Many parents are wondering whether they should insist that their child takes a no-thank-you bite in order to learn to eat a bigger variety of foods. No-thank-you bite rule is not going to work if your child is cautious with new foods or the mealtime environment is stressful. But if your child is an adventurous eater and mealtimes in your house are pleasant and relaxed, encouraging your child to take a bite may provide the gentle nudge your child needs to further expand the diet variety.
Parent often ask me – should I ask my child to take a bite of everything?
It is not a simple question and two things are important here: your child’s personality and level of stress around mealtimes.
So first of all, make sure the mealtime environment is positive and relaxed, regardless of what and how much the kids are eating. If pressure and stress accompany mealtimes, another rule about eating will make the situation only worse. The best way to do it is by using the Division of Responsibility in feeding.
Second, be guided by your child’s personality. Some children are naturally more adventurous than others. Some have a lot of anxiety around food, sensory issues with textures or oral motor delays. Forcing them to take a no-thank-you bite leads to a lot of distress for the whole family and can potentially create food aversions in the future. Most of children are somewhat in the middle, meaning they are likely to try new foods sometimes, but not all the time. Katja Rowell aka Feeding Doctor wrote this great piece on how your child’s temperament affects his willingness to try new foods.
Next, wait for kids’ natural curiosity about food to come through. Children are naturally curious about their surroundings and food is not an exception. As the mealtime pressure goes down, kids start paying more attention to the food in front of them. As a result, you may hear them asking “Can I try this?” or “How does that taste?”. When you see these signs of innate curiosity coming through, you may gently encourage your child to try new food but be prepared to back off immediately and and take a no for an answer if your child is not ready for this step.
To sum up: No-thank-you bite rule is not something I recommend all families to adopt, especially when they are just learning to be authoritative feeders. But once the mealtimes are stress free and the child becomes more curious about the food he sees, it may be a good time to encourage him to try something new. Make sure to remain neutral if the child refuses to make this step forward. With a little patience, lots of family meals and a decent variety on the table, your child will eventually learn to enjoy most of the food you serve.