#06 - There's No Room for Guilt at the Table!

Jan 22, 2023
#06 - There's No Room for Guilt at the Table!

Hello! And welcome back. Today, I want to chat with you about a more sensitive topic.


As you probably know, January is mindset month in the Food Explorers Membership, and so I couldn’t possibly let the month go by without talking about the shame and guilt that parents feel around feeding a child who struggles to eat.


As a parent, you feel like it is your job to keep your child happy and healthy. So when they aren’t eating as well as you hope, you take it like a personal failure.


Before we go any father, I need to stop and tell you. You are not a failure as a parent because your child struggles to eat. I’ll explain more as we go through, but you are NOT a failure because eating is hard for your child.  

I also want you to know, that you are not alone in this feeling. Almost every single parent I have ever worked with has told me - “It’s probably my fault because….” when referring to their child’s struggles.


“It’s my fault because I pressured them too much.” “It’s my fault because I didn’t pressure them enough.” “It’s my fault because they were born premature.” There are SO many reasons that parents blame themselves for their child’s feeding difficulties - you are not alone here.

In fact, I recently polled my Instagram community (@DrSamGoldman) if you are not following me already, and I only had ONE person say that they do not feel shame and guilt around feeding their child. And that person is someone I know well, and their child does not struggle to eat in any way. So, it’s much easier not to feel that shame or guilt when your child is a relatively happy eater.

I was hoping to find a really good research article to support this, but what I found instead was so much better. I want to share with you a portion of a letter written by a mother of a child with feeding challenges.

So for some background context - at the beginning of this letter she was talking about how her child has a very small variety, likes to eat pouches, and that she was getting VERY stressed about his eating, to the point where she felt the need to chase him around the house to take a bite of SOMETHING.

So here’s what this mom had to say:

"OK, this is where you start to wonder why I didn’t try X and if I had considered Y. Well, yes and yes. Like you, everyone seemed to have a magic solution that I’d already tried and failed. I tried baking those eggy frittata things with all the greens and all the cheese. I made scones, muffins and gourmet sandwiches. I tried blitzing meat and hiding it in pouches. I snuck nutritious cereal in sugary yogurts. Nothing seemed to interest my fussy eater.

Social events and playdates with other moms were even worse. When lunchtime arrived, we’d all whip out our baby lunchboxes. My friends would produce brilliantly-formed brioche buns, perfectly-carved carrot sticks and dippers of Greek yogurt. I’d present a pouch. If there was ever a time where mom guilt was at its most conspicuous, it was those lunches."

Have you felt something like this before? I can think of so many conversations I’ve had with parents, where the guilt and shame felt SO strong - especially around their mom friends or family, which we’ll talk about more in a little bit.

What I find really interesting is that a lot of the research does NOT support that parents are the cause of feeding challenges. In fact, several studies have now found that parenting practices are NOT the main cause of feeding challenges - and I’ll link those below for you.

However, I do want to point out here that there is a lot of research going on in this area, and some of it does show that things like restriction and pressure can increase picky eating or feeding difficulties.


BUT what I want to point out to you is that you are doing your best. You as the parent are trying your best to help your child. No one hands you a guidebook when your child is born and says “ here, this is how to do it.”


No, you are handed your baby and it’s up to you to figure it out when you go home. And so you try different things, you talk to different people, and you do your best.

In my personal opinion, there is usually something else going on inside your child’s body that is making eating difficult for them. And the methods you try, and that you blame and shame yourself for are usually done to try and help them.

Typically, I don’t see this as the cause of the eating challenges, but rather what you have done to cope with it.

True, how we cope with it can influence whether it stays the same, improves, or worsens, but all you can do is do your best, learn evidence-based techniques, and seek professional support when you’re ready.

And the good news is, you’re here now, and already on the way to learning my favorite ways to help your child at the table, the fun way.


Now, I know you have probably chatted with some friends, your family, your spouse, or even asked for feedback in the moms groups on Facebook. 


And somewhere along the way, someone has probably said something to you along these lines: 


  • You’re the parent just MAKE them eat
  • You need to discipline them more 
  • It’s not that hard, you just sit them at the table and don’t let them get up till they eat

If you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of the mom’s groups, I find them insanely judgy. Sometimes helpful, but more often judgy.


Listen, the truth is these people talk a big game. They’re ready to give their opinion on you and how you work, without really understanding whats going on here. 


Sure, some mom in another household may have had success pressuring her child or disciplining her child for not eating, but that’s probably not the best answer for your family.


You’ve likely tried some of those things already, and if it actually worked, we wouldn’t be here. And I’ve had several people tell me that they’ve given it and let their child spend the weekend with the grandparents, who were CONVINCED they would quote unquote GET that child eating. And guess what? They didn’t (although I don't recommend this method!). It wasn’t as easy as they thought. It’s always easy to judge from the outside. But YOU know your child best, no one else.

Children with feeding challenges are different. They’re having challenges eating. Even though they WANT to make you happy, they can not overcome what is going on inside their body to do so.

And again, if it was that easy you wouldn’t be here today.

***SIDENOTE - this is NOT your child’s fault either. What I don’t want is for you to leave here today and for that blame and shame to shift from you to your child. It can feel like a personal attack when your child refuses to eat the food you worked so hard to make them. But remember, this is a STRUGGLE for them, this is hard, and they too are doing their best.

So please, please don’t let other people make you or your child feel bad about their eating. You are doing the best you can, and hopefully are working your way to getting the support you need. And if you are like most of my community, you’re trying to do it in a way that doesn’t cause stress and anxiety to your child. 

And what I love most about the Food Explorers Membership, is that when you join, you have a community of parents who know exactly how you feel. They’ve been there. They’ve struggled with that shame and guilt too. They can offer you the support you need to keep going, keep trying, and keep bringing the magic back to the table.


If you’re struggling, know that I am cheering for you. I see you watching my Instagram stories, but not wanting to message or engage because your embarrassed. I see you feeling bad that you didn’t have time to try that one tip. I see all those perfect family photos and know that you are fighting for mealtime peace. I, and the Food Explorers Membership are here to support you and cheer you on whenever you are ready to join us. 

I hope that this episode brings you a bit of relief, and some peace about your role in your child’s eating challenges. I would love to know what you thought of this episode. Head on over to Instagram, and send me a message to @DrSamGoldman to let me know your thoughts! See you next week!


Research studies on parenting practices: 






***This post/podcast is not sponsored. The opinions and content of this blog are unique to the writer unless otherwise stated. No compensation is received for the links shared.

Disclaimers: The information provided by OT 4 ME (“we,” “us” or “our”) on theot4me.com (the “Site”) is for general informational purposes only. The Site cannot and does not contain medical advice. Any medical information is provided as my/our personal experiences is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of medical advice.


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