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In just wanting them to eat their bloody dinner?...

(28 Posts)
Spookey80 Wed 06-Feb-13 18:44:34

I'm sure this has been done before,,but I have 2dcs and each evening now dinner times have become a nightmare. Dd aged 4, just picks, distracts and talks constantly, then it's "mummy help me", I'm not Hungary,.,blah,blah,blah. Little brother aged 2 is slightly better but has started to copy her.
We generally all eat together and they have what me and dh are having, so quiTe varied. Tonight was a tomatoe and pepper stew with eggs baked (actually that sounds mingling, but its nice,I promise you) and bread to dip. Se just ate the bread. We said no more bread until you eat more, but she basically sat their and moaned, so I just took it away in the end. Usually they have fruit or/and yoghurt, occasionally a homemade pud or treaty thing. But tonight I just said 'dinners over'.
Me and dh have feel like we've tried most things, no snacks before dinner, ignoring it, saying no pads, but they just won't eat what I cook or any meal really. We are trying to be calm and not get stressed with them (dd worst), but they eat all other meals, just not a good hot dinner.
...what I would like to know is,..is their anything we can do? And will it be like is forever?!!
Ay help/ tips much appreciated.
Sorry this post is so long,,so thanks if you have got this far.

littlewhitebag Fri 08-Feb-13 11:54:23

Are they refusing to eat meals they would previously have eaten? My stomach heaved at the description of the dinner you served and i can eat anything? I just wondered if you had started making different things recently and they just don't like them. My DD was hideous at that age and would not eat 'wet' food (like stews). She would only have eaten bread too so i would give her some ham or cheese or a boiled egg or something like that. Just don't make it into a battle. My DD is now 15 and will eat anything and stew is one of her favourites.

YouOldSlag Fri 08-Feb-13 11:49:55

I have started giving my Dcs one piece of toast a drink when they get in at 3.30pm. Their moods are much better then until tea which is usually at 6pm.

"No child ever starved itself to death."
Agreed. I would just leave them to it and clear their plates away when DH and I were finished.

If they hadn't eaten dinner then no dessert, because they can't possibly be hungry enough for dessert. And nothing to eat after dinner, because if they're hungry now it's because they didn't eat their dinner, and they should remember that next time they decide they don't want their dinner. And less chatting, more chewing.

Oh, the set phrases I used to chant are still all there, carved in stone on my memory grin. It will get better, the best thing you can do is be assured they will not starve themselves, just stick to what you are already doing.

megandraper Fri 08-Feb-13 11:21:59

good point metime - if my DCs are particularly cranky I bring tea forward (e.g. to 4.30 instead of 5.30) I put DH's plate in the oven to keep warm and he arrives while we're still having it and just joins in then. Better to have him arriving mid-meal with cheerful children than have cranky ones waiting for him.

metimeatlast Fri 08-Feb-13 00:47:08

hmm, can i ask what time you are feeding them tea? we used to eat tea at a reasonable hour, but since DD 3.4yo has started pre-school in january, she is just so tired and hungry she needs her tea to be ready and at 3.10pm mon-fri when she gets in, that seems to be her "time window" and if for any reason its not ready, she starts to want a snack and ive missed my chance to get her to eat good food. she is a bit better during weekends time wise though. Is there a chance that they have a slightly earlier time window? DD is usually then in bed having stories by 6.30. Her witching hour has changed from being 6pm for the last hour before bed to 3.10 when she gets in until she is nicely fed and watered.
Not sure if any of that advice is any use as your dcs are a bit older/younger than dd. best of luck though

YouOldSlag Thu 07-Feb-13 09:58:36

I got fed up of my kids saying yuk. I asked them what their favourite meals were, asked them if they would promise to eat them, then drew up a menu that they chose.

So every Monday we have Shepherds Pie- which they always eat. Every Tuesday is macaroni cheese- which they always eat, every Wednesday is homemade pizza etc etc.

It's a bit boring for me me and DH sometimes, but the kids eat it and there is no waste and it's much cheaper too.

They had input and choice and now mealtimes are less stressy.

megandraper Thu 07-Feb-13 09:51:02

We had this, and it was bloody awful. More or less sorted now. The things that helped were.

1. Diagnosis of coeliac disease - turns out that DS1's fussy eating was largely down to what must have been severe internal discomfort. If your child is a generally fussy eater (not just at tea time) I would recommend having a think about whether any intolerance could be involved.

