Curious about how your child may feel about trying new food?
Imagine yourself in front of a plate of roasted CRICKETS in a respectable restaurant, with the chief standing in front of you and describing nutritional and environmental benefits of toasted crickets! (Real experience in one of London trendy eateries)
How many prompts would you need before finally trying one bite of these guys?
What if a friend sitting next to you was forcing you to take a bite and shaming you for not doing so?
What if you were told not to leave the table before you finish them all?
This is what your child may be experiencing when you beg, cajole and bribe to get him to take that one bite of new food.
You may think that if only he took one bite, he would love it, because it tastes so good. Or you may feel that by not pressuring him to take one bite you are letting him have it his way, being too permissive. Or maybe you are concerned about his nutrition and think that one bite of a new vegetable will help him expand his eating horizons and get more vitamins and minerals he needs to grow and develop.
Whatever your reason is for making your child try a new food, it may backfire. Compliant children are more likely to oblige and obediently take the number of bites that are required to make you happy (or help them get a dessert).
More head strong children or those with sensory issues and anxiety around eating may be downright terrified, enraged or both. Pushing them more will create more resistance until your mealtime becomes a battle field and everyone’s appetite is spoilt.
But let’s think of a different scenario now.
Imagine crickets served for meals in your house somewhat frequently, so you can see the people you love and trust enjoying them all the time. They just eat them, without trying to persuade you to try or bribing you with dessert to take a bite. No one makes a big deal out of their great nutrition, either.
You know there is other food on the table except for crickets that you can fill your belly with so no special food is served for you instead. On days when crickets are served before a main meal, you may skip the appetizer and go straight to the entree.
Until one day, weeks or maybe years from now, you feel curious enough to take a bite. Not sure about what to expect, you would even prefer no one to watch you at that very special moment. And you certainly would not want to see anyone upset in case you need to spit it out. You just really want to get to know this food better and form your own opinion about it. If you hear cheers after trying them, you may suddenly feel like a victim of a “big cricket plan” conspired to get you to try them. Next, you may love them, hate them or not care about them, but any of these may change with time.
These two scenarios are very different. In the first one the child is viewed as an inherently “bad eater” who needs to be educated, in more or less pushy ways, about how to eat. The focus is on the short term goal of getting certain food inside a child at a certain meal.
The second approach is based on trusting the child to grow into his eating potential. The concept of trust is at the core of the Division of Responsibility in feeding, where parents and children have clearly defined roles that cannot be exchanged. Children are trusted to grow to like the food their parents are eating, without pressure or sneaky techniques.
Research shows that trust helps children feel good about eating, be of healthy weight and in general enjoy a variety of different foods.
Even if crickets never make it to their list of favorites.
P.S. Mini-disclaimer – I am aware that crickets are a staple food in certain cultures and some members of my Facebook community pointed out that they taste quite good. So I leave it up to you to form your own opinion…. Have you tried any crickets recently?