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Toddler food battles - help!

(10 Posts)
LittlePickleHead Wed 01-Dec-10 19:05:29

I just really need some advice on the best way to deal with the current wrangling my 21mo DD and I are having over food.

There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason, one meal she will wolf down what I have given her (in this case mash, broccoli, sausage and gravy). Two days later the exact same meal is met with a major tantrum and the food being spat out.

I'm trying not to make too big a deal of it, tonight I tried to get her to try it, separated the food so she could see what is was, and when she carried on refusing, to try it I said 'OK, no food, but no ZingZillas because you didn't eat it).

This led to an hours worth of major tantrums. I didn't lose my temper, just carried on. A few times I asked if she was hungry, she said yes but then refused her dinner.

I know Annabel Karmel says to not make an issue but not to offer anything else, but by 6:15 I relented and gave her some cereal which she ate in about 2 seconds.

Please give me some advice on what to do during these tantrums! I have no idea what the food issue is as it happens with everything now and then. I even asked her what she wanted 'tato!' so I have no idea why she wouldn't eat!

Lucy88 Wed 01-Dec-10 21:28:41

I know how frustrating this is - been there with my DS.

He would eat anything I put in front of him until he turned 2. One day he would like peas, then next day he hated them. He would love meat and gravy, the next day he hated them.

I used to give in and give him the things he liked and also give alternatives if he had food on his plate he didn't like.

If I knew then, what I know now, I would never have given in. It went on for 2 years and we had some right battles. For the last 12 months I have gotten a lot tougher. He gets his tea put in front of him and that is it. If he doesn't eat at least half of it, then there is no pudding. If he says he doesn't want it or doesn't like it, then I put a dish over it and when he says he is hungry at supper time, the dish comes off and he is told that he can finish his tea.

Perfect example last night - sausge, peas, carrot and swede mash and onion gravy - a meal he usually loves. He took one look and said 'I don't like it'. I didn't make a fuss, just said, 'OK, I'll put a dish over it for later.' When he had his bath and then asked for supper, he got the tea he didn't eat earlier and ate the lot.

I wish I had put my foot down earlier and not pandered to him, but how bad do we Mum's feel if our kids don't eat? They are very good at making us feel guilty and we fall for it every time.

Good luck

HippyHippopotamus Wed 01-Dec-10 21:32:46

watching with interest. i too have given in tonight and gave ds a bowl of cereal after he refused shepherd's pie

thanks lucy, i think i'll try your dish method tomorrow!

2cats2many Wed 01-Dec-10 21:34:11

I also know how you feel. It can be v v frustrating.

It helps if they genuinely are hungry at tea time. I don't give any snacks in between meals to my 2 year old now for just this reason.

I'd hate to be made to eat something if I wasn't really hungry.

Wigeon Wed 01-Dec-10 21:47:35

I'm not sure I have the magic answer, but I do have some thoughts to offer on my toddler. She frequently eats everything / refuses to eat/ says she's not hungry / pushes food away / eats everything as long as you feed her / eats everything as long as you are having a conversation with her / tries to get down frpm her chair before eating anything. I think it has the potential to drive us mad but we try to be v v relaxed about food.

In our household, the keys to remaining sane are:

Sometimes I just think she's not very hungry. So at some meals we let her eat practically nothing and don't worry about it. And we don't withhold pudding (mostly fruit or yoghurt) as punishment, or give pudding as a reward.

There are no punishments or rewards relating to eating full stop (eg no withholding of Zingzillas!). So it's not something she can use to wield control over us.

If she doesn't eat what I would consider a good portion, we try not to worry. We offer a small, healthy pudding (eg satsuma) and she can finish dinner if she wants. Or get down from her chair. We don't give her any extra food later on. She has never (so far!) woken up in the night hungry, or said she's hungry at bedtime.

We don't always believe what she says! So she will quite often (with food and with other things in her life) say one thing but mean another. So, for example "I don't want any dinner" actually means "stop mumsnetting during my teatime mummy, and if you would only pay me some attention and talk to me then I might feel more inclined to eat".

My DH is amazing at distracting her and getting her to eat (without forcing her or threatening her). One minute she can be saying "Not want pasta. NOT want pasta" and next minute she is literally eating out of his hand. He makes up all sorts of silly games. Eg: I think I can find some mushrooms, shall we have a hidden mushroom spoonful? Do you think this spoonful is spiky or fluffy? Is this one blue or red? This spoonful is called Granny - gobble up Granny! This one is James - gobble up James! etc etc, sillier and sillier. Works a treat (for him!).

