Eating Tendencies for Your Type 4 Child

How to help your More Serious Child enjoy mealtimes

When your child doesn’t want foods to touch…

Does your child have a short list of foods they will eat? Do they prefer to eat the same meal every day? Do they need to know food plans in advance?

In this episode, Carol and Anne share possible eating tendencies of Type 4 children. You’ll see how their all-or-nothing nature can manifest at mealtimes, and how to make the experience enjoyable for both you and your child.

This episode’s Parenting Practice

Listen to this week’s episode. Pay attention to which tip catches your attention. Then practice that tip throughout the week as you communicate about mealtime, prepare food, or sit down to eat.

Transcript of podcast episode

Carol: Welcome to The Child Whisperer Podcast. I’m your host, Carol Tuttle, author of the best-selling parenting book, The Child Whisperer. I’m with my co-host, Anne Tuttle Brown.

Anne: We are wrapping up our series of eating tendencies for each Type of child, with the Type 4 child. We’ve been selecting some keywords for each type to focus on, to give tips and ideas to help you tweak your meal experience, to create a more enjoyable one for everybody. So before we jump into it, Type 4, as a review, is our More Serious child. They’re structured, precise, exact. So what are the keywords we’ll be focusing on today for their eating experience?

Carol: Structured and particular, otherwise known as the picky eater. But that doesn’t feel honoring, so in The Child Whisperer, I rephrase that to being particular, not having as wide of an appetite and eating palette.

Anne: And liking their food served a certain way. No foods touching or no sauce. One thing at a time.

Carol: They’re all or nothing. They’ll either be very much that it needs to be a certain way or none of that bothers them at all.

Anne: And we talked a little bit about the particular eater tendencies in the Type 2 podcast, as well. So if that’s a challenge that you’re experiencing, you can listen to both of these. So what have you noticed with your Type 4 son?

Carol: I raised a Type 4, and the repetitiveness and being particular, he certainly has. He’s willing to try a lot of things. I see this more in my Type 4 grandson and his dad. The repetitiveness in their foods, they can eat the same thing over and over and over, and not vary from that.

Anne: You shared in The Child Whisperer that Tony, your son-in-law, had the same lunch basically his entire life.

Carol: Right. It would be a sandwich, some cookies, and maybe a piece of fruit. Probably the same sandwich, too. He’s not interested, and their all-or-nothing tendency is…

Anne: And that’s the structure there.

Carol: And some Type 4, it’s just food…it’s sort of this necessity they’d like to get rid of because they’re not food people. It’s like, “Ugh, I’m not really…” Or, they love food. It’s a big part of their world and yet they still have a particular approach to it.

Anne: I love this that a mom shared. She has three Type 4 children and they like to have the menu plan posted in the kitchen so they know ahead of time what’s for dinner. Even when her oldest daughter comes home from the holidays, she makes sure to check the posted menu plan. Heaven forbid I change or adjust the plan in any way, especially last minute.

Carol: Well, that makes me think of recently we were traveling. We were on a trip with Chris and Sarah who have a Type 4 child and a Type 2 child. And my son is a Type 2/4. And I hadn’t noticed this before, but I said to Sarah, I said, “You spend a lot of time discussing the food plan, where you’re eating, and what you’re eating.” And she rolled her eyes and said, “It’s a 2/4 household. They need to know the plan, the bigger picture…”

Anne: Got to have time to think through it.

Carol: “…and they have to read it, so they can influence it or they can prepare for it, or what’s coming…”

Anne: No flying by the seat of their pants.

Carol: No. It was interesting because it’s a big part of their trip experience is their food experience.

Anne: Yeah. And that’s an example of people who really enjoy food and have an expectation of what they want that experience to be, you know, so bigger picture. And, you know, as a Type 2, I can relate to that somewhat, you know, you’re thinking and you’re planning ahead.

Carol: In this case, my Type 4 granddaughter, she is particular. There’s just certain things she’s not going to eat.

Anne: Do they try and force it with her?

Carol: And that’s why if she knows ahead of time, they aren’t going to deal with something on it. She can’t switch on them. Or it’s that preparation that foreknowing that Type 4s benefit from knowing what to expect. This is what we’re having.

Anne: Will they force it with her if she will not eat?

Carol: They won’t win. No, I think there’s just negotiations. Again, like you’ve learned to do, they know how to set it up so she’ll choose to eat what’s there, so that it’s not a forced scenario. They’ll have the plain hamburger or just ketchup with the meat and the bun. They don’t like a lot of extras a lot of times. They will always want vanilla ice cream. That’s their go-to flavor that they have.

Anne: And I would say, take heart. I think that many of these preferences, I guess, the parents sometimes, they’re like, “Is it going to be like this forever?” And like, they’ll grow into it. They’ll grow out of it. Maybe not.

Carol: Or they’ll go on a cycle with certain foods.

Anne: They’ll own it.

Carol: And they’ll eat this over and over and over, then they’re done, and then they’ll do something else over and over and over. And then they’re good with that. So let’s talk about structure. Their tendency is to know in that knowing what to expect, that creates structure. And so having mealtime within a certain range to, say, you know, it’s not 5:00 one night, 7:00 another night, that there’s an expected seat down mealtime.

