Stubborn and Determined: Dealing with Your Picky Child

Ah yes, the picky kid– I know this one quite well. I was a picky child, as were my own two offspring… (And truth is, we still are.) Blame it on their astrological sign, but usually, it just comes down to the good, old-fashioned scapegoat known as genetics

There’s a difference between a fussy child and a picky one – if you have the latter, you know the struggle. A fussy child might fight you on something, but at some point, they give in and compromise. This isn’t the case with a picky child. They’re stubborn, and neither flexible nor accommodating when it comes to what they want. It’s basically their way, or the highway.

With a picky child, be prepared for a battle of wills if you don’t give them plenty of options (which they’ve provided beforehand). If they want Cheerios and you happen to be out, it doesn’t matter if it’s below 0 degrees outside – you better bust out the parka and head to the store. (Thank God for Postmates!).

Having a picky child is tricky.  As parents, we want our children to learn to be resilient and flexible in life, since things are not always going to go their way or as planned. Unfortunately, these aren’t such easy life lessons to teach our picky ones, since nature wired them to be anything but pliable. 

The Typical Argument with a Picky Child

It always starts out the same. We tell ourselves that it will be different this time, and that no matter what, we’ll stick to our guns and not back down when our picky child refuses to compromise. Yet, try as we might to match our will with theirs, eventually they stretch our patience so thin—and for the sake of not ending up on the six o'clock news—we choose sanity over any life lesson and retreat back to our corner.

The important thing to keep reminding ourselves is that our children are not being rigid and impossible because they are deliberately trying to sabotage our sanity. They do it because their brains are wired that way, and nature keeps winning the battle over nurture. That doesn’t mean we should throw in the towel and ever give up the fight – it just means that we have to approach this challenge in a more conscious and innovative way.

Changing the Things That We Can Change

While we can’t change the way nature wired our children, what we can do is learn to respect and live with the parts of them that can be quite challenging at times. Here are some of the things that I learned along the way in my quest to co-exist with my own picky brood:

  • Be prepared – If you know that your child has a favorite food or pair of socks, make sure to stay stocked up on Rice Krispies, and remember to throw their rainbow socks in the washer. Of course, our goal isn’t to cater to our picky person’s whims at the risk of reaffirming their pertinacity, it just means that as the adult, we remain flexible to their inflexibility and try to make life run as smoothly as we possibly can.
  • Find the good and nurture it – Being picky, stubborn and determined might not feel like such appealing traits then you’re battling to get out of the house, and your toddler is determined to press every last button that you have. But flash forward to 20 years, when they are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company – suddenly, these seemingly negative characteristics don’t seem so bad after all. As the parents of fussbudgets, we have the opportunity to embrace and nurture that challenging part of their personality and make it work for them in life. 
  • Pick your battles in the war of wills – When it comes to fighting our kids over what they want versus what we want, sometimes we just have to give in and let them win. Giving in doesn’t mean that they have the power to manipulate and control us – if they want to wear the same socks two days in a row, will the earth seriously stop spinning?  In life, we give and take. When we extend the olive branch to our kids and show them how to practice the art of compromise, they may not be as willing to return the favor, but trust me, they are storing this data in their little noggins. One day, it will pay off.
  • See yourself in them – As much as we might hate to admit this to ourselves, the frustration over our children’s pickiness could be a reflection of how we feel about our own stubborn behavior.  I can say from personal experience that once upon a time, I saw my children’s stubbornness as detrimental based on my own negative experiences. I wanted them to be more pliable in life, because I knew how hard it was to have others label you “challenging.” 

These days, I see things from a much more expansive point of view. I’ve learned to appreciate the “challenging” part of my children’s personalities– now fondly referring to them as “passionate.”

How do you deal with a picky child? Do you fight head on, simply give in, or find some sort of compromise?

Tags : conscious parenting   mindful parenting   

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