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To ask what you do when your child won't eat what you prepare for them?

(101 Posts)
Seekingsense Fri 28-Mar-14 13:41:38

Do you not offer anything else until the next meal, offer a boring alternative, bribe them, or give in a give them food they want? Does it work for you?

I'm having trouble with 2yo DD's meals.

Today's lunchtime offering was a ham, cheese, tomato & red pepper omelette (made into a smiley face). DD has eaten this before. Today, she decided she didn't want it and just kept screaming "Yuck, I want an ice lolly instead." After about 30 minutes of screaming I managed to get her to eat 6 mouthfuls by promising her a mini milk ice lolly if she did. I feel like somehow, she 'won'.

In the past I've tried the 'take it or leave it' approach with no other offerings, except fruit/carrots etc in between meals. DD left it, kept whining for Frubes and cheese strings, left the next meal and then was hungry and wouldn't sleep so I ended up giving her toast in the night.

Tell me someone has cracked this problem and can tell me what I need to be doing.

Downtheroadfirstonleft Fri 28-Mar-14 13:47:09

If my kids won't eat, I don't make much of a fuss, but remind them that they won't be offered anything else until the next meal. I then ignore them for 10 mins or so (not pointedly, just getting on with other stuff) and some/ most of the meal usually seems to have been eaten by then.

Not suggesting this would work in every case, but it's the habit I've got into.

sounds like too many temptations with the crappy snacks tbh

momb Fri 28-Mar-14 13:50:33

Have you offered two choices? Before you prep anything, give her a choice of two (similarly nutritious) things.
Then if she says she doesn't want it you can say 'what a shame; it was what you especially chose! Oh well I'll leave it on the table for X minutes in case you change your mind'. Then after X minutes take it away.
Your 2 yo dd isn't starving, underweight or suffering malnutrition. You're offering her plenty of (presumably) yummy meals and snacks. Your anxiety is palpable, but really; it wasn't hunger that woke your DD for toast, it was the fact that there was a power struggle going on that she was determined to win.

formerbabe Fri 28-Mar-14 13:51:03

First rule for me is they must try it...if they really don't like it, then I won't force them, but will offer an alternative.

On my weaker days, I do just give in and hand out the treats...not good.

SoftSheen Fri 28-Mar-14 13:51:57

I just go for the approach of serving everyone's food, then letting toddler get on with it. Food is removed after a decent interval, without any comment on the amount eaten. Fruit/natural yoghurt for pudding but nothing more exciting than that.

Generally this seems to have worked. Occasionally, we might have a sweet pudding such as ice-cream, crumble, cake etc and I serve this irrespective of whether then main course has been eaten or not. I don't think it is a good idea to bribe children to eat anything, otherwise you will end up having to give them ice-cream or chocolate after every meal.

RoganJosh Fri 28-Mar-14 13:53:37

It depends whether I think they genuinely don't like it, aren't hungry or just fancy something else.

If it's lunch I tend to ask what they want first (out of a choice of sandwich fillings or toastie or oatcakes) and then if they eat it, they eat it, if not they leave it.

Dinner, if it's something they've been fine with before I ask them to try it and then leave it on the table. An hr later they sometimes come back to it.

If they seem to genuinely not like it I'll later offer supper of fruit and toast.

I never go down the road of saying they must eat the main course to win the pudding as I don't want to demonise the main course and suggest that pudding is the reward.

arethereanyleftatall Fri 28-Mar-14 13:55:53

I always say to my girls 'would you like x or x' before I cooking. 2 choices either which I'm happy with. Hen,, if they don't eat it, I say well you chose it. 100% success.

Topseyt Fri 28-Mar-14 13:56:16

The rule in this house is eat what I provide or you get nothing else.

I do stick to preparing meals that I know we all will eat, but anyone who makes a fuss is ignored.

None has starved yet, and normally all meals are eaten with no problems. Sometimes I also find that the moaners (if there have been any) go back for seconds.

loveandsmiles Fri 28-Mar-14 13:56:32

I go with the take it or leave it strategygrin. If they leave it then they get nothing else until next meal. I don't make an issue about it and if DC start crying or making a fuss we just carry on our conversation and meal as normal. Sometimes they might genuinely not be hungry or not feel like what is made but with 5DC, making individual meals is just not an option!! None of them have wasted away as yet...........smile

CoffeeTea103 Fri 28-Mar-14 13:56:41

If she was hungry for the ice lolly she would have been hungry for proper food like the omelette, she was just being fussy.

