Trying to implement stress free mealtime but DS wont have any of it.

(9 Posts)
abigboydidit Thu 12-Sep-13 18:17:35

DS is 27 months old and DD is 7 months old. DS's issues with mealtimes started before I fell pregnant with DD but have escalated over recent months. He had food allergies (mostly now outgrown) so his diet was limited for the 1st year of his life but he was always a good eater - it was just his diet was a bit restricted.

I have always been a firm believer that children regulate their own intake and do not always need to eat a full meal. My only rule is that DS try what is on his plate. Mealtimes are generally a main course (pasta, mince and potatoes, stew etc) followed by yogurt with fruit or pureed fruit (he is very fussy about whole fruit, liking only pineapple and melon so I confess to giving him those fruit pots to add a bit of variety). I never stress about him not eating a meal and just take the plate away, offering fruit and yogurt as usual afterwards even if he hasn't eaten much mains.

However.. It has now become a battleground. He looks at the meal and refuses. I say it's fine and take the plate away and lift him off the chair. He then throws a tantrum saying the plate is his. I put him back on the chair and he will start mashing the food up or bashing his cutlery. Or, worst still, take a mouthfull and then spit it all out. I then take the plate away, still calm and tell him he can go play as his meal time is finished. He will then start wailing for cuddles or playing up whilst I try to eat and DD has hers (the play area is near enough to the kitchen table that I can see him) so he is continually getting attention for his negative behaviour.

Today I had enough as am loaded with the cold and instead of letting him down from the table, I made him stay seated as it was easier to ignore his antics IYSWIM? I made it clear that although he was not eating, myself and DD were and so he had to stay there. I then ignored him while he screamed blue murder, wailing for his Daddy. When he had moments of calm I would engage in light hearted conversation with him but he would quickly start having a tantrum again, at which point I would start casually chatting with DD.

I feel like I am making the dinner table a battleground but I don't know how else to deal with it in a way that I can ignore his naughty behaviour safely. Any advice would be welcomed as I am feeling like such a failure. Thanks!

HPsauceonbaconbuttiesmmm Thu 12-Sep-13 19:31:42

Hmmm. That's tricky. Ds is made to stay at the table but he is 3.3 and tbh i think 27m is a bit too young for the concept to sink in.

Could you try the help yourself from pot in the middle? Obv you serve but he chooses how much. And i actually don't let Ds have fruit unless he's tried tea(new foods) or made a decent attempt (known acceptable food). Never made to clear his plate.

Also Ds much more likely to eat well at breakfast and lunch when not tired and will them sometimes just have say eggs on toast for tea.

Make massive fuss of dd for sitting nicely and continue to ignore bad behaviour but for your sanity id probably let him play if quiet and within vision. Give as a choice -yout can sit with us and we'll tell eachother stories or you can play quietly while we finish.

God knows our mealtimes are far from tranquil though!

We've always made our nearly 2yo stay at the table until everyone is finished since he started eating at our mealtime if that makes sense. He knows that's he rule now, we take his plate away if he's finished and starting to play with it but often he'll say he's finished then eat some more when he sees us doing so. So I think staying at the table is a good idea (may be a bit biased here) it also helps teach good table manners.

abigboydidit Thu 12-Sep-13 19:53:38

Thanks for the replies. I tried the help yourself type approach but he just refused to take anything (that day - other days are better. I could maybe try again).

The problem is that I would be more than happy for him to leave the table and play if he isn't hungry as DD does take a while to eat hers (we're doing BLW so there is a lot of mess and she happily smooshes her grub for a good half hour at least) but he won't! He wont eat his meal but equally if i take it away he has a meltdown and if I say he can go and play he will start destroying things to get my attention. Honestly, his behaviour is spiralling downwards from a child who would sit reasonably nicely and eat to a little monster. Sometimes if I make him stay at the table he will eat, as I think he realises it's the least boring option! Today was just a nightmare though and seemed crazy to have a tantrumming toddler sitting at the table next to me while DD merrily splodged herself with meatballs confused

abigboydidit Thu 12-Sep-13 19:55:22

Sorry - I should add that the decline is now going across all meals. The only time he eats well at the moment is when I take a sandwich lunch to the park to meet our friends and he can run around with it in his hand. I know I should probably pick my battles but I really do not want to go down the route of letting DS eat in front of the TV or while wandering around his toys..

Magslee Thu 12-Sep-13 21:33:06

I could have written your post a few weeks ago. I think there is a huge amount of pressure to have mealtimes sitting at a table together and it's not always possible or positive. I think what works depends a lot of the child's personality - my DS made it pretty clear that he would rather not eat at all than eat on my terms - didn't matter how hungry he was. My DS was behaving in a similar way to yours and was losing weight because he was refusing meals/throwing tantrums about sitting at table etc. He was also trying to stop me eating even if I had said he could go off and play.

I got a mini table and chairs for him and just left food on it for him - I'd put meals out at mealtimes and leave them there with a cover on if he didn't want them. I also left various healthyish snacks on the table for him to graze on. I did allow him to wander around a bit while eating but not out of the kitchen. I ate my meals sitting nearby. I think he particularly hated sitting at the table and feeling like he couldn't get down. Gradually I've been encouraging him to sit for longer - distracting him with reading stories etc and I have been giving him the choice of big or little table. This week he has sat down and eaten every meal put in front of him (sometimes with distraction and a bit of spoon feeding I admit) and tonight chose to sit up at the big table with me and my friends while we all had dinner. I don't know how much the change is due to the new approach and how much it might just be a new phase that would have happened anyway, but freeing myself from the pressure of thinking you aren't a proper family if you're not having mealtimes at the table has made my home and much happier place. (btw I have only got one child though so may be a bit trickier in your case). Having said all of this, I bet he's got a whole new phase up his sleeve so I might need to add a ps next week!

abigboydidit Thu 12-Sep-13 21:41:47

Thanks for the reply. Our kitchen/living room is open plan so we had a little table and chairs but it sat behind the sofa and we had problems with DS climbing onto the table in order to vault over the sofa so it was taken away blush. You are right though. If I leave stuff on a wee table he will pick at it. He just won't sit down and do so. When we tried the little table he was also insistent that I had to sit there too. At the time DD wasn't on solids so it wasn't an issue but now it's harder. We have him in a toddler chair from ikea which he can get on and off himself but... Aargh! Sorry. You're all trying to help and I keep saying "ah, but..".

Should I just give up? Or rather give in?

abigboydidit Thu 12-Sep-13 21:42:21

Thanks for the reply. Our kitchen/living room is open plan so we had a little table and chairs but it sat behind the sofa and we had problems with DS climbing onto the table in order to vault over the sofa so it was taken away blush. You are right though. If I leave stuff on a wee table he will pick at it. He just won't sit down and do so. When we tried the little table he was also insistent that I had to sit there too. At the time DD wasn't on solids so it wasn't an issue but now it's harder. We have him in a toddler chair from ikea which he can get on and off himself but... Aargh! Sorry. You're all trying to help and I keep saying "ah, but..".

Should I just give up? Or rather give in?

Magslee Thu 12-Sep-13 21:54:47

I have to confess I have ended up eating quite a few meals at the little table with my knees round my ears - not sure it's that good for my digestion but was definitely better for my blood pressure than dealing with big table dramas. It sounds like you've tried pretty much everything so maybe just deep breaths and the 'this too will pass' mantra!

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