2. Accepting that small children are more conservative than adults - we all eat together too, but the DCs don't necessarily have exactly the same. So if I make a chicken casserole for DH and I, the DCs will have grilled chicken and steamed veg without the sauce. A lot of small children aren't very keen on stews/casseroles/sauces. It's a bit more faff, but I think gradually as they get older they will start eating it with the sauce (DS1 is beginning to do so)

3. We have the talk-talk-talk thing too. Now if the DSs are talking too much and not eating, we have an 'eat in silence' rule where no-one talks for 5 minutes and they just have to eat.

4. If the main course isn't eaten, there's no pudding (other than a piece of fruit or a yoghurt). If it is eaten (not necessarily clearing plate but at least eating some of everything on it) then there will be a more exciting pudding.

5. People who are ill can sit on my lap to eat their meal, everyone else has to sit on their own chair.

6. Small helpings on plates (so it doesn't overface them). If they want more of something, they don't get it until they've eaten some of everything on the plate (I don't enforce that with any item that they actually dislike, only things I know they've eaten before).

7. Removing your emotions, so you don't get wound up by it. Being matter-of-fact and friendly about it all, and not getting caught in any loops (if they don't eat, fine, they stay at the table till everyone's finished).

Now they all eat pretty well and the fussing seems to have gone. We still get the talking-too-much and getting distracted thing, but the eat-in-silence rule seems to help that.

Good luck, it's an exhausting business, but you can get through it.

Miggsie Thu 07-Feb-13 09:36:12

PS - after much pain and realising that saying someting 20 times had the same effect as saying it once (ie no effect at all).

I now just say something once, then follow through, that's it.

My friend BEGS her child to eat - it is a total power game between her child and her - which the child always wins, except the day when the child was playing up and DD ate all the food while it was going on, so when the child deigned to eat, she found there was no food. A most fascinating tantrum ensued at that point.

I have also fed DD's food to the cats, or dog if you have one. Otherwise take the food yourself and eat it - if they kick off, then the not eating is more about power games than hunger, if they don't mind then they probably weren't hungry and are saying they are not hungry because they aren't.

Miggsie Thu 07-Feb-13 09:31:41

If they pick and say they are not hungry, take the plate away and say "ok, if you are not hungry, you can get down now".

But no more food that evening!

The other option is to give a tiny tiny portion and see what reaction you get.

BubaMarra Thu 07-Feb-13 09:26:01

If you think that their most nutritious meal is dinner, which they skip, you can swap meals and offer the dinner food during the day. That way they can take a smaller meal in the evening, but they will not lose out on their vegetables, meat, etc. So I'd offer that stew for lunch. I did something similar, I even offered the food that would normally be lunch/dinner food for breakfast! It worked - they had all the meals I planned for them, just in reverse order.

bedmonster Thu 07-Feb-13 09:13:13

I would have not put bread out if you were worried about them playing up a bit and not eating their dinner. There's nothing wrong with eating bread but it's not as nutritious as the dinner you made and it's a filler.
Are they eating well during the day? Kids are (imo) much better at knowing when they've eaten enough than grown ups who eat "because it's lunchtime/dinnertime," etc. It might just be that they've really eaten enough.
But I agree with a PP, sounds like a good idea to set yourselves a time limit of however long and just gently remind them 10 minutes to eat what you want, 5 minutes and so on.

OddFrog Thu 07-Feb-13 09:10:06

My 3 year old DS eats much better during the day so I try to give him a hot or substantial lunch and try to make time to relax over it. Then I don't worry if he only has a tiny dinner as we all eat together about 6pm which is fairly close to bed time anyway. Otherwise, I give a truly tiny portion and he can (and often does) ask for more, so it becomes a positive reinforcement.

Don't worry about it really, they eat what they need as long as you are offering healthy variety throughout the week.

maninawomansworld Thu 07-Feb-13 09:00:06

I had this the other week. Was looking after BIL's two boys and we had some nice sausege sandwiches for lunch. The eldest (5) didn't want egg with his so I cooked an egg for myself - guess what, he then wanted my egg so I said no.
He decided not to eat his sandwich so I simpy said 'fine, you don't have to eat it if you don't want but when I'm done with mine I'm going to start on yours'.
The moment I took my last mouthful he tucked into his.
He knows I would have eaten his - I've done it before.

CailinDana Thu 07-Feb-13 08:45:36

You have to try to stop having an emotional reaction to what your children eat. As long as they have a selection of healthy food across the day they will absolutely be fine. My 2 year old seems to be a very good judge of how hungry he is, which I think is great, and he will eat just what he wants and nothing more. It's a skill a lot more people in the world could do with IMO! Sometimes he wolfs down dinner, sometimes he'll just have a few bites. Fine by me. I would rather he grows up being able to regulate his eating sensibly than getting the message that he has to eat everything on his plate for fear of being "naughty."