I would leave it and offer alternative though healthy choices until the next meal. Yes you're right, she got her way and learnt that her throwing a fuss gets her what she wants.

rollmeover Fri 28-Mar-14 13:57:20

I ty to give a choice over part of the meal - lentil or veg soup, cheese or ham sandwiches, what type of veg at tea time.
The meal goes down and they are not allowed to leave the table until they have tried everything on the plate, they can get ."pudding" if they eat most of it (pudding = bit of fruit or yoghurt).
If they dont eat it then I take the view they are not hungry so it gets taken away after aboutc10mins. Nothing else to eat until next mealtime.
dD is an incredibly slow eater, so she goes on the clock - and gets warnings and if after 20mins/30mins she hasnt finished it gets taken away too.
I used to find it really hard to take food away (especially if i have made it!) but I take a pretty tough line and we actually have much fewer dramas.

NigellasDealer Fri 28-Mar-14 13:59:30

i would just say take it or leave it, and not offer a lolly as reward.

Snowflakepie Fri 28-Mar-14 13:59:55

Giving a simple choice, between 2 items. Then serving it in the middle of the table so DD could help herself and feel grown up! No other food offered, and no bribing. Drinks only between meals if that's the state she's in, and snacks of fruit at whatever snack time is (about 3pm here).

Some days she eats next to nothing, other days will wolf the house down. But has never woken over it, and in general has tried most stuff. I never make her clear her plate either though, unless she wants to.

If I remember rightly, age 2-3 was the worst time for eating something one day and claiming not to like it the next. Now she's 4 it's much easier, still has her moments but knows the score. I always make sure there is something she really likes in a meal if there is also something new, and ask her just to try so I know whether to make it again.

Having a younger one who will wean on anything has also helped. As in 'look, DS is eating it...' grin

Nandocushion Fri 28-Mar-14 14:00:50

What Downtheroadfirstonleft does. She really, really won't starve, I promise. Ignore the screaming and fussing and don't engage or it will go on.

BarbarianMum Fri 28-Mar-14 14:01:08

If they won't eat it I assume that they aren't hungry. They do not get anything else. I would not serve them something I know that they hate but have no problem with them having the choice between something they don't particularly fancy or having nothing. Can't be doing with children deciding whether they'll eat chicken on any given day.

Merefin Fri 28-Mar-14 14:02:42

Having battled and bribed with DC1 I decided just to ignore with DCs 2/3. As we are all eating we just ignore the one who is fussing, or say 'well get down then' and let them go (takes heat out of situation).

Then when everyone else is done and I'm clearing I call back the refuser to have another try, possibly with a toy or a book for distraction. If they have a genuine try but don't like it then I might make a quick cheese sandwich instead for them. If they are not hungry or just tantrumming then I take the plate away and let them get down.

Then offer food at next meal without any reference to earlier fuss, in case it starts all over again!

If starving in meantime and it's hours til next meal, then milk and piece of fruit.

Merefin Fri 28-Mar-14 14:04:32

Basically I avoid battles but also avoid rewards. Trying to keep food and meals a neutral issue not emotion-laden!

PenguinsEatSpinach Fri 28-Mar-14 14:06:54

We do 'it's this or it's nothing'. I don't offer bread or whatever instead because DD1 would quite happily have subsisted on some of those 'boring alternatives' at times and I didn't want a cycle. If you are hungry, you eat it. If you are not hungry, you don't but there is nothing else. There is no pudding if you haven't eaten a decent amount of main course - because sweet foods are not for filling hungry tummies. If there is some component of the meal you don't like then I will remove it for you (e.g they both hate peppers).

spilttheteaagain Fri 28-Mar-14 14:08:00

I feel your pain, I have a 2.5year old DD. We get exactly the same eat something one day, refuse it another and it's something I really get furious (inside) over, though I try to seethe inside and not react to her. I hate food waste, and I hate the bloody whinging and the fact my own meal is also ruined as she whines and grumps and clambers up my legs/onto my lap constantly through the meal, demanding milk instead (she's breastfed).

