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Picky Eater

My 4-year-old only likes to eat powdered sugar doughnuts, yogurt and Ritz crackers. If I insist that she eat what I serve everyone else, she won't eat anything. She has been eating nothing but these three foods for almost a month now and I'm starting to worry.

Most children go through times when they'll eat only specific, limited menu items. I like to refer to this as a "food jag." This doesn't mean your child will be malnourished now or grow up to be a picky eater. According to nutritionists, even if these selective food habits continue over weeks or months, your child's diet will eventually normalize.
The best way to encourage a balanced diet is to offer a variety of colorful, interesting foods served in a relaxed setting. Although this may be tough for busy moms, do what you can to include elements of a nutritious meal in your daily schedule: carrot sticks on the way to soccer practice, or a glass of milk after gymnastics. Your 4-year-old is still an inexperienced eater, and it's important to continue to introduce her to new tastes. It might take 15 to 20 exposures before a child accepts a new food. She might need to see it, watch other people eat it, sniff it, poke it and move it around on a plate before tasting a sample too small to be seen by the naked eye.
Avoid making your daughter's current menu a battleground. Even a 4-year-old knows your "hot buttons" and will be quick to note if meals become a time to trigger a reaction. Keep her preferred foods available so she always has some type of eatable option. Try to serve at least one food each meal that she might eat, then relax. I know it's not easy. Dealing with a picky eater is one season of parenting, and this too, shall pass.

Bedtime Battles

I spend up to two hours a night getting my two boys to sleep. I know I'm doing something wrong, but what?

Bedtime battles begin when we're tired after a long day, so it's better to examine this problem in the morning when you are alert and awake.
At the bottom of a piece of paper write your ideal "light's out" time. Then, working your way back, list every element of your nighttime routine with an approximate time frame. If your sons are old enough, ask for their input. Eliminate unnecessary elements, then add 10 to 15 minutes for stall tactics like saying goodnight to the goldfish.
Next, consider the before-bedtime transition. Transitions prepare us for the next stage, yet at night we're often so eager to get the children to bed that we forget this important step. Jot down ways you can help your boys prepare for bed. Transitional guidelines might include:

  1. We don't take out new toys after 7 p.m.
  2. We come inside at 7:30 p.m., even if it is still light outside.
  3. The television is turned off at 8 p.m.

Share your revised routine with your sons. Include an incentive in your bedtime plan for all children who follow the rules. My favorite: anyone who is completely ready for bed on time gets an extra five minutes of talking time with Mom.

Daycare Security

My friend is shocked that my baby's daycare doesn't have video surveillance. I've always felt safe leaving her there, but now, I wonder if I'm missing something.

Video surveillance can add another element of accountability and security to your daycare environment. However, if you feel the environment is safe and nurturing, and your daughter appears happy and comfortable, electronic monitoring is not necessary.

Mary Manz Simon, Ed. D., hosts the nationally syndicated program "Front Porch Parenting." She is the author of numerous books, including What Did Jesus Do? (Tommy Nelson).

Have a question for Dr. Mary?
Send it to: "Ask Dr. Mary," Christian Parenting Today,
465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
fax: (630) 260-0114, e-mail:cpt@christianparenting.net

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