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Clara Olshansky
June 22, 2017

Are you weirdly selective about what you will and absolutely will not eat? Turns out, you may have gotten some not so great feedback about your eating habits growing up. Sociologist Dina Rose, who has a whole blog and a book on the subject of picky eating, points out that calling a kid a "picky eater" might change how that child sees him or herself forever. After all, if you tell a child what they are, they'll probably believe you.

As Rose points out, "Labeling a child as one thing makes that trait the child's dominant characteristic. All the other traits then fade into the background. It's hard to change your identity once it is established. (I was the pretty one, not the smart one.)" So a "picky eater" will think, This is an essential part of who I am, and I can't do anything about it.

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When kids believe that they're picky eaters, it basically lets them opt out of trying to be better. They don't have to try to eat the green stuff on their plate, because, they think, they just don't have it in them to like it. Instead, if we all drop "picky eater" and start talking about picky eating as a changeable set of habits, we may be able to make a huge difference in kids' relationship to food.

The biggest thing is that we need to make it clear that picky eating is temporary. Rose suggests that we could say that kids "have picky eating" or are "going through a picky eating phase". Whatever term you want to use, make sure it's about what the kid is doing and not who the kid fundamentally is.

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