Got a picky eater?

picky kid

Are you living with a picky eater?  Picky eaters can make dinner time miserable for everyone involved, especially the person who prepared the meal. It sometimes feels like a slap in the face when a meal or specific dish goes untouched, or if your picky eater takes one look at their dinner plate and asks for something else. If this person is your spouse, I may not be able to help you.  If this person is your pre-schooler, here are some ideas to try:

  • Involve your kids in the meal planning process.  Even picky eaters have some foods they like.  If you let them help plan the meals, and choose at least one liked item per meal, they are more like to eat something.
  • Take them grocery shopping. This is another level of getting to choose what’s on their dinner plates. It’s one thing to plan a meal and agree that corn is an acceptable veggie. It’s even better for a kid to see the corn in the produce section, and pick the one he thinks looks the best. Not only will this encourage him to eat it, it will help him learn a valuable life skill: navigating the grocery store.
  • Take it even another step further: Have the kids help prepare meals. Maybe not every meal, but at least occasionally.
  • Dress it up. It will be a little extra work, but try making a picture or shape on the plate with the food.  Here’s an example:
  • dinner art
  • Do not make two meals! Nobody has that kind of time or energy, and it just sets the stage for kids to run the house, or at least the kitchen. Make the rule that everyone gets the same meal.
  • It’s okay if kids choose to not eat. We all worry about our kids getting adequate nutrition, and when they refuse to eat it’s even worse. The thing is, stressing out and fussing over an untouched plate only causes the child to feel stressed. When a child feels stressed at dinnertime, they are much less likely to eat. And they will remember that stress day after day.
  • If your little sweetie is especially disagreeable to an entire food group, like vegetables, you can always hide them in sauces and other things. Pureed pumpkin hides very well in macaroni and cheese, frozen broccoli can be chopped very fine in a blender and put into meatballs or meatloaf without being detected.  Here’s a really good blog post on hiding veggies. Just remember to continue to offer recognizable vegetables on the plate as well. The more kids see vegetables, the more comfortable they may become with the thought of eating and enjoying them.

Parenting With Logical Consequences

apn 2

When it comes to disciplining children, everyone is an expert and a critic.  Many times the child’s grandparent (Love you, Mom!) is chalk full of advice for discipline.  Some people are dead-set against spanking, some swear by it. Some people are firmly attached to “time-out” and some parents say it just doesn’t work. The truth is, all children are different and should be treated individually. This can be accomplished through enforcing logical consequences.

Logical consequences connect a negative behavior with a not-so-fun activity, so that even a small child will understand the cause-effect relationship. It is a much more effective form of discipline or punishment than a lecture or yelling, which just wears the parent out.

Some good examples of logical consequences are:

  • If Julie consistently leaves her toys out, mom can pack them away in a box. Julie would not be able to play with those toys for a predetermined amount of time appropriate for her age. (one day for small children up to one week for teens-this could include electronic devices) Another version of this I saw on Pinterest suggested writing chores or tasks on slips of paper.  The child could choose to draw one of the slips, complete the task and get the toys back sooner.
  • Joey leaves all of his stinky, dirty clothes on the bathroom/bedroom floor. A logical consequence would be that Joey would have to wash his own laundry. (This consequence would not be appropriate for a pre-school child, but kids are old enough to do laundry by the time they are in upper-elementary school.
  • Lily keeps forgetting her chores or homework because she is too distracted by a television show. A logical consequence for Lily is to not be allowed to watch TV for three days.

No matter what the misbehavior or the consequence, be sure to tell your child about the consequence ahead of time with either-or statements.

“Katie, you can either put your dishes in the sink, or you may not take food outside the kitchen again. You decide.”

This gives children a sense of responsibility, as well as letting them know the consequences of their actions before they misbehave.