A couple of things that might help though: check what time you're serving dinner. Is it too early/late? Could they be avoiding going to bed with a full stomach (which can be uncomfortable) or could they just not be hungry?
Do they have any control over dinner? - sometimes giving choices or asking them to "help" cook can make them more invested in dinner and more likely to want to eat it.
Are you expecting them to eat portions that are too big? A two year old can only really manage a small cereal bowl of dinner, usually, as any more is too much for their stomach.
Are there foods that maybe don't agree with them? If they eat something and feel sick it can put them off even if there's no connection (ie they eat beans and then later come down with norovirus - can put them off beans for life!).
Would they do better with a big meal at lunchtime and a smaller meal in the evening? My DS tends to eat a lot more at midday than he does at 5pm - it seems to suit him better so I give him more for lunch.

fizzykola Thu 07-Feb-13 01:10:45

Very frustrating.I had a similar rant thread yesterday, see here

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/am_i_being_unreasonable/1676495-to-withdraw-privileges-for-not-eating-dinner

There was some good advice (and some maybe less good).

It does your head in, doesn't it?! I just keep reminding myself: It's not your job to make them eat. It's your job to make sure there is something healthy and tasty on the table at dinnertime. The rest is up to them.

I think sometimes the mucking about at mealtime can be an attention/control thing. If you make out like you're not bothered whether they eat or not, it might happen less. A few other things that work for me are giving them really small portions - they're still small, so can be daunted by large amounts on a plate. And if they still leave it, I usually just offer to heat it up for supper grin

snowmummy Wed 06-Feb-13 23:58:49

no you are definitely not being unreasonable. I know it doesn't help but I feel your pain. I cannot stand dinner times sometimes.

My toddler doesn't eat tea unless he is having a grow. He eats best in the middle of the day.

Are you sure the timing is right? What time are you offering tea, and what time was snack, if any, and lunch? How long before they go to bed? A bit of tweaking might help a bit.

But then yes, just ignore. If they were hungry they wouldn't mess about.

BsshBossh Wed 06-Feb-13 20:20:11

Maybe they've eaten well enough during the day that by dinner they're just not hungry? My DD (4) often prefers just a picnic dinner if she's eaten well in the day - buttered toast, carrot sticks, cucumber, hummus etc.

Spookey80 Wed 06-Feb-13 19:37:43

Thankyou all, will try to chill out.

Smartiepants79 Wed 06-Feb-13 18:58:18

Looks like you are doing the right things already. Stick to your guns! Sounds like a phase and an attempt to see if you will change your ways and give in to more treats etc.. She won't go properly hungry so just stay consistent.

N0tinmylife Wed 06-Feb-13 18:56:59

Are they growing? Do they have plenty of energy? If so, I would try to back off, and relax about it.

One idea I got from MN which I have found really helpful, is to decide on a certain time, for me its 30 minutes, and that is how long they have to eat dinner. I don't nag, just let them know as the time goes, so warnings at 15 minutes, 20, 25 etc. Then, if they haven't eaten it all, take it away. It has helped me stop feeling like I have to keep saying on a loop "sit still" "eat your dinner" "stop talking" I have found DS will eat if he is hungry, and not if he isn't. All the nagging just makes us all miserable.

aquashiv Wed 06-Feb-13 18:55:04

I find if mine arent hungry they wont eat - infact I am starting to take a leaf out their book.
A great tip is get them to help you make dinner and tell them they made it (works for one of my little control freaks) then let them serve themselves give them the control.
Seriously though if she wont eat take it away and no treat end of soudns like you did the right thing.

CloudsAndTrees Wed 06-Feb-13 18:52:50

The only think you can do is persevere in doing nothing in my experience!

Keep to the same routine, keep putting the same variety of foods in front of them, and hope for the best. There is no instant solution that will fix it, it's a long term game! They will start eating it eventually, it will just take you to beyond the edges of your patience first.

Look at what they have over a week, not in a day, and don't stop giving them fruit and yoghurt. Just stick to what you would normally do whether they have eaten or not.

No child ever starved itself to death. Basically, don't keep things like biscuits, crisps or sweets in the house, give them food at mealtimes but don't make a big deal of whether they eat or not, and it will settle in time. They are very little and little children don't often each much at one time anyway.

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