Anne: If for whatever activities you had going on, maybe if that was just the plan and they knew about it ahead of time, there’d be an expectation for it. But I’d say generally getting into a routine of this is the time that we eat each day and they can expect that.

Carol: Well, yeah. I’m just saying, throwing it at them that they don’t even know when the mealtimes are going to happen that day, because there’s no set schedule, they won’t be as engaged. That can stress them so they’re not going to enjoy their eating experience because they don’t know when to plan for it, you know, what to expect in that.

Anne: What have you noticed about Type 4s and their conduct at the table? They obviously have a stillness about them, they’re able to stay seated for a longer period of time because of that. Is there a time where it becomes…

Carol: They need to be focused on their eating. If they’re doing something else, they won’t pay any attention to their food. So eating is the focus when they’re eating. I noticed that with Ruby.

Anne: Would engagement like family conversation be a distraction or do you think that would be supportive?

Carol: No, that part would be okay. It’s just another activity, like letting your children watch shows while they eat. They’ll get into that show and they won’t eat.

Anne: There’s one track, that’s the show track. They need you to know that.

Carol: Right. She just isn’t interested in eating. And it’s hard for her to stop what she’s doing at times, and I think that’s a common tendency Type 4s have. They get very focused, very locked into their…

Anne: You see it with Type 4 adults.

Carol: Yeah. And eating is disruptive. It’s an interference and it’s hard to disengage and take care of that. So that’s why that preparation, creating structure so you can support your children and knowing, “Hey, you’re going to need to stop that at this time because we’ll be eating.”

Anne: We’ve got more Child Whisper coming up right after this brief message.

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Anne: Something that Kalista, our Type 4 expert here, really enjoyed as a child was learning all the etiquette and the rules. And I think a Type 4 could have a lot of fun learning how to set the table.

Carol: There used to be. I had to take classes on that when I was in college studying for being a home economics teacher. It’s kind of fallen by the wayside that there’s certain way you set the table, there are certain utensils. And, yeah, again, that’s the pleasure of that, is more to support your having an enjoyable experience rather than insisting because there’s a right and a wrong way. But if that adds a pleasurable quality and a Type 4 child would enjoy that, by all means, support that just for the fact that it’s the rules of etiquette… There used to be big thick books on. She read them, the rules of etiquette books.

Anne: There’s a fun story from a parent that said her daughter never liked getting dirty while eating. And from a young age, you’ll notice that, like, “Oh, my hands are sticky.” She said while other tiny kids were eating with their hands, she learned quickly how to eat with utensils so she didn’t have to get her hands dirty. And for her first birthday cake, she didn’t want to dig in and make a mess like most kids would do. So they have a preference to, you know, being more clean and tidy and their approach to how they eat.

Carol: They would be that way about sand on beaches, too.

Anne: Did you notice that recently?

Carol: You have to choose to preplan to get messy. The foods not touching, and not being mixed can be a scenario, as well like maybe they want their spaghetti, the noodle pasta, the sauce. I mean, it can get to that point because when they’re small, maybe that’s the one thing they feel they have an authority over in their world, and that’s okay. Will it continue that way into their adult lives? Probably not, but Type 4 children need to feel that they have an authority over something.

Maybe it’s their plate. That’s okay. No big deal. Don’t make that a thing. Don’t make it a deal by insisting that your child has to have their sauce on their pasta because that’s what everybody does. Let them be the authority of how the food is placed on their plate. And they feel that sense of ownership then, and they’ll probably be more likely to eat what’s on the plate. If they feel being forced to eat what’s been put on the plate with someone else having authority over it, that’s the issue.

Anne: They’ll just double down even more.

Carol: Yeah. It’s not the food. The food isn’t the issue. It’s how it’s been approached that discounts their influence. I imply to most every problem you’re having with a Type 4 child’s life, the food. How am I not supporting them, having a voice, being an authority, having a say, and contributing to this decision so they feel ownership? The plate analogy is just a small example of if you’re having major issues with a Type 4 child, it will more often than not come down to that step being missed.

Anne: See the beauty in it. How their plate looks, all spaced out, that’s how their brain works.

Carol: That’s right.

Anne: They’ve got different compartments, different tracks, and there’s got a lot of space between that, you know, to get divided up.

Carol: I had to ask my Type 4 grandson when he was little if he wanted his sandwich cut in half or in triangles.

Anne: And he’ll know.

Carol: Not because he insisted, I wanted him to have a say. The point of that was I’m being forced to cut the sandwich to appeal to this kid. It was not at all.

Anne: You’ve got to let go of that.

Carol: It was, “I’m going to invite his feedback so he feels he had a say over his sandwich and how it all got put together so he’ll want to eat it.”

Anne: There’s some other experiences from some parents. She says, “My son is bothered if there’s a strong smell coming from the food and refuses to eat food he’s not familiar with or doesn’t look…or like the smell of it.” The familiarity.

