as it can lead to positive pressure on children to make a song and dance in front of them) but acknowledge them. They are the daily ah-ha moments your child is having when they are learning.
“Knowledge and Competence are the Antidote to Fear”
Chris spent years and years training for the possibility of making his dream a reality. A dream that comes with it’s fair share of fear. Fear is real. Even when it seems trivial to you or me, the fear your child may have to eating certain foods is real to them. The specific content of WHAT is making that fear real for them is very important. So, giving them knowledge about how to approach a food and building their competence at trying new foods is going to help them overcome their fears.
If you think this book could make an appearance on your reading list, here’s the amazon link. I’ve included my affiliate link in hope of one day shouting myself a coffee with some earnings from it. #disclosure
IF you have a picky eater and want additional support to get to the bottom of the root cause, check out “Goodbye Picky Eating with Simone Emery” and the consult upgrades available.
OR you might want to read another of my practical posts about taming the runaway toddler at mealtimes.
What parenting lessons / quotes have you found in unlikely places?