Picking the Time to Help a Picky Eater

shake1We went to see a movie with some friends and then were going to go to lunch afterwards with them.  We don’t eat out often and didn’t know the area well so they chose a place to eat.   My youngest daughter, who is four, was not happy about going to this place and when we got to the parking lot she began to refuse to go and cried and went off track.

I told the others to go inside and that I would stay with her in the car.  I got into the back where she was and she began kicking and screaming, climbing back into the car seat and trying to buckle herself in saying we were going somewhere else.  It was fine with me to have her buckled in and then she kicked the back of the seat in front of her as hard as she could and screamed and cried and yelled. She said how stupid I was, and other things I don’t remember.

What she wanted was a shake.  She has food issues in that she is extremely picky about what she will eat and when we do go out she often cannot find much food she likes.  I kept repeating to her that I didn’t know if this place had shakes or not since I hadn’t ever been there but that we would go inside and take a look at the menu and see if they did or not.

This is what helped her reconnect with the stuck feelings. Every time her emotional process slowed down, I would say, “Let’s go inside and see what they have,” and she would ramp back up again.  I realized that this was part of a pattern of tantrums that happened when we went out to eat and I was feeling good about this opportunity for her because my other kids were taken care of and, despite the loud screams, it did not appear that people in the parking lot could hear her.  So I felt comfortable letting her go for it.

There was a fast food restaurant within my sight but I held firm because I knew it was helpful to her to offload the feelings and helpful for me in the long term to be able to go out to eat without her having all this fear.  I really want her eating in general to be more flexible.   I stayed in the back and offered my warmth and attention while she went wild.   I felt good about it because I had empathy for her, felt no rush, and felt I was able to give her this gift of my caring during a difficult time.

This lasted 30-40 minutes and then she was calm and able to accept my comfort and was able to go inside with me and sit down and look at the menu.  And guess what, they did have shakes after all!

–A Parent in San Jose

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