For more information on logical consequences and effective, positive parenting, check out my class called Active Parenting Now.  It’s a 6-part series offered on Thursdays in May at the Lincoln County Courthouse in Chandler.  Cost for this class is $25 per parenting team, to cover the workbook. Please RSVP to 405-258-0560.

Don’t live near Chandler? Give me a call anyway.  I’d be happy to help you find the Family and Consumer Sciences Educator near you!


The Ugly D Word

Difficult choice

The ugly D word: Divorce.  Nobody walks down the aisle thinking that one day they will be divorcing the person they are about to marry. Unfortunately, many couples in Oklahoma do eventually divorce.  Close to 40% of adults in Oklahoma who have ever been married have also divorced. We all know that divorce is difficult. It is difficult for both parties. It is even more difficult for the children. Divorce is actually quite traumatic for children involved.

Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service actually offers a workshop to help divorcing couples learn ways to lessen the trauma for their children. I teach this class in Lincoln County, and I wanted to share a little about it.

9 out of 10 parents unintentionally make their divorce harder for their children. Here are a few things to consider if you are going through a divorce. These are things to NOT do:

1) Do not use the children to get back at their other parent. This is like hitting rocks with a baseball bat.  Sure, the rocks fly, but the bat is damaged as well… sometimes beyond repair.

2) Do not make plans with your children and then break them. This could cause or increase feelings of abandonment, which can be linked to severe mental health problems.

3) Do not scream and fight with each other in front of the kids.This creates stress and anxiety for children, which can lead to many physical and mental health problems. Children love both of their parents and don’t want to hear bad things about either of them.

4) Do not ask the kids to choose. Even if your child’s other parent was horrible to you, they are still a part of your child. Hurting your ex-spouse by keeping the kids from him/her hurts your children as well. (Obvious exceptions include drug use or trafficking, abuse, sexual deviance or violence.  Keep your kids safe no matter what.)

5) Do not talk to the kids about your troubles.  They are simply not old enough or mature enough to deal with that.  They will want to help you, but this won’t help anyone. If you need someone to talk to, seek help from another adult (friend, relative, or professional) Let kids be kids.

6) If you need to change visitation schedules, try your best to work that out with your ex. Be flexible when you can, and your ex-spouse will be more likely to be flexible when you need it.

7) Do not send a new boyfriend/girlfriend to pick the kids up or babysit. Your kids want to see YOU, not someone else.

8) Do not ask your children to deliver messages to their other parent. This puts them in a very awkward position, and it is much more likely that the message will not be delivered properly.

9) Do not pump the kids for information about their other parent. This may make them feel that they are having to choose, or betraying their other parent. It also takes time away from more important things like talking to your kids about their day and what is important to them.

10) Do not focus on what you dislike about your ex-partner. Instead, direct your energy toward benefiting your kids.

If you or someone you know is currently going through a divorce, and are interested in more information on this subject, please contact your County Extension Office.  If you are unsure how to find the extension office, leave a comment or send an email to me.  I am more than happy to help you find the contact information!

What’s Your #1 Priority as a Parent?

teens-computerfacebookiphone TV

I recently read this blog about how the television shows our children watch could be really damaging the way they see themselves and each other. The writer of this blog focuses on The Disney Channel, and her opinions are her own, but I think her main point is very clear and very true: As parents, we should know what our kids are watching. We should be watching it too. And we should be talking to them about the messages being sent through these television shows, and whether or not they are positive.

It doesn’t end with television.  My only child is just three-years-old, so it is easy for me to get stuck on what three-year-olds do, but let’s not forget what older children enjoy: the internet.  Parents, please make sure you know what your kids, tweens, and teens are doing on the internet.  Does your child have a computer in their room?  Do you know what they use it for?  What about tablets and smart phones?

Remember this: You paid for that computer and you pay for the internet service.  It does not belong to your child and your child has no rights to the electronic devices you pay for or privacy while using them. You owe it to yourself and to your children to know what they are looking at, who they are talking to and what they are discussing.  Know what pictures they are taking and posting to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat… Look at the apps on your teenager’s phone.  If you don’t know what they are used for, find out.  If you don’t know what information is shared through a particular app, find out.  And don’t just look at the “public” stuff.  Look at the private messages.