Carol: That can be related in the Type 2 podcast, that they’re just…for different reasons, they’re overstimulated and just too much movement, too strong a smell, too strong of a flavor at this point.

Anne: That kind of goes along with what this next parent said. She said, her daughter only likes a few items in front of her at a time. I’ve noticed with foods like soups or with a lot of different veggies, she gets overwhelmed and fusses.

Carol: Too many moving parts.

Anne: And so, she just likes the simple foods. And I’ve definitely seen that with Type 4s.

Carol: That’s a really good thought. Maybe six, seven items on a plate is just too many.

Anne: Too much to think through.

Carol: Maybe your child’s food item quota is three. I mean, who thinks about this stuff? That’s the beauty of this whole system.

Anne: Seriously. You’re looking at it from a different perspective.

Carol: Parents are thinking, “I have a difficult child, they just aren’t willing to cooperate.” Well, no. Yeah, they’re being… Because you’re not tuning into their preferences to set them up to be easily cooperative, where those children are getting disciplined for being stubborn and not eating versus, well, they just want a little say here. They want to feel they have an authority over what’s being put in their bodies.

Anne: And, you know, there’s another story from a parent that she said they were going on a scout camp trip and he refused to deal with anyone complaining about meals. And so they took it into their own hands and they tested all the foods and they tried them out, gave them that time that we talked about in the beginning to try curries and stews and different sandwiches, enchiladas, and she said that he was able to do it. And he’s now…he’ll try almost any food offered to him, but he’s just as comfortable eating the same things every day.

Carol: Oh, that’s good.

Anne: So I think that’s kind of a good way to look at it. Like, yeah, you can have that repetition, but kind of building that ability to be adaptable when scenarios need.

Carol: I would say, you know, there’s probably some parents out there who’d roll their eyes and think, you know, you shouldn’t have to go to all that trouble. Children should just, you know, get over it and eat blah, blah, blah. But it’s like, no, this is about a lot more than just the situation. It’s about honoring a child and their process in life.

Anne: At 12 years old, headed out on a scout camp trip with a bunch of other boys, like how much better that experience went for him? That is parents’ help.

Carol: That was transitional for the rest of his life, what they chose to do. That wasn’t just about that camp experience, that was about him learning things and them supporting them in a way that changed the relationship favorably and helping him.

Anne: Be able to go out into the world of food.

Carol: Yeah. And also now he can make these choices rather than being resistant.

Anne: So let’s talk about the Type 4 parent. What are the tendencies and challenges that a Type 4 will experience?

Carol: Well, it’s similar but different than the Type 2 in that you have a plan, you want to stick to the plan. They like structure and they like repetitive structure. So it may be that lack of adaptability and that insisting that children eat certain things. And for…you know, it’s like a power struggle, and the Type 4 parent is gonna win. And it’s about who gets the final say.

And Type 4 parents can be…especially if let’s say you’re the mom in the scenario and you have a Type 4 dad that has not studied any of this. They’ll play the heavy hand. You’re gonna sit there until you eat that kind of a thing, where they’re not working with their child, they’re now playing their Type 4…

Anne: I’ve heard a lot of stories where the Type 4, it will finally get so late, they’ll just send the kid to bed. He didn’t ever eat the food.

Carol: Yeah, I know. It’s a battle.

Anne: That’s one that I’ve dealt with, and you can hear more about that in the Type 2, but, oh, it’s exhausting.

Carol: And it’s not effective, honestly.

Anne: I don’t think it is.

Carol: Now it’s about who’s going to have the final say and not about supporting a child with a healthy diet. It’s about…it’s a power struggle. And so that can really present in Type 4s, “I know what’s right, I’m the parent,” comes up. And when it comes, “It’s my responsibility as a parent to see that you eat healthy, you have balance in your diet, you eat routinely, you have variety, and I’m gonna make sure you do.” And that gets in the way of being adaptable and flexible.

Anne: So what would your tips be?

Carol: Notice where you’re doing that, which children you’re doing it with.

Anne: I think, as a Type 4, you’d be like, “Okay, I just have to let go of it all.” So, like, maybe wear some…like that black and white, and then you’re like, “Now I’m not making anything.” Where’s the fine line?

Carol: What am I really making this about, that it’s done the way I think it should be done or is this about following…you know, really tuning into my child’s tendencies and working with that to create… What’s the ultimate outcome? You want your child to have a healthy experience with food and a healthy, balanced diet. And how do you get there? If your way’s not working, it’s showing you it’s not working. You need to try something different.

Anne: So your parenting practice for this week is to just put this to practice?

Carol: There’s no one right way. Your way is not always the right way for each child.

Anne: Yeah. So what’s standing out to you and what can you tweak for your Type 4 child or for yourself if you’re a Type 4 to make mealtime and eating a more pleasant experience.

Carol: Thanks for listening. For more support, go to where you can purchase the book, subscribe to our weekly Parenting Practice e-mail, and find a transcription and audio of “The Child Whisperer Podcast.”

Anne: If you’re listening on iTunes, thank you for leaving a review. If you have a parenting question, please send it to [email protected].

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