Aaaaaaaargh! Fussy eater driving me crazy!(23 Posts)
DS is 4 years old and going through a phase where he is eating terribly. I battle with him at every MEALTIME...not just dinner, breakfast and lunch as well and I am so sick of it.
At breakfast he takes FOREVER to eat a bowl of cereal when I'm usually trying to get him ready for pre-school, and dinner, more often than not he sits there pushing his food around the plate.
I find it so frustrating as I usually make an effort to cook something delicious from scratch and I can't help but take it personally when he doesn't touch it or points out all the things he doesn't like. And then when I give him fish fingers he eats the lot, ha ha!
When he eats well he eats really well and I go so OTT on the praise, but it doesn't seem to encourage him to eat well again next mealtime.
We've recently had another baby (6 months ago) and I do wonder if it's some kind of attention seeking. He doesn't appear to be jealous of her in any way...he's wonderful with her and loves nothing more than playing with her and making her giggle. We had the odd dinnertime battle before she was born but it's been a lot harder since. I have to admit I had a meltdown at the dinner table when DD was a just few weeks old as she was VERY high maintenence in the early weeks and I had had a particularly hard day. When DS started playing around with his dinner and barely ate anything, I really lost my temper with him and shouted "FOR GOODNESS SAKE, JUST EAT IT". It shocked him and made him cry. I'm not proud of it and it hasn't happened again, it was just one occasion when, hands up, I lost control. But sometimes I do wonder whether he's trying to push me into losing it with him again.
My strategy with his eating at the moment is I put the plate in front of him, and set the kitchen timer to 20mins. This is the time he has to finish his dinner if he wants dessert and/or to watch a bit of TV before bed. While he's 'eating', I'll either be pottering around in the kitchen (where he's eating) or I'll be feeding DD at the same time. I'll praise him if he eats a mouthful but otherwise try not to give him too much attention other than occasionally tell him how much time he has left. It started off working really well but has lost its effectiveness now.
Does anyone have any tips that worked for them on getting their fussy eaters to eat?
could be his reaction to baby, we had a similar issue once, and it's so bloody hard to keep your cool, but the bigger the drama the worse it gets (as you know...).
can you figure out what he's definitely happy to eat? and some he really hates? have a nice & calm chat outside of mealtime. and the end of the conversation about food ask him if he'd like to tell you if there's anything bothering him in general or about mealtimes.
offer a smaller portion?
could you give him a nice new big boy plate/ cutlery etc? or a new place mat?
take him shopping, walk around and ask if what he likes the look of, what he'd like to try (besides chocolate & ice cream), maybe he's just bored with the usual stuff, so try something new
let him help you make a meal, if he's involved in the preparation, he'll be quite proud and less likely to refuse the food
he might just be generally needing less food - my kids all have gone through phases of either eating like a top athlete or a size 0 model....
and one really weird reason when my DS1 suddenly refused to eat his beloved chicken (aged 4) - he said that the meat got stuck between his teeth and it bothered him.....took me weeks to figure that one out!
Me: "ever heard of a toothbrush? we'll clean your teeth straight after food. now, can you eat your chicken?"
Him: "yes mummy, I love chicken!" (cue eyes rolling)
hope this helps
I think the above advice is good, take him shopping to pick out what he likes and then change dinner round as much as possible as his behaviour is likely linked to routine. If he doesn't want to eat the first choice, offer him a second (don't get stressed!). If he doesn't eat that say OK those are your options if you don't want those off you go. Let him get down from the table and play but leave the food there and tell him you are leaving the food in case he gets hungry. Likely he will come back to it. Also maybe stop using the timer, it made me feel stressed just reading it!
I know loads of people will disagree with me but I can't do food battles, it makes me stressed and angry and I can really do without both those emotions!
There is a really good book about this called my child won't eat by Carlos Gonzalez aka dr sexy eyes. It is well worth a read.
mrsvilliers yes, I agree, there are times when gentle approach is better then "mum has to win". I wish I was as patient and wise as you!
dumdee you should do advertising, now I want to read a book written by Mr sexy eyes, hmmmm
Breakfast: smaller bowl of cereal? As long as my 4yo got at least 4 bites in mouth I wouldn't worry. I sometimes serve up porridge to DS in one of the Gu bowls, the ones with about a 2.6" diameter. That may be all the breakfast he wants.
Dinner: can you not eat with him? It's usually a social occasion.
