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AIBU to send them to bed with no evening meal?

(102 Posts)
Rinoachicken Tue 17-Oct-17 17:40:59

Please advise me because I’m drowning here and I’m on my own with no one tonask in real life.

Background: have two DS, one nearly 4 and one nearly 8. The eldest has ASD but is high functioning. Just over a year ago I split from their dad after nearly 7 years of abuse. The boys now live with me and see him EOWend. I work 4 days a week, boys are at school and nursery, breakfast club first thing and childminder until 5pm which is when I collect them from work.

Both are picky eaters, my eldest much more so. He was refusing school dinners last year so this year I’ve let him take packed lunches which is going ok. He resents the time it takes to sit and eat when he’d rather be doing something else. Youngest has a hot meal at nursery at lunchtime.

Since September, what’s been happening is that we get in the house at about 5:15, I immediately start making them their evening meal, youngest plays or watches TV, eldest goes straight on minecraft or the ipad. I have been letting them in in the living room/at the PC because our table was covered in ‘stuff’ and because they used to always argue and fight at the table. My youngest usually does eat what I give him (even though he’d live on cream crackers given his own choice) but my eldest declares he doesn’t like it or eats two mouthfuls hen says he’s done, can barely tear himself away from the screen to bother to try it. They both know the rule that if they don’t eat a decent amount of heir meal then they don’t get anything else, I don’t expect them the clear their plates but I do expect them to eat a decent amount, the portion sizes are appropriate to their ages. But when I’m putting his little brother to bed he’ll raid the cupboard for crisps and snacks and leave he wrappers everywhere.

Frankly Im fed up! But I just don’t know what to do or where to start. I do everything in the house, my youngest helps with the laundry but it’s a raging battle anytime I ask my eldest to do ANYTHING at all to help. My Ex was a SAHD and wouldn’t allow my eldest to do anything for himself, (so he could bitch and moan that he was having to do it) so as a result my eldest is not used to having to do anything and resents me telling him to. I’m not asking for the earth, just for him to bring down his dirty uniform at the end of the week, take his plate into he kitchen etc. But it’s a massive screaming tantrum EVERY time.

But I have to do something and start somewhere. So tonight, I cooked meatballs and spaghetti. Both rejected it. I had enough. I cleared the table, put on a new tablecloth, set the plates on it and sat them down. I said no screens until after dinner.

Well my youngest started to eat happily. But my eldest immediately kicked off, shouting about child cruelty etc. Stormed off from the table screaming, the works. I told him that just because it’s not it’s favourite meal of all time doesn’t mean he can leave it, that it’s wrong to waste perfectly good food. Of course now my youngest has decided he doesn’t want it either because his big brother isnt eating it.

So I said fine, time for bed then. Youngest has gone to sleep fine. Eldest is reading and has calmed down and apologised for being ungrateful.

Please help me MN. Did I go too far? Not far enough? I want to stick to the new rule of no screens before mealtime, is it fair?

Rinoachicken Tue 17-Oct-17 17:41:11

Blimey, sorry it was so long!

GummyGoddess Tue 17-Oct-17 17:45:30

I don't think that rule will work for your eldest, surely better to have no screens after dinner or he won't eat anything so he can get screen time faster?

It's not ideal but you haven't done anything wrong. Are you able to keep the snack food in your car for a while so he knows he has to eat dinner and there isn't any junk as an alternative?

ThisIsNotARealAvo Tue 17-Oct-17 17:47:40

I think screens and eating definitely don't need I go together. I have one quite picky eater, but they usually eat something. They are not allowed to get down until we have all finished, and there's nothing else if they choose not to eat what we are having. Everyone has the same, adults and children. No screen time during dinner ever unless it's a special treat, like the odd breakfast in front of the tv. No screen time at all if behaviour is not good enough.

Hang in there and stick to your guns. You can make the changes you want.

Rinoachicken Tue 17-Oct-17 17:48:05

Hmm that’s a fair point gummy.

Bit of an update: my eldest has come and apologised and is now eating the (reheated) spaghetti.

Sirzy Tue 17-Oct-17 17:50:18

A lot of autistic children have sensory issues around food.

You sound at risk of creating massive issues around food if your not careful which won’t help at all.

What will he eat? On work days in particular stick with that. Don’t make it a battle ground

HermionesRightHook Tue 17-Oct-17 17:50:24

Sounds like you need to have a careful think about how to handle screens and when would be a good time for them for both the boys, but I think you handled that pretty well. Sometimes you have to upset them because they just can't do what they want all their lives. It's positive in the long run.

AdalindSchade Tue 17-Oct-17 17:52:20

In my house we have a similar evening routine, get in quite late, tired etc and I let DS play on the wii u until dinner time. Then it goes away and he has to eat. I don't mind if he has the TV on while he eats but the wii u has to go away otherwise he just wants to do that and not eat (and he gets food all over it). Then it's bath time and reading/bed. The fact that he knows it goes away when dinner is served makes things clear and also allows for winding down time before bed. No devices from the time the meal is put in front of them is a good boundary and it works for us.

