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4 year old is driving me up the frigging wall re dinner time - what would YOU do?

(11 Posts)
ladyintheradiator Wed 12-Oct-11 17:52:20

Sit down to eat a meal that everyone likes, and contains nothing new or weird or anything like that. Pokes it with his fork for approx 3 seconds before wailing that he doesn't like it. Ignored by the rest of us, DP and I focus on the baby, ooh isn't she eating nicely, and so on. OR ignored and asked about his day - by ignored I don't mean excluded IYSWIM. After 15 minutes or so of this I say it's fine if you don't want dinner but if that's the case you don't get to play afterwards so it's straight to bed. He says fine, and off we trot. OR shouts and wails about it. Then halfway up the stairs insists that he DOES want his dinner after all. ARGH. Would be a mean bitch to say tough, of COURSE but why go through all that in the first place?

Words of wisdom appreciated. I should just ignore it altogether, shouldn't I? You don't want to eat, whatever. Whisk it away after X minutes, and carry on. But having done that before it's led to real proper sobs that he really DID want his dinner, and then a deep guilt that it's now sitting in the bin. So really what is the answer?

BlueberryPancake Wed 12-Oct-11 18:54:42

Don't have an answer but sometimes it's a power struggle, sometimes they just don't feel like eating. I know my DS1 stops eating when he is feeling unwell, coming down with a cold or anything like that. I have learned to 'read' the signs and I don't make a fuss about it, but he knows that he wont get anything else to eat except a banana and glass of milk. I think trying to ignore it would be best but sometimes we have bad days and get worked up.

If it's a power struggle then just ignoring would be best I think, and no other food except something very boring.

ProfYaffle Wed 12-Oct-11 19:03:28

With my 4yo we always say if she doesn't eat her dinner there's nothing afterwards. So if she says she doesn't want it, that's fine but she has to sit with us til everyone else is finished then we ask if she's sure her tummy's full enough to last til breakfast. If she's still insistent that she doesn't want it we keep it and say we'll heat it up if she decides she's hungry later.

All done v calmly and nicely after I learned that creating conflict or a power struggle with her just escalates the situation and got us nowhere.

She is normally very good with food though so it doesn't arise very often.

ladyintheradiator Wed 12-Oct-11 21:50:57

Thanks for the replies, I forgot I posted hmm [tired]

Right well we are going to calm right down and determine not to get stressed about it, he is not going to starve, etc. Also friend suggested he is just tired by then, now he is doing more sessions at preschool, so I'm going to try a new approach and feed the DC v early at 4.30 and offer some toast/fruit at 6 when DP and I will then eat... wish me luck!

cherub59 Wed 12-Oct-11 21:57:58

Can u just distract him? For a while we put the tv on (peppa pig) and just shovelled food in. The phase passed and now he eats brilliantly. Younger ds never needed this and wasn't spoiled by it!

Reward if eats it all without moaning (or just some of it?). I have done this and then as they fall into the behaviour I want the snack pot magically runs dry and they just carry on with the good behaviour!

I have found carrot works much better than stick for me!

We also have competitions to see who can get a spoon of xxx in first... (3 ds under 4 so very competitive in our house!!)

Or as soon as you have eaten that you can help daddy with the diy (he is obsessed with drilling etc)

3littlefrogs Wed 12-Oct-11 21:59:20

He sounds like a very tired little boy. If you are attempting to give him his evening meal after 5pm, then I think this is the cause of the problems.

What time does he get up in the morning?

What time does he have lunch?

Mine were always up at 6.00, had lunch at 12.00, evening meal at about 4.45, bath, story, and small snack at 6.30pm, bed at 7pm. They need at least 11 hours sleep at that age, so an early meal in the evening is really important.

We didn't eat dinner with the dc during the week until they were about 8. They were just too tired and couldn't wait that long.

AnxiousElephant Wed 12-Oct-11 22:22:15

I think timings depend on the child really. DD2 is 3.9 but we eat between 5 and 530pm and she does 3 full days at pre-school - she copes ok.

I have done the putting it in the bin consistently and it usually works. She gets one bluff and then the next time it gets binned with nothing until breakfast. Apart from when she is ill it works.

MamaChoo Thu 13-Oