to want to tackle my 12 year old on her restrictive eating?

(111 Posts)
NewYearsEvelyn Fri 11-Jan-13 14:00:02

She has always been a poor eater. We've had battles since she was tiny and food is her favourite weapon. She has, with me persistently pushing her, got to the point where she eats fish, chicken, beef, lamb,turkey. She will eat chips but not roast potatoes or mash and pasta, dry of course. She will eat carrots, cucumber, peppers. She has rice krispies with a little milk. She likes bread and some cheeses. She will eat fruit. This sounds quite good BUT it all has to be cooked a certain way, has to look a certain way and if anything is touched by sauce of any kind, it will not be eaten, even if it just touches the edges. She is less fussy than she used to be about things like chips, but she is still very fussy with food.

Her dad doesn't help as he doesn't see it as an issue. We manage as a family unit with this BUT he doesn't see all the times when we go out with her friends and their mums and the eye rolling that goes on...the limits to where we can eat that has to be dealt with and the increased stress she is put under in those circumstances.

The question I'm asking is, was I out of order this morning raising this matter and telling her that she has a problem? It was in the context of her complaining about food tech and how 'useless' it is. I tried to tell her it would be good for her to learn more about food and to try new things and she objected so strongly and started to get upset. I have outlined to her that we can cater to her needs at home, but that she will have issues in the real world in future and actually, she does now. We can't easily go out to friends for meals. We went away with a friend recently and couldn't eat in a number of restaurants with her because she won't eat pizza, pasta with sauce or anything similar. We had a big, bosting stand up row this morning and she was distraught, which made me feel awful, but I would not back down. Now I wonder if I should have.

I don't want to give her an eating disorder, but she is a really clever, thoughtful kid and I think if I give her this info at the right time she will actually look at her behaviour with food and start to revisit her strategies. What do you think. Was I unreasonable to raise it? Should I not make an issue of it?? Help, please...

firesidechat Fri 11-Jan-13 15:04:03

As the parent of a once very fussy eater I would suggest not making an issue of it.

My daughter would eat chips, chicken, bread, cheese, yogurts, roast potatoes, tomato ketchup for many years. It wasn't quite this restrictive, but certainly felt like it. She didn't eat any fruit and veg until relatively recently. The only meat she ate was chicken and ham. She would eat the same meals for weeks on end. Despite all this she was very bright and very rarely ill. I think the fact that she drank milk (and water) did help her to get some good nutrition.

In the early days we tried all sorts of tactics but she is very stubborn. We tried not giving her pudding if she didn't eat her main meal. Just meant she went to bed numerous times with no dinner. Her dad once tried to make her eat spagetti bolognese and she still can't eat minced meat as a result. Completely traumatised her. Eventually we decided that it was best to relax and not make a big deal of it.

For a bit of context, the rest of the family are all very good eaters and not remotely fussy. We also love veggies.

Now for the good news. She is now in her early twenties and will eat most things. Loves vegetables, only meat she doesn't eat is lamb (because they are too cute) oh and mince of course, loves mussels, pasta etc. You wouldn't know she ever had problems with food. In the end I think she just got fed up with how restrictive her diet was. It made going out with friends a bit tricky and going to uni has helped enormously.

Hope that helps.

Oh and please try to ignore other people. There's always someone with an opinion on how you should bring up your children.

CailinDana Fri 11-Jan-13 15:05:32

Forgive me for harping on but it's something close to my heart. It really makes me sad when parents won't just accept their children for who they are - when they try to make them different, which the child nearly always interprets as "better." Of course bad behaviour shouldn't be accepted but I'm talking about personality quirks, preferences, ideas etc. Home should be the one place where a child should be able to feel 100% accepted for who they actually are, and not worry about who their parents want them to be. From your last post it's clear your DD has told you very strongly that this is the way she is, and you've not listened. Time to start listening I think.

CecilyP Fri 11-Jan-13 15:06:51

Do you really think ignoring it is best??? Is there nothing I can do to make her eat a bigger range of food?

No, I doubt that there is, and from the list of things she will eat that you have given, it is perfectly possible to eat a balanced diet.

Of course it can be a bit embarrassing eating with company, or annoying if you are eating out, but even in pizza and pasta places it is generally possible to get something that isn't pizza or pasta, even if it is just a plate of chips. Sometimes the starter menu will have something might appeal to her. I agree with librarymum, not to limit where you eat out, but let her make the effort to work around it.

From her point of view, what she eats is normal and what others are willing to eat is strange. Think of it in terms of being transported back to the olden days and being surrounded by people eating tripe and onions, pigs trotters and bread and dripping.

Honestly, I think the less fuss you can make the better.

Up until the age of 5 I was a human dustbin and ate everything. Went into hospital for an operation under general anaesthetic and my taste buds changed. I developed an intense dislike for foods I used to love - in some cases the smell alone would make me heave, let alone the taste. Eggs being one. Haven't been able to go near an egg since then when I used to adore scrambled egg especially.

In the last few years (am now 38) I have improved and there are few more things I now like that I never used to. But I can still only cope with a very plain/mild sauce and still much I cannot abide.

NewYearsEvelyn Fri 11-Jan-13 15:08:36

I keep cross posting, so apologies if I'm missing anyone out. When she gets home from school tonight I'm going to ask to borrow her cookbooks so I can plan out next weeks meals. I think she'll have forgotten this morning's row.

We have our special night tonight...that's where we spend time together doing things she wants to do, staying up late and having a 'sleepover' together, with sleeping bags and stuff. If she raises the issue I'll tell her I was out of order for making a big deal of the food thing. I won't apologise first though, as I don't want to bring it up again, unless she does. I'll say it's my problem really, and she will try new foods when she's ready, I'm sure. Hopefully, a few hugs and a couple of DVDs tonight will work their charm.

Thank you again for all your comments.

Thingiebob Fri 11-Jan-13 15:09:48

I can see the thread has moved on whilst I was typing my epic post!

I agree with Cailin, try and accept that this is how she is with her food. As long as she healthy, then it doesn't matter to much. What about her popping an iron and vitamin supplement? It does sound very much like a texture/sensory thing.

Not sure you can change this by arguing or forcing the issue. Perhaps this is just part of your daughter's uniqueness?

nickelbabe Fri 11-Jan-13 15:10:08

i think now she's 12, you should tell her it's up to her to make her food.

make sure you always have lots of stuff that's easy to cook, and recipe books etc.

but stop cooking for her.

tbh, it does sound like you've spent her life trying to get her to eat stuff, and sometimes that can make the problem worse.

when i was a child, i ate hardly anything , and eventually my mum left me to it.
i've now got a really varied diet and i love food.

Hullygully Fri 11-Jan-13 15:13:56

My dd has never eaten much, for two years she lived on red lentils, carrots, cheese, apples and cashew nuts.

She eats more now, but not loads. If she eats enough healthy stuff (which it sounds like) I'd just let her get on with it, she'll change in her own good time. Or not!

firesidechat Fri 11-Jan-13 15:14:48

Just wanted to add. I've often wondered if my daughter could be a super taster. There is a proportion of the population that experience taste more intensely than others and it can make them fussy. My daughter still eats one food on her plate at a time ie potatoes first, then meat, then vegetables. Apparently supertasters will often eat like this.

Maybe your daughter is also a supertaster. She may not be able to help her fussiness and this in turn may help you to relax about it.

ethelb Fri 11-Jan-13 15:15:10

I think that youneed ot explor reasons for the fussiness, but also stop pandering to it quite so much when it is inconvenient. You really shouldn't have spent all day looking for something for her to eat, she needs to realise she is very difficult to cater for and cater for herself while you get to thebottom of her food behaviour.

NewYearsEvelyn Fri 11-Jan-13 15:15:10

It's also nice to hear form grown women who have problems with food even now, but have improved from childhood and don't miss out as a result of it.