Is he clamouring for alternatives or snacks shortly after mealtime? That's when I tend to lose my rag, if they have refused the meal proper, I mean. Doesn't sound like that's your issue, though.
If he's not wasting away in front of your eyes then doesn't sound like he was meant to be a big eater.
Thanks for the advice. I will definitely try some of your suggestions.
He does often choose what he wants to eat and I make it for him, which is why I find it even more frustrating when he doesn't eat it. And more often than not I ask him what he'd like for dinner and give him 2 or 3 options so it's not like I don't involve him in this stuff. And at breakfast, he loves laying the table and putting the bowls out. He chooses the cereal he wants but then won't eat it. Or he'll specifically ask me for porridge or pancakes or crumpets or something and so long as I have time I'll do it. I LOVE it when he asks for something that he really wants to eat, but then can't help but feel cross when I put it in front of him and he tells me he's not hungry. The things he will always eat at dinner are fish fingers, pizza and pasta (but with the pasta dishes he'll just pick out the pasta and leave whatever the sauce is). I do give him this occasionally but I can't give it to him all the time. But for instance, last night I made a chicken casserole with mash because he ate brilliantly when I did it last time for him. But last night he just looked at it and said 'I don't like that' and pushed it around his plate for 20mins.
mrsvilliers, the timer thing isn't meant to make him feel under pressure or to stress him out...it's more that I'm trying to make it into a game for him...beat the timer and you can have some ice cream. It's a suggestion I picked up from a book called 1, 2, 3 magic, and it worked well for a while. Honestly, mealtimes are not stressful in our house, they're really not.
lljkk, I don't usually eat with him at dinner...I eat a bit later with DH, but breakfast and lunch (when he's not in pre-school) we always have together. But at dinner I'm usually feeding DD at the same time as he's eating and we do make it sociable...we chat and have banter and I encourage him to show DD what a good eater he is so she can copy him. And he loves it. But, he is such an outgoing, sociable little boy and loves showing off in front of DD, it often just serves as a distraction and he won't eat a thing! He'd basically rather do anything that sit still and eat! So other things I've tried are making it picnic style (depending on what we're eating), and we'll bring down a blanket, cushions and his teddies and he'll get really excited and enthusiastic. And then we'll sit down and he won't eat anything!!
But you're right, he isn't wasting away. He's a very well built lad with endless energy (don't know where he gets it from!) and looks pretty healthy.
Will look up that book too. Thanks.
you are really attentive to his needs, I think I would have lost it ages ago, so I take my hat off to you.
how about tonight you tell him there's no dinner, coz he won't eat it anyway? he can have a drink, but that's all, he can have breakfast
I did this once or twice - worked like a charm....
I can remember loathing the arrival of my little sister , I was almost four as well.
I would say eat with your little lad, we have never had separate meal times from our DS and I would also get rid of the timer. When your pottering about he may find it distracting.
amazingmum, thank you. I do try but am nearing the point of losing it, I have to admit. DH and I really love our food and really don't want mealtimes to be a negative experience for him. We really want him to enjoy his food, but honestly, every day I find myself thinking here we go again and why do I bother, and some days I just think I can't be bothered (and ironically these are the days I give him pizza and he loves it!) I do try and just start each day on a clean slate and be quite light-hearted about it, but by the time dinner comes and invariably ends with me spoon-feeding just to get something inside him, and him then being upset that I won't let him have dessert because "if you're not hungry enough for dinner, you're not hungry enough for dessert", I just get really disheartened about it
perhaps just tell him there's no dessert anyway (you forgot to buy it, whatever) so he gets it that he has to eat his body needs eat to grow, not cos there's a reward!
or make it a different reward, tell him that if he eats his food and doesn't fuss you'll have 5 mins extra time to do whatever he likes to do with you without baby, extra cuddles, story, (my DS" will do anything if I tickle his feet...) - if he just wants you he might work harder for a bit of extra time with you?
not sure about sticker chart, you can try it.
or instead of focusing on the food issues, think of something he's good at and tell him, that you can see that he's not that interested in eating his dinner, but you saw how beautifully he behaved with baby or how quickly he got ready fot bed time or whatever - this will reassure him that the eating or not is not that big a deal, so the focus will shift on to something else.
another thing, would he eat if you fed him/helped him? I know it sounds silly and more time consuming and like you are treating him as he was a baby, but what if that's what he wants exactly?
like when they are ill, their behaviour regresses also, we are more lenient and treat them as if they were years younger...
so ask him if he'd be happier you helped him eat the first few bites or every other bite etc. it might just work...
That timer idea sounds quite fun actually! Have you tried making it shorter so three bites in one minute? Or, controversially, maybe he's too involved in the getting meals ready bit? Like when you spend ages cooking something really complicated and then can't face eating it because you're sick to death of it. Or you could just give him what you know he'll eat for a week and see if he gets bored?
That book by Mr Sexy Eyes is meant to be v good btw, you should give it a go.
amazingmum, read your comments earlier moments before the kids' dinner and I felt like a penny dropped. I think you've absolutely hit the nail on the head with the regressive behaviour brought on by the arrival of DD.
DS had round 2 of the chicken casserole tonight and I fed DD at the same time. DS was watching and smiling as DD was taking food off the spoon and I just said to him, "would you like me to feed you too?" and his little face lit up. Every few mouthfuls I did an areoplane or train into the tunnel for him and then he ate a few mouthfuls himself. He lapped it up!
It's funny, at the age of 4 he's always going on about being a big boy so I've totally been playing up to that since DD was born...telling him that she'll really look up to him so he has to show her how to do things like eat properly etc etc, which he has got a kick out of, but it never entered my mind that actually he wanted to be treated like a baby too. And it seems obvious now because I had recognised that he'd regressed in some other areas...like at bedtime, he's been asking for a "carry" from the bathroom to bed, and a snuggle in bed before he goes to sleep. I never thought that that regression might apply to mealtimes too.
For the first time in months I actually feel like we can work on this now. Thank you.
well done, so happy you had a breakthrough (proud grin on my face!)
I'm so curious how it went today (DH says well done!)
Thank you! We had another good dinnertime tonight, I'm pleased to report! He had pesto topped salmon with peas and potatoes...something he's had before and seemed to enjoy, but the way things have been going of late, I wouldn't have been surprised to get a turned-up nose! DD had her dinner at the same time. It started with him eating nothing but the potatoes and kind of pushing the salmon around on his plate. I then offered to help him with a few mouthfuls, which I did, and he realised that he actually really enjoyed it and I barely had to help him after that!
It's funny how a little thing actually seems to have helped enormously. I have to admit that when I've ended up spoonfeeding him before, it's usually been with me huffing a bit and saying that I really shouldn't have to be feeding him at the age of four etc etc. The last couple of nights I've just done it with a smile on my face, made it into a bit of game and had a giggle with him about it and it's worked wonders
I think it's much better sometimes just to look at their little faces and try to do whatever makes them happy, than follow books and methods!
upwards and onwards, very happy for you!
This has been really interesting. My 4 yo has regressed recently as well (though her baby brother is now 18 months ) eg she won't dress herself any more when she used to take great pride in picking her outfit for the day and getting dressed. It's been making me really cross but perhaps she just needs the reassurance of being treated like a baby for a few days. Thanks for the food for thought (no pun intended ).
Dita - so did you "baby " her a little? did it work?
I do think that no matter how old we are, when we get rattled all we want is someone to understand that we need some help to cope, some one to take over for a little while, or just show a bit of sympathy!
it's nice to say to anyone "I know you can do this on your own, but I'll help you anyway if you want me to!"
hope things are getting easier...
Just want to update that two weeks later DS is eating so much better and I am so relieved and thankful that I posted this thread and got advice that was spot on! All it took was a different perspective.
Yes I am still spoonfeeding him a bit (just at dinner time...I'll start him off with a few mouthfuls and then he'll carry on. And I usually have to do "3 more mouthfuls" at the end when he tells me he's had enough) but mealtimes are fun again and DS seems to be enjoying his food and trying new food too. We have ditched the timer...it did start out as a game that was meant to encourage him to eat up, but he told me it ended up making him feel sad because I would get cross with him when the timer went off.
I'm hoping that I won't have to continue spoonfeeding him forever but at the moment I'm happy to do it as it's made such a difference.
Glad to hear things have improved for you OP
amazing I have been babying her a little, or at least being more gentle/going along with it when she wants to be babied eg dressing her, carrying her when she asks etc. I actually keep forgetting about it when it comes to mealtimes though we did do some spoonfeeding the other day when I wanted her to have some paracetamol and had mixed it with honey & yogurt as requested, then she still refused to eat the damn stuff. So it hasn't really made a huge difference to her eating, but it has reminded me that she is still a baby really (despite constantly telling me that she's a big girl now!) and to be a bit kinder to her
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