Losing my shit with 18mo and dinnertime

(18 Posts)
Descriptivist Tue 30-Jul-13 17:17:21

DD is just 18months. She has always loved her food and took to weaning like a pro. She eats and likes pretty much everything. She eats perfectly at the CM of course (she goes for half-days) and has apparently never ever not finished what she's given.

However for about the last month she has taken to refusing her dinners for me and it's driving me insane.

I really don't believe that it's my cooking. I haven't changed what I give her. She is too impatient to use her spoon most of the time (hands shovel food into mouth faster - why'd she bother?) and I'm wondering if this sudden bad behaviour is to do with the fact that DH and I over-encourage her to use her spoon. Now she just will not eat at all, but plunges her hands deep into her food, watching me all the while, and squidges it around.

I have just shouted at her and removed her briskly from her high chair. Am not proud of this and know I am being completely U but messing with food winds me up like nothing else (not least because of all the ruined good food and time spent cooking it!). She IS hungry, I know this for a fact. I do not want dinner to become a battleground but I am very reluctant to just take away her food altogether until she eats. Despite her good appetite is she is teeny-tiny. Has anyone got any advice?

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Tue 30-Jul-13 19:02:19

Battleground is the word and by late on in the day everyone's running out of steam. So try to step back.

If DD always loved her food and eats healthily earlier on in the day, she is not going to starve.

Children her age like grazing. Healthy snacks count as healthy food whether consumed with a spoon or cut into fingers. It is a fine thing to sit down to dinner and eat in a civilised fashion but she may not appreciate whatever effort you go to preparing a meal at that time of day. Hence scoffing quite happily for the CM earlier on.

Another consideration is the highchair. Any chance she is ready for a booster seat at the table?

I found the quickest way to engage my toddlers' attention at mealtimes was for me to try something first. Rapt attention and prolonged interest. You may prefer to have her fed and sorted for bedtime ahead of your own mealtime especially with your partner but eating's a sociable activity.

Finally reading to her rather than standing or sitting beside her urging her to feed may get better results.

coronalover Tue 30-Jul-13 19:02:26

How frustrating for you! I hate the mess and waste of food too! My DS had an infuriating phase of tipping his food onto the table/floor (never did at nursery though, grrr). You're almost certainly right that she's reacting to the pressure of using a spoon. She may well be between growth spurts too and not needing to eat as much.
I suggest giving her finger foods for a bit so that the mess is minimal and ignore the spoon issue for a bit. It'll give you and her a bit of a break. I'm thinking stuff like whole pieces of pasta, toast, chips, pieces of fruit or veg cut up, mini sandwiches. Ditch the yoghurt for the time being!

yes. read this - in fact read the entire website. it has totally transformed my attitude to children and food.

do you think perhaps she's tired when you're giving her dinner? FWIW DS is 2.6 and still favours his hands over cutlery. I just leave him to it unless he's being particularly disgusting/unruly (and often that's because he's had enough or he doesn't like it)

I know it's difficult because you have spent time and money and effort preparing food and it's not getting eaten, but I think you know your reaction was over-the-top; it doesn't need to be a battle - you offer food, she eats it or refuses to eat it and it gets cleared away. if you're giving it any more attention than that it will become a bit of a game. any attention is better than none to a child, even if that is a parent losing it sad children know their own appetite, it's not personal so if I were you I'd trust her to know what and how much she would like, continue offering what you're having and maybe serve her meal earlier a few times to see if things get better. best of luck smile

coronalover Tue 30-Jul-13 19:11:30

* and I agree with Donkeys, try to eat together as often as possible. It helps for loads of good reasons. Giving you something else to occupy yourself instead of just focussing on her takes the pressure off.

Descriptivist Tue 30-Jul-13 22:31:30

Thanks everyone for your responses.

We eat breakfast together every morning and lunch together at the weekends, but we don't eat dinner together - half 5 is just too early for me and DP doesn't get home until later. I never thought of reading to her - that's a good idea. Although I could see it turning into a battle for control of the book! Worth a try anyway.