I don't have a strategy as such, but I always try and make sure the meal is something she is likely to eat some or all of, eg she will always have two of: cucumber, tomato, broccoli, peas, baked beans, other pulses on her plate as these are the veg things she does eat. I might then also add a piece of carrot/spoon of mashed swede/sweetcorn etc etc if we are having it so she can try it if she wants to but I don't insist she does. Infact I try to not even ask her to, just leave it there, but am not great at this- it's just too tempting to try and cajole/beg/suggest.

I also sometimes find it's a matter of presentation, eg she absolutely will not touch soup or things in a bowl that could be soup, but if I make a puy lentil, bacon & veg (unblended) soup, I can used a slotted spoon to lift a load of lentils, bacon and the v finely diced carrot etc out and put it on a plate minus the liquid. I grate cheese on top and she will shovel it in, just like lentil chilli which is her favourite.
Or today I made a stuffed cheese & onion loaf, but left the end section unstuffed so it was just normal bread, sliced hers and made it a normal cheese sandwich, so minimal extra work but acceptable to her.

When she just won't eat it for god only knows what reason, as happened yesterday when DH made pasta, pesto & peas for lunch, we put it in the fridge and moved on. She was offered fruit (and ate a banana & apple) as per usual after a meal. But we didn't make a main meal alternative. We made sure we had a protein based snack to hand for the afternoon to try and redress the balance and prevent hunger meltdown. Those Nakd raw fruit & nut bars are quite good for this.

The trouble really is dinner though - breakfast and lunch issues piss me off but I try and breeze through them and think tough shit, you will eat the next meal then won't you, allowing her usual fruit/nuts/cheese type snacks at normal points. But if she won't eat dinner it's a nightmare as she demands breastfeeding, and will feed loads in the night instead to make up for it. She still normally feeds 2-3 x a night (don't ask, I am knackered) but dinner refusal can make for a good 5 wakings and much longer feedings. So if dinner is a disaster we tend to give it an hour and then try and shovel in a pile of greek yogurt and maybe also some bread/banana about half an hour before bed so she's not hungry.
I know that may not be the best idea in terms of teaching her she can reject dinner, but my sleep is important too and I am far too tired to be making it worse if I don't have too!

Epic post, sorry, but we don't know the answer either, but you are not alone and YANBU it is so bloody tiresome.

PoppySeed2014 Fri 28-Mar-14 14:08:55

As others have said, no real need to have frubes, cheese strings, mini milks etc at home. None of them are great - all processed and sugar laden.

If my 2 year old knows there might be a lolly for pudding he gets it if he's eaten at least half his meal. Otherwise, no. No lolly. He gets down, plays and I'll offer him a very healthy snack an hour or so later.

Oh, and easiest, healthy home made lollies ever:
Whizz up natural yoghurt and add a banana and strawberries/mango/kiwi etc. Tiny squeeze of lemon juice and freeze in lolly molds. All visiting children love them and they don't have anything processed or refined sugar.

Busybusybust Fri 28-Mar-14 14:11:57

Oh, wow - why did you try to persuade her - that was exactly what she wanted. Just take it away, and say that's fine, but there will be nothing else to eat until tea/breakfast/lunchtime. Don't make a fuss. And, most importantly, DO NOT GIVE HER ANYTHING ELSE TO EAT!

She will soon get the idea!

(FWIW, I have 4 adult children who eat everything)

LaQueenOfTheSpring Fri 28-Mar-14 14:11:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PoppySeed2014 Fri 28-Mar-14 14:13:03

One other thought. My dc sometimes will battle over taking just one bite if they're too hungry or tired. Once they have had one bite, they're fine. You do have my sympathies. One of my dc was way trickier than the other. I always give them something they like or I'm 100% sure they'll like. And they "help" to cook which encourages them to eat!

It will get better smile

Busybusybust Fri 28-Mar-14 14:13:04

Oh, yes, and if she makes a good stab at eating it, then she still gets her pudding!

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