NORMAN — Q: Our son is age 2 1/2 and for the most part eats very well. We make up his plate for each meal and he has to eat what is on his plate, or at least try each food on the plate before he can get more of something that he really likes.
We also make sure that he remains seated during the entire meal. Sometimes he will request fruit before he is finished with his dinner. We tell him he first has to finish what’s on his plate.
Should we be forcing him to eat his main meal before being able to have fruit or a cookie?
A: It sounds like he’s doing reasonably to very well as things now stand, which means you’re doing a good job of helping him establish good, pro-social eating habits. You’re obviously not allowing him to dictate what he eats, which is what produces the so-called “picky eater” — really nothing more than a child who has been given power over food choices.
Someone recently asked me what the harm is of giving a toddler food he likes and will readily eat at mealtimes. My answer was that a young child is no more capable of making good choices about food than he is of making a good choice of playthings.
Given the choice in either category, a child will choose based on what appeals to his tongue or his eyes. As such, he will choose junk, which is why so many of today’s kids (where food is concerned) are overweight and have health issues related to their diets and (where playthings are concerned) have great difficulty entertaining themselves.
Simply put, if children made good choices, parents would be unnecessary.
It also is good manners to eat what you are served, especially if you are a guest at someone else’s table. Turning up one’s nose at a certain food is insulting to the person who took time to prepare it.