The website is very interesting if only it wasn't sponsored by evil Danone. It recommends to not give them a snack/other food a little while after they've refused a meal - this is where I fall down. I can't feel OK about sending an 18month old baby to bed without something decent in her stomach, I hate the thought of her being hungry. I also think she'd wake.

Until recently I'd always found that ignoring her a little bit while she eats got the best results: she didn't like the spotlight. So I'd have a cup of tea or stack the dishwasher etc. and she would fly through her food. But this new thing of hers seems to be that she now doesn't like to be ignored and so the hands go into the food and she waits expectantly for me to notice. But then still doesn't eat when given attention!

Anyway: I think that you all (and the website) have made good points about finger food being the way to go for now and it not mattering what kind of way she gets her nutrients. I have probably been too hung up on table manners and getting DD to learn how to use cutlery (she can use a spoon v. well when she chooses to, but usually only chooses to for stuff like yoghurt), but some people grandparents can be amazingly judgy about little ones with bad table manners...I am probably letting this get to me too much!

Wow, sorry for the essay. Thank you again.

clabsyqueen Wed 31-Jul-13 00:11:10

I totally sympathise with that feeling of being judged by your children's table manners - it seems to be everywhere. I promised myself not to get stressed about food/table manners etc having seen many friends lose lots of sleep around it. Most bad habits faded including the 'hands in food for effect' problem that we also had. Current one that drives my OH mad in public is DD trying to drink with a teaspoon. He feels mortified by it. I trust and believe it will pass! (23 months old DD) trust and believe the same - you will ride this wave (there'll be another one along soon though!)

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Wed 31-Jul-13 01:04:37

I was rattled by someone remarking that of course all French children are beautifully trained to eat with adults, displaying poise and table manners, for hours at a time.

But that's a slippery slope, feeling defeated by comparisons; as long as you try and instil some niceties by the time they leave secondary school they pick up acceptable behaviour from us.

extracrunchy Wed 31-Jul-13 01:14:03

We went through this and it stopped almost as suddenly as it started. I think it's an independence/will assertion thing. They're just discovering they can change how things go down, so they push it just to gain some control.

I feel the same way you do about food/waste/messing about and found it really hard to stay calm, but the best thing we did was ignore it and DS eventually concluded he actually quite liked eating and not just cos we wanted him to.

Assuming your DD is getting enough to eat and weight isn't a concern, I'd not react to it as far as possible, take the uneaten food away after a while, and bet she'll get bored!

atrcts Wed 31-Jul-13 01:38:14

Apparently we're all supposed to eat our biggest meal at breakfast, second largest meal at lunch and then smaller meal in the evening. I've noticed toddlers tend to naturally do this, so it's demoralising to spend a lot of time cooking from scratch in the evening, to find none of it gets eaten.

In fact, my husband says there is a direct correlation between how much effort we make preparing food, and how little is actually touched! It's a cruel game and hard for the chef not to take it personally wink

I found that switching the hot meal to lunchtime as much as possible works best for us, and evening meals are better if left to options such as toast/muffins/scrambled egg, finger foods like cucumber sticks and blueberries etc. That way, when we're all getting tired, no one is ratty (parents) or anxious (children) about the meal.

It's an ongoing battle though!

NapaCab Wed 31-Jul-13 05:33:50

Definitely went through a rough phase with my DS at 18 months, or in his case from about 14 months onwards, where he just started refusing food, throwing it on the floor and just never eating much other than snacks. At one point I was down to 2 meals that I could make for dinner that he would eat and even then it was never a guarantee!

Now at 21 months, I have noticed a gradual improvement. He is eating more, gaining some weight and starting to take an interest in new foods again.

I really do think it's a phase they go through at that age and your DD will grow out of it. It is incredibly frustrating though. I lost my temper with DS a number of times over it. What worked for was a.) never expending major effort on his meals because it drove me nuts when something I had slaved over for ages would just go straight on the floor and b.) walking away for a minute to calm down if I felt I was going to lose my temper.

