* This article is an excerpt from and is edited based on a lecture & consultation meeting titled “How to Communicate with and Discipline Small Children” which was held in 2018.
* This article is also available in Japanese and Chinese.
Q: I am concerned that my child likes to eat only white rice. (4 yrs. old)
My child is picky about his food and he eats almost only white rice. The only things that he likes to eat is seasoned white rice, bread, fish, edamame (young soybeans), and fruits.
Once he starts attending elementary school and eats lunch served at school, any children who can’t finish everything on their plate is not allowed to play, so he is going to end up just eating until lunch time is over. This would mean that my child who has a lot of dislikes will not have any brake time during lunch, so I encourage him to eat all his food, but he just won’t.
Rice contains protein and carbohydrates, so eating just white rice is not a huge issue from a nutritious stand point. Actually, what we eat reflects our mental state. When you are mentally unstable, you eat less variety of foods. You become sensitive to smell or you notice that you don’t like the texture of the food that’s in your mouth. So, when a child become picky about his food, there’s a possibility that he’s going through a phase of mental instability. Just think that he’s going through a sensitive stage and that he simply can’t take certain food right now and I would suggest communicating with your child gently.
Interestingly, children won’t eat when you try to make them do so. So, all you need to do is not force them to eat.
Regarding school lunch, it is wrong for schools to make children eat until they clean their plate. Forcing children to eat is an abuse. Parents should make it clear to the school that it’s one kind of lunch abuse.
As schools refer to parents as “guardians”, so does the law. A guardian is a person who is supposed to protect a child. Children will not want to go to school if they are taken away their time to play. This will deprive them of educational opportunities. You will need to become a guardian who can firmly stand up to the school and say that you do not want the school to do such things.
Parents should let the school know if there are any issues that should be brought up. Children will feel secure knowing that their mother will communicate with the school should any issue arises.
One more thing: there are many cases where it turns out that children have allergy to the food they dislike. This may be the reason why children won’t accept certain food. According to nutritionists, it’s better not to force children to eat what they do not want to eat. You should comprehensively determine your child’s likes and dislikes of food depending on his mental state and physical condition.
Advisor: Ms. Ryoko Uchida (Psychology Counselor for children)
Since 1973, Ms. Uchida has continuously held counseling sessions at multiple healthcare centers in Tokyo. In addition, since 1998, she has presided over «Momo’s Room: Child Counseling». Ms. Uchida is also a part-time lecturer at Rikkyo University, a widely known advisor for NHK Radio phone counseling on children’s psychology and a speaker at numerous seminars at child care circles, parents’ groups on truant children, and kindergartens across Japan.