Squirmy65ghyg Tue 17-Oct-17 17:54:14

Could you have a word with your eldest and explain that everyone needs to work as a team and pull together? Ie treat him very maturely and be straightforward.

Well done on leaving your ex. I did the same.

The other idea for cleaning etc is a massive cheese fest that I saw on YouTube - put on caps or hats and some music that the kids like, set a timer for however long and everyone runs around tidying up etc until the timer goes off. It is so cringey but it works with my DS very well.


eyebrowsonfleek Tue 17-Oct-17 17:55:44

I think you did the right thing.

It takes time for something to become routine. He’s had at least 5 years of no chores (assuming that the average 2 year old will do small bits and bobs like put dirty laundry in the washer, unload the cutlery section of a dishwasher... )

Moving from screens to another activity can be a minefield for NT kids too but with consistency he will learn to hide his disappointment at having to stop playing better.


I’m a single parent and my teens keep on asking how many minutes until dinner😡. (Its 5 mins) and I know they’re not going to be over the moon but it’s hard cooking food that all 3 like.

DonkeyOil Tue 17-Oct-17 17:57:40

Youngest has gone to sleep fine. Eldest is reading and has calmed down and apologised for being ungrateful

I would say that is a result! I think it's perfectly ok to do what you did. You only sent them to bed without a meal because they refused to eat it!

Because part of the problem seems to be them not eating because they can't wait to get to their screens, have you thought about maybe pushing the evening meal back and letting them have a (small) snack and their screen time when they get home from school, then saying no screen time after dinner, to prevent the mad dash to get away from the table. They might be a bit hungrier, too!

Rinoachicken Tue 17-Oct-17 17:58:05

He does have some sensory issues around food, which I do cater around. So I would never give him rice for example because I know he hates the texture.

But when I know it’s something he’s happily eaten before, and he’s just refusing because he’d rather do something else...

Ttbb Tue 17-Oct-17 17:58:22

Maybe just stop letting them get distracted like that. Your eldest is going to have a difficult life if he can't sit through a meal.

Want2bSupermum Tue 17-Oct-17 17:58:52

DS is four and has a diagnosis of ASD. Feeding issues are very common. DS will only eat about 5 foods if we let him. It's taken 2 years and 5 therapists to get to the point where he can eat lasagna. The child is high functioning, just not when it comes to food. You need professional help to fix that issue.

The chores thing is a case of no screen time and you need to train him. It's harder when they are older as sticker charts work great. However screen time works too. If you do x you get 5 mins of screen time. We, as in DSs teacher (qualified ABA therapist) and myself, potty trained DS with 1min of Thomas the tank engine as a reward.

MyDcAreMarvel Tue 17-Oct-17 17:59:28

I would pick your battles especially with a dc on the spectrum. Let them have their screens as long as they are eating. If you really don't want them to you need to plan in advance and not just suddenly change the "rules".

mygorgeousmilo Tue 17-Oct-17 18:00:18

You haven't gone too far. You're fine and this is all within the realms of just being a normal life with kids. It's all an experiment of what works and what doesn't. From what you've said I think it worked. He's apologised and calmed down. Youngest is ok. I think the test will be how they are at dinner tomorrow. I would send my kids to bed without dinner if they acted up, including one with ASD. As pp said, as the iPad is the incentive, I'd say no screen time until dinner is eaten. I would also try and prep and freeze as much as possible - I know you are probably bloody knackered - but when you get a chance, so that the evening up until they're fed isn't long and draining. My kids are absolutely ravenous when we get in from school, if they were waiting while I chopped and peeled etc then they'd drive me bonkers! Don't buy snacks.

Rinoachicken Tue 17-Oct-17 18:00:20

I’d be fine with a later mealtime but they always say they are STARVING!!

(Just not starving for a proper meal! If it was crisps and crackers and crap that would be fine!)

Ummmmgogo Tue 17-Oct-17 18:00:37

sounds like a major breakthrough to me. keep it up! x

AdalindSchade Tue 17-Oct-17 18:02:04

Agree with that ^
Changing the rules with no warning because you're pissed off wont go down well especially with a child with ASD. Telling them in advance will make it much easier.

Sirzy Tue 17-Oct-17 18:04:48

I think it is worth remembering that just because someone is “high functioning” there struggles are still there and are still as real. Often describing it as “high functioning” underestimated the degree of struggle.

You need very clear routines and expeditions too especially if after School is a chaotic time.

IfYouGoDownToTheWoodsToday Tue 17-Oct-17 18:05:56

I wouldn't let him have screen time, until after they have eaten. Then he will have an incentive to eat some food.

brasty Tue 17-Oct-17 18:06:12

I agree with what you did OP.

CheshireChat Tue 17-Oct-17 18:07:05

Actually I think it's ok and I'm really not a fan of the no dinner thing- your eldest realised he made a mistake and apologised so it sounds like a good result really.

Also ate what he'd been initially offered so maybe he's testing boundaries rather than a sensory issue?

CheshireChat Tue 17-Oct-17 18:08:11

Also hide the snacks, more motivation to eat!

AJPTaylor Tue 17-Oct-17 18:08:41

It strikes me that you have set a boundary and he has respoded to it.
set more.

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