It's true...I see things from my own perspective and I would lament the loss of a varied diet. DH and I love a gorgeous meal out and nice cup of coffee and after dinner mints smile I look at her plate of dried food and I weep inside.

I need to get a grip! And start to see that she sees our saucy, slop covered meat and thinks in the same way.

We're away next weekend with her friend, off to York for some Jack Wills shopping. I might just talk to her about strategies before we go and put the onus on her to ask for what she wants in the restaurants. Instead of trying to change her, I'll try to support her more. Thanks for the really useful advice.

deckthehouse Fri 11-Jan-13 15:19:33

My son is much younger, but for him bribes work brilliantly. I usually bribe him a couple of times to eat a spoon or take a bite and by the third time we're having the dish he's munching the whole lot happily.

1NewMessage Fri 11-Jan-13 15:20:18

"when i was a child, i ate hardly anything , and eventually my mum left me to it. i've now got a really varied diet and i love food."

Same here. I would have tuna sandwiches for lunch, and fishfingers chips and peas for dinner EVERY SINGLE DAY. For years. My parents and DB are huge curry fans and if we went out they'd all have curry and I'd have the one 'english' item on the menu which was ALWAYS chicken and chips. I look back and am amazed how little my mum seemed to care. I think it made her life really easy to cook me the same thing every night. I actually think I was more extreme than your DD, OP. The only veg I ever got was peas! There was never fruit in the bowl and I only ever got any at my grandma's house when she'd get in some melon for me once every couple of months as a treat!

But I had a really robust constitution and was never off school, and had a perfect BMI. When I went off to uni the food in halls was so bland that I came home for the first holidays and announced I wanted a curry. My famiily nearly died of shock. Since then I've eaten pretty much anything but I still don't like stuff to be touching!

NewYearsEvelyn Fri 11-Jan-13 15:23:50

Ethelb I know exactly what you're saying, but the day in question was a treat, a weekend in London with her best friend and her best friend's mum. The problem arose partly because her best friend is vegetarian, so had specific requirements for her food, but this would have been easily addressed if DD hadn't had her very specific requirements too. We had to reject a number of eateries because they couldn't cater to one or the other of our children.

It is rarely difficult for us to eat around her as a family unit, as we are easygoing eaters and there are only 3 of us, but we do need to give her responsibility for sorting things out herself as she gets older.

If I try to 'get to the bottom of' her fussiness, I think we'll be making a big deal out of it, which is what the majority of people here are saying I shouldn't do. She will, I think, decide to do this herself when she is older IF it causes her problems in her life. As others on here have said, they have had difficulties as a child but grown out of them, or they continue to have issues now, but cope.

As a 12 year old girl she gives us very few problems and I am grateful for that. If she ate as she should, she'd be the perfect child!!! And I'm fairly sure that's not supposed to exist, lol.

NewYearsEvelyn Fri 11-Jan-13 15:27:33

My instincts are like yours though, Ethelb, hence the fight this morning. I should know better really than to put down my strongly held views and expect DD to fold. I was one of 6 kids and I never folded under pressure, parental or otherwise! Stubborness is part of her genetic make-up.

RudolphsNoseInMyXmasStocking Fri 11-Jan-13 15:27:39

Im sure my brother grew up on Weetabix and egg yolk! And equally, two of my daughters will only eat chicken (one will occasionally have gammon or a little mince), dd3 only eats plain pasta, no sauce, will have cheese. Veg wise, peas, sweetcorn and carrots, mash and chips. I regularly offer other foods but based on the fact they're both growing - one taller than me and one not far behind, I assume they'll get through to adulthood alright!

JustinBoobie Fri 11-Jan-13 15:28:19

I feel for you OP, you've been give great advice on here.

My dd likes ketchup, on the side.

If it touches any food, even if she likes it - she wont eat it. It's for dipping only the foods she wants to dip.

