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Is Your Picky Eater Ruining Your Marriage?

02/05/2015 03:56 pm ET | Updated Apr 07, 2015

I would not be surprised if you told me your picky eater was ruining your marriage. I hear it more often than you can imagine. Picky eaters can make meals absolutely miserable by reducing a worried parent to tears and igniting some significant fighting about how to handle the kid. You do not have to live this way. I have some good advice.

Why You Fight

There are two reasons why you fight. First, think about where you came from. Some of you may have had sugar cereals for breakfast, frozen meals in front of the television and dessert every night; others may have lived happily on tofu, granola, and sprouts. Some of you were pressured to join "the clean plate club"; others were not required to eat a thing. The way food was handled in your youth influences what you do with your kid. And if you and your spouse were raised differently, then you may have different ideas about how to parent your picky eater.

The second reason you fight is because one or both of you may be freaking out about food. I see so many parents micromanaging every morsel of food their kid may or may not eat. Please, calm down. If you have a picky eater, and your kid has no significant past medical history, and your pediatrician is not worried about your child's health, I am asking (begging) you to relax. If your picky eater misses a meal or two or three, it's fine -- let it go.

Good Advice

If you want to stop your picky eater from ruining your marriage, this should come as no surprise; you have to unite on the issue. Here is how you do it:

1) Set meal and snack times: Don't allow kids access to food whenever they want. Set a schedule for meals and snacks and stick to it.

2) Make menus: Plan what you want to eat. Kids can have a say on occasion, but not all the time.

3) Follow three rules: First, there should be no distractions while eating so turn off your televisions, tablets and phones. Second, your kid is not allowed to insult the food you make. Third, and this is for the parents, never force-feed your kid.

4) Keep quiet: If your kid eats his or her meal, that's terrific! If not, who cares. Get your head around the fact that your job is to provide the food and your kid decides whether to eat or not.

5) Eat as a family: Even if it's tough, eat with your kid as much as possible. Breakfast, brunch and snacks count. The research shows that families that eat together increase the chances a picky eater will chew and swallow vegetables eventually.

Breaking a picky eater takes time. Even with this good advice, I cannot guarantee that your kid will ask for tomatoes tomorrow. But if you and your spouse agree on how to parent your picky eater, your marriage will improve quickly.