If you don’t know me by now let me tell you that I can’t stand to have children crying. I hate the whole opinion that children are trying to manipulate and need to learn lessons or you’re making more work for yourself later on. If you think children should sit at the dinner table and eat every mouthful – and no dessert otherwise, reheating it for breakfast – well then you’ve come to the wrong blog post.
First I think you need to decide if there’s a problem, and if so what it is.
- Is it your child doesn’t eat enough?
- Of the right foods?
- At the right times?
- At the table?
WHO has the problem?
- Is it you? Are you worried your child wont put on enough weight? Lose all their teeth? Become obese?
- Is it well meaning friends and relatives?
- Is it health professionals?
- Or is it the child?
What I’ve found in my experience of raising 4 boys is that around aged 2-3 years old suddenly my well-eaten food machine becomes this fussy individual who largely wants junk but even that isn’t guaranteed to be eaten.
The first thing I remind myself is that all my boys have been through this, it’s their way of learning about the self. To exerting some control over their world and their bodies.
It WILL pass.
We get them involved in food preparation.
We find ways around things – currently youngest was not eating at all at lunchtimes. Then we discovered Nutella – which as the name suggests has nuts in it. But as youngest just sees it as chocolate we put it on his sandwiches and toast and he ate it. For me I was happy because he was now eating bread. And he still feels he’s won because he’s getting “chocolate sandwiches” for lunch. What I think is even more impressive is that the 4 year old still would prefer to have ham or cheese on his and never asks to have the same as his little brother.
I do not withdraw food. I know some parents find it hard but you need to try and ignore the fussy behaviours. Do not use food as a reward/punishment (yes I’m a hypocrite and did my toilet training by dishing out sweets, but I’m trying to say what in theory I think you should aim to do).
Meals are eaten at the table.
I present 3 regular meals – breakfast lunch and dinner – at roughly the same times every day. It doesn’t matter if they are eaten or not. I do do things to encourage the process of eating. Above is a proud moment because, although he is playing with his food, he has remained at the table with us for the whole meal.
Be positive with even the small steps.
I’m known to try and encourage them just to touch the food. Feel the textures.
To lick the food – just one lick.
Then encourage maybe eating one thing you know they like – eg all your carrots.
I offer plenty of healthy snacks – mainly fruit throughout the day. Starting with a small choice (letting him decide what he wants) and gradually building on it.
Here is a great post by Cats Yellow Days – 9 steps to solve fussy eaters