You Can’t Make Them Eat
Linda Wechter-Ashkin PhD NCSP BC-TMHC ADHD CCSP
When my daughter Rikki was a baby, she was significantly underweight. I was breastfeeding her and I just didn’t make enough milk, and she wasn’t taking the bottle, even with pumped milk. When it was time for her to eat baby food, she hated it except for vanilla custard. We quickly tried to graduate her to solid food, but she still wasn’t having it. I spent my days running around the house after her trying to get her to eat ¼ of a piece of cheese. I spent my nights trying to think of ways to get her to eat more, and I would get very frustrated when she just wouldn’t. The doctor told me to make every bite count so I made her pastina with cheese and butter and cream so that every bite was as fattening as it could be. I wonder if this is why she had to have her gallbladder removed in the 9th grade. Then one day I just gave up. I stopped doing a full comedy act in front of her highchair to get her to open her mouth so I could shove a bite in. I stopped listening to the well-meaning comments of the other Publix shoppers reminding me to feed her. I started looking at the happy, beautiful little girl that God had given us and decided to just enjoy her. I put the food out and gave her the option to choose when, what, and how much she was ready to eat, And guess what? She started to eat. She began to see the joy in a bite of ice cream, not the whole cone but a bite. She started asking what’s that on your plate and can I try it. She started to see food as something good, rather than something to hide from.
My goal was to get Rikki to eat what I wanted her to when I wanted her to. I chose the time, I chose the food, and I chose the portion size. When she didn’t eat what I was feeding her I often got frustrated and felt defeated. But when I let go a little and let her go at her own pace, she discovered a love for eating and would have developed a healthy relationship with food if her mom (well that’s for the next blog). Many Christians try to feed people the bible in the way I tried to get Rikki to eat. They choose what they want to share, and often out of fear they try to push people into accepting a set of beliefs when they are just not ready to or don’t want to. They are worried about the person’s salvation, but they are forgetting that they are not in control. I couldn’t make Rikki eat until she was ready to, and we can’t bring people to God until they are ready. Rather than force-feeding the people we love what we think they should know, enjoy them. You can’t force feed your kids. Introduce them to different food options, leave some snacks on the table, and take some deep breaths. And you can’t force feed people your beliefs. Live your life with joy, leave a bible on the table, and be available to share your story when they are ready.