Good point above too about toddlers being more naturally inclined to eat more in the morning and less in the evening. Whenever I give DS his big meal at lunchtime, he always eats better.

bigkidsdidit Wed 31-Jul-13 05:56:49

My DS almost never eats his dinner, he has a big breakfast and a hot lunch and a piece of fruit in the afternoon. I don't worry, he's not starving. I don't cook much for it now - I make him cheese on toast, avocado on toast, osmethog like that, so if he refuses I don't mind. Then I cook a good meal for me and DH and DS has leftovers of it to take to the Cm, so I know he's getting that.

I wouldn't worry if you can help it.

yes my 16mo has got a bit funny with food too. we just stay calm and let her eat it or not and take it away nicely if she doesn't. we don't really offer snacks here so if she doesn't eat much that's her look out til breakfast. it doesn't affect her sleeping.

we are also not too hung up on cutlery. she can use a spoon and fork and often does but also often doesn't and we don't comment on it. she will eventually.

I think, with kindness meant, you need to chill out about it a bit. your DC is just experimenting with food and with your boundaries so a calm smile and encouragement is the way to go. and easy meals too!

re the eating together, sometimes I have a piece of fruit while she eats and sometimes a piece of pasta etc from her plate - both encourage hee. from time to time.

Kiwiinkits Thu 01-Aug-13 03:39:44

Here's what I've learnt about training toddlers to do what you want. You never respond to anything a toddler does with any sort of reaction aside from a calm disinterested natural consequence. Unless they're doing something you want them to do in which case feel free to go nuts with praise.
So: "Oh you've thrown your food. Are you finished. Time to get down."
or "Oh WOW DD you're using your spoon! You clever thing, I love to see you using your spoon! Good girl!"
Works for me.

Also think it could be time to get rid of the high chair. We have one of those stokke chairs that sits at the table - great for toddlers of this age.

MiaowTheCat Thu 01-Aug-13 09:10:03

Going through it a bit at 15 months - she'll randomly take umbrage at something that she's eaten a million times before and it'll get chucked, or pulled off the spoon and chucked. I try to make a point of just going to pop something in the dishwasher (to give me a chance to cool down as it DOES stress me out but I'm buggered if she's figuring out that), re-try and if it's still getting chucked she gets a bit of fruit and the meal's over.

It's driving me mad and really getting me stressed - on occasions I've delegated mealtimes to DH just to avoid it getting into a battle of wills and her figuring that part out.

Descriptivist Thu 01-Aug-13 10:17:51

Getting rid of the highchair is a bit tricky right now, because we rent and the table and chairs are silly poncy rental house ones that don't work at all with young children in terms of booster seats etc. I do totally lust after the Stokke though!

Kiwi your bit about reacting to toddlers makes perfect sense and until recently has been how I've doing things...the bit about being calm when toddlers throw food etc. still works best but now any positive reaction for 'good' behaviour tends to backfire with DD. She gets a mad glint in her eye and you can see the wheels turning as she takes stock of what she's doing (e.g. feeding herself beautifully) and then decides to mush up her food with her hands just to see what I might say about that. hmm So I think I just have to stay neutral about everything and not interrupt her flow at all! We're going to visit family soon and I'm hoping that she'll get the benefit of eating with other small children and seeing some of them use cutlery etc.

Miaow I too often delegate to DH! He can sometimes get food into her better than I but he makes more of a theatre out of it which ultimately isn't particularly sustainable...

Anyway, last night's dinner went really well and that's because I stuck to simple finger food (sweet potato wedges and steamed veg). Lesson learned, I think smile

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Thu 01-Aug-13 10:21:40

That sounds much more relaxed OP smile.

mumschat Thu 01-Aug-13 22:50:24

Very like my daughter drove me mad too used to put food on her spoon and then stick it to my arm !!!she eats all her breaakfast by herself everyday no problem. My partner started giving her books and asking her to point out the cat doll ball etc and this kept her amused enough to open her mouth and let me spoon feed her and ate every bit !! works everytime now and dinner time is no longer a battle !!

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