Drives me up the WALL, but hey ho... I can't fight with her about food, she has a varied diet (is fussy though) and is healthy. That's my main concern.

nickelbabe Fri 11-Jan-13 15:31:21

my entire childhood was the same sandwich for lunch, the same dinner.

my version of sunday lunch was mashed potato, stuffing, a small slice of chicken and yorkshire pudding (i did love gravy though)
i wouldn't eat any of the veg, and definitely no cooked carrots

i still can't eat boiled carrots - i can eat them roasted, but chopped up small.
and i cannot eat peas.

ethelb Fri 11-Jan-13 15:31:28

OP that sounds sensible. My post wasn't supposed to sound mean, but as someone who has a good friend who is an extremely fussy adult, she has only managed to cope by recongising it is a fairly big social disability and has to take responsibility for those kind of situations since the beginning of her teens. Or she just wouldn't have had any kind of social life. Unfortunatly, she just doesn't like food.
Does your daughter realise its not normal to make people wander round to different restaurants trying to find something to suit them (presumably you knew the friend was veggie before)? If so then fine, if not she needs to work it out.

nickelbabe Fri 11-Jan-13 15:32:52

1New - i thin kuni was the turning point for me, too.
i discovered broccoli, courgettes and pasta and tomato-based pasta sauces.
i discovered veg that wasn't cooked to an inch of its life!

Kayano Fri 11-Jan-13 15:38:08

I'm not even joking OP, I never had sweet corn, mushrooms or curry until I was married and I always used to order plain scampi and chips. Now I'm like ' Oh that looks so interesting, I'll try it! with no pressure fRom anyone :D

it'll get better in time, just prepare yourself as it could be a long time... I was 23!

ChristmasJubilee Fri 11-Jan-13 15:46:20

Ds2 (15) is a bit like this. He has no diagnosed special needs but I'm sure he is on the spectrum. (Ds1 has an ADHD dx and ASD tendencies.) He has problems with textures and can't eat food that is mixed or touching other food. He had developed quite a good range of foods that he would eat and then got flu and went off most of them again.

I have a two week menu plan which, with slight adjustments, suits him and everyone else and I don't make any fuss if he doesn't eat something. We rarely eat out but can usually find something for him.

He was born with a floppy larynx and was a very sickly baby. I don't really know if that has any relevance.

Jins Fri 11-Jan-13 15:48:55

I'd back right off and leave her to enjoy what she does enjoy.

DH was an impossibly restricted eater as a child but that changed once he got away from his mother spent more time with friends. Now he'll eat anything and everything unless he's at his mother's house

Turniphead1 Fri 11-Jan-13 15:52:19

Just a small thought. I have a similarly restrictive eater (DS 7) who has similar likes to your DD. I have found rather than producing a plate of food for him to eat at mealtimes - I give him an empty plate and little bowls of the foods on offer. Some of which he likes some he doesn't. He feels less pressure this way - and is more likely to try something new.

I am full of sympathy re eating out and other people. It's so embarrassing to go to someone's house and explain we he only eats chicken beast. They then cook him some and he won't eat it because it isn't exactly the way he likes it. Grrr confused

I am hoping by the time he is in uni he will be drinking pints and having 2am curries like everyone else. Maybe not though. He ploughs his own furrow this boy.

If you wanted to try and help her to try more foods, this is what I would do:

Think of something she would really like to "earn" ( DS game? trip to cinema? etc) It should be something extra to things she would normally get/do. When you prepare a meal, make hers just how she likes it but have a little of something new separately. (I'm thinking of a teaspoonful on a separate little dish or saucer or whatever). She can avoid the new thing without comment or issue - if she only wants to to eat her "normal" foods that absolutely fine, but if she feels like trying the new thing she will earn a "credit" towards the treat. That way there is no negative pressure but she has the option with a positive reward. Then the key is patience. To begin with maybe even for a couple of months she is probably likely to resist trying new things but once she feels that she is really in control and no once is forcing anything, she may start to try stuff sometimes !

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