Caveat: Generally over the course of a week I think DD eats a great diet and as far as I can tell is growing fine and the right sort of weight for her age. So this approach might only work with a child who is basically a good eater, but who has her moments (most days!). Not sure what you do with a child who persistently refuses to eat.

LittlePickleHead Wed 01-Dec-10 22:03:30

Thanks all so much for your replies. Lucy I like your plate over the bowl idea, I guess perhaps if they are not really hungry then waiting until they are is a good idea. I'm pretty sure that dd was hungry tonight though, she was asking for dinner until she then refused.
wigeon I see your point about not denying treats etc and perhaps I did do the wrong thing by withholding zingzillas. The last thing I want to do is develop issues around food which is why I asked.
I have got dd to eat by games before (just the standard aeroplane thing, I need to get more inventive) so I will try this as well.
It's just so hard, and there have been a fee occasions that she has woken and asked for milk in the night, coiinciding with when she hasn't eaten, so I guess it is stressing me out a little.

lolalotta Thu 02-Dec-10 13:09:29

This book is brilliant, I have read it a few times now and it seems to makes so much sense! It tells you step by step how NOT to turn food into a control issue with your children: ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1291294910&sr=8-1
I have linked to as it has lots of reviews on it that I thought you might be interested in reading, though it is available on too!
Good Luck!

SkyBluePearl Thu 02-Dec-10 18:02:47

might be worth stopping snacks two hours b4 tea. My kids are occasionally a bit picky but genrally eat most things. I give them 'adult food' (not fish fingers etc) as I can't be bothered to cook twice and don't offer alternatives as we are on quite a tight budget. If they don't eat we don't fuss or punish - we just put the meal in the fridge but they have to stay at the table till people are finished. If they say they are hungry later I whip out the meal again.

Wigeon Thu 02-Dec-10 18:04:55

Don't beat yourself up about rewards for food - I just think it's the wrong thing to do with my DD but I can imagine a situation where it might work. Personally I'd rather not reward DD for eating but I'd never say never.

That's hard if she wants milk in the night when she hasn't eaten. I do think that distracting DD from making an issue over food (I'm sure it's just a control / attention thing) works really well. She just forgets that she apparently wasn't hungry or doesn't like potato etc. DH's silly games are brilliant for it. The sillier the better. Aeroplanes going into the mouth are great. And trains into the tunnel / tractors into the farm / pigeons into the nest etc etc etc!

CrazyChristmasLady Thu 02-Dec-10 20:57:59

We are having a bit of a food problem.

DS (2.10) was a dream to wean, ate everything and veg was his favourite. Then he hit about 20 months and gradually starting refusing more and more. If I left it there, made no fuss etc, he just wouldn't eat. Then he wouldn't settle at bedtime of he would wake up in the night hungry (at which point we had to give him a yoghurt, I couldn't leave him hungry and I know he wouldn't have settled).

We never let him eat or even drink milk after 3pm but it makes no difference, in fact he usually has his main lunch (sandwiches etc) at 10am and a snack when I have my lunch at 1-1.30pm. Still makes no difference.

The meals he will eat are pasta in sauce (I can hide some veg), spag bol, chilli con carne with rice, chicken curry with rice and used to be jacket pototo cheese and beans (he has now given this up, ggrrrrr). I figure that these meals aren't bad food so I cook it in bulk and freeze some.

Recently he will eat pork chops, plain rice and used to eat baby corn but has been trying to drop that so we are now fed up.

I give him what he likes still but put a small something (like runner beans which he used to love) at the side and tell him that he has to try new things if he wants something nice after. We say that even if he doesn't like it, it is ok but he must at least try, as he takes one look and says its disgusting.

It has started working after a few days! He actually tried half a runner bean (ok I told him it would make him a fast runner wink) and said he liked it. Tonight I gave him a little bit more runner beans with his pasta and he played up and took half an hour to eat them but I knew it wasn't because he didn't like them (as he wasn't actually spitting them out) but because he was just messing around.

The other day he wanted to try my stir fry and liked it (minus the carrots and broccoli) but he was eating the white cabbage with the rice and chicken so I wasn't bothered by the other stuff.

Basically, he has worked out that he doesn't get a treat (and he knows it is a treat) if he won't try new things and for us it is working.

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