Advertisement

Picky Eaters, Tantrums, Thumb-Sucking, Oh My!


When Debbie Koenig’s son started to refuse foods he had previously loved, she realized that his picky eating was a power issue. “The more I pushed, the worse it got,” says Koenig.
Picky eating, thumb-sucking, tantrums—there is no shortage of challenges that parents of toddlers deal with on a daily basis. What’s the best way to handle them? Or, is there a way to prevent them?

Picky eaters
Despite Koenig’s experience, her son is now a healthy, growing seven year old. While she did have to struggle with her son’s picky eating, she learned how to deal with it.

“It’s my job as the parent to provide a variety of healthy foods. It’s my son’s job to decide whether and how much to eat of each thing,” she says. That might mean that she prepares vegetable lo mein for the family and her son only eats the noodles. Problem? Nope. She trusts that as he watches his parents enjoy the meal, eventually he will come around.

Koenig has found a good balance of control for her family: She chooses what’s for dinner, making sure that there’s at least one thing that she knows her son likes. But, she doesn’t cook just for him.

Interestingly, research supports an evolutionary theory behind picky eating that we often have an innate fear of trying new foods because of the danger that they might be poisonous. This is more common in children who haven’t learned as they grow older what is okay to eat and what is not. 

Dr. Ashley Albarado, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Psychiatry Associates of Baton Rouge, points out that most children overcome picky eating with parent modeling and encouragement to try new foods, but notes, “Some children may remain picky eaters as an expression of their cautious and inhibited personalities. It’s best to start early and introduce a wide range of tastes and textures to your child. Set an example for your child with your own diet, and praise him for trying new foods. Most importantly, make sure your child has a well-balanced diet and is growing appropriately.” 

Tantrums
We’ve all witnessed toddler tantrums, often emotionally charged and way too often, very public. What to do?

First, understand what they are and why they happen. According to Dr. Albarado, “Around two years old, children are forming their own identities and exploring their environments. Tantrums can be a bid to establish dominance, control internal anxiety, or gain attention.” Research shows that tantrums really are a part of a child’s natural development, but parents need to know how to handle them. 

So, how to deal? “Remain calm and in control of the situation,” says Dr. Albarado. “Establish firm boundaries about which behaviors are not okay and what the consequences are for those behaviors.” Parents can also assess factors such as a child being hungry, tired, or overwhelmed by stimuli that contributed to the tantrum. For example, don’t overwhelm a child with too many choices. Offering whether he wants to wear the blue shirt or the red one is far likely to meet with success than laying out every shirt he owns for selection. He still has a sense of control when given a choice without having to select among every color of the rainbow. 

Try talking through things that are going to happen and offer your child countdowns for transitions. However, if tantrums truly are becoming uncontrollable, disruptive to the family, or escalating, Dr. Albarado recommends that a parent see the child’s pediatrician or a mental health professional. 

Biting
Just as tantrums can surface when a child won’t bend to an adult’s requests, biting can also come from a toddler’s frustration. Dr. Albarado explains, “Although childhood biting is very distressing to all involved, it actually is common in toddlerhood, especially when they cannot express their frustration verbally. Helping a child identify his feelings and appropriate ways to express feelings can help decrease biting.”

What if the child continues the behavior? Dr. Albarado stresses that, “Frequent biting, self-injurious biting, or other acts of aggression may indicate it’s time to see a mental health professional or your pediatrician about the problem.” 

Thumb-sucking
For some babies, it’s the pacifier. For others, it’s the thumb. And for some, the practice goes on much longer than the parent would like.

Is this really a cause for concern? “Most toddlers outgrow thumb or pacifier sucking, but some continue it as a self-soothing behavior,” says Dr. Albarado. “Anxiety is one reason a child may continue to suck his thumb. Teaching your child new ways to calm fears may diminish this behavior. Often, changes in a child’s environment may trigger new anxieties, which will diminish as the child adjusts. See your pediatric dentists if you are concerned about the effect of thumb sucking on your child’s permanent teeth or palate. If your child continues to have excessive anxiety, consider seeking professional help.” ■

Be the first to review this item!


Bookmark this

01 Nov 2018


By Daytona Strong

Recent Articles more articles

The Moment I Became a Mom

in Family Life, Amy Delaney

There are many milestones in the international adoption process–home study completion, being matched with your child, receiving updates, getting the travel call. However, the single biggest milestone for me was never logged on a calendar, even though

Make Time For Yourself

in Amelia Laprairie

Being a mom is a roller coaster of emotions. There’s happiness while watching the little ones grow, followed by my sadness because of the realization of how fast it happens. There’s anticipation of wanting them to reach milestones, followed by the ne

Sleepaway for Mama: Leaving My Daughters Overnight for the First Time

in Things To Do, Family Life, Mari Walker

In more than seven and a half years of parenting, I had never left my children overnight until recently. Other than her recent trip to pony camp, the only time I was away from my older daughter was when my younger daughter was born. I stayed in the h

Sure Signs You’re a Mom to School-Aged Children

in Family Life, Amy Delaney, School

It’s August–do you know where your school supply list is?! This school year snuck up on us like no other. We moved in May and our summer was literally turned upside down, and now it’s August and school is upon us. As I entered the scramble to prepare

Featured Listings more listings

Baton Rouge Music Studios

in Day Camps

Baton Rouge Music Studios offers music camps for all budding musicians & vocalists! All levels of experience welcome! The camps are geared towards learning, fun, and making friends! Band camps, vocal camps, recording camps and music exploration camps

Baton Rouge International School

in Private Schools

The Baton Rouge International School is an independent, non-profit American school offering a rigorous College preparatory curriculum in a multilingual environment (English, French, Spanish and Chinese) from preschool through 12th grade.

Southern University Laboratory School

in Private Schools

Southern University Laboratory School is committed to providing a nationally-competitive college preparatory education to each of its students and serving as a state-of-the-art laboratory for education innovation and the development of superior edu

Mud Pies & Masterpieces

Mud Pies & Masterpieces

in Party Venues

The birthday girl/boy can pick what they want to paint for their party, whether it’s something hanging in our studio already or something different. They learn how to draw with different shapes and easy instructions. They sketch it out with chalk, an

Advertisement
Newsletter