The main priority we should have as parents is making sure that our children grow into compassionate, caring adults who can take care of themselves and others.  Before you get mad and say “Jessica, my most important job is loving my child,” please hear me out.  Do not misunderstand me.  If I did not already love my child, I would not care whether or not she grew up to be compassionate, caring, or competent. I have to think about what will my child be like when I’m not there to guide her, hold her hand, or push gently nudge her in the right direction.  How will she act when I’m not watching?

Being nosy will annoy your children.  That’s okay.  It’s the only way to protect them from the unseen, unheard cyber world that belongs only to them.  You may discover that your child has inadvertently put him or herself in danger. You may discover that your child is involved in bullying another child, or is being bullied.  You may discover that your child is already compassionate and caring. Most importantly: You will show your child that you care.

What’s All the Hype About Detox?

juice cleanseWhile scrolling through Pinterest and Facebook, I cannot help but notice all of the “detox diets” and products out there.  I have seen detox teas, detox pills, juice cleanse diets and even a recipe for a detox bath (which I tried with no result whatsoever except for a really nasty bathtub ring that had to be cleaned) that claim to “release” or “expel toxins” from the body. I was not quite sure what to think about all the hooplah and I’m not sure what is even meant by the word “toxins,” but what I do know, is that is what our liver does.  Some of these diets or drinks claim to help promote weight loss, but do they work? The truth is, they probably work in the short run, but could possibly have an opposite effect on the long run.

Juice cleanses:  When people talk about “juicing” or doing a juice fast/cleanse, they mean they are going to consume nothing but juice for a specific amount of time.  Some people take this to mean fruit juice or vegetable juice only.  Some people may add yogurt or flax seed to their juice to help balance the diet.

What’s the danger?  Calories.  It’s mostly about calories and balance. One sample menu I found for a juice diet averaged only 850 calories per day.  That is not enough. Period.  Restricting calories in this way could cause the body to go into “starvation mode,” and hold onto every last calorie it can instead of converting foods into energy.  Also, people tend to rebel after a while and may end up overeating when the cleanse is over. This particular sample menu was also severely lacking in protein, essential fatty acids, and many vitamins and minerals. (Please keep in mind that I make these claims based on one sample menu I saw.  Not all juice diets will be lacking in vitamins and minerals)  This particular diet was also very high in fiber, excessively so for women.  Most adults are not getting enough fiber, but too much can result in digestive distress like gas, bloating, and diarrhea.

Bottom line: Be careful if choosing a “juice cleanse diet.”  Make sure that you are getting adequate calories and protein.  If you want to be sure, you can enter what you plant to eat in the Super Food Tracker from Choose My Plate.

Detox pills:  Detox pills come in many forms from many different ingredients and can be found in the “dietary supplements” section of the grocery store.  The problem with these is that they are not regulated by the FDA, so you may not be getting what you are paying for in terms of purity and dosage.  Do they work?  Again, because they are not regulated, and there is no way to be sure that the labels are accurate, there is really no way to test for actual results.

What’s best: The human digestive system is incredibly complex and sophisticated.  It never stops working to absorb the things your body can use, and rid the body of what it cannot use.  Eating a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, lean meats from a variety of sources (lean red meat, white meats, fish, low-fat dairy, and beans), whole grains, and plenty of water should be enough to “detoxify” your body.  Fiber intake is low on average for adults. Women should be getting about 25 grams per day and men should shoot for 38 grams per day. Most adults only get about 10-15. Some great sources of fiber include bananas, berries, citrus fruits, and whole grains like oatmeal. It is also a good idea to limit the amount of processed foods and sugary snacks you eat to just a few a week. Make balance and variety a priority in your diet.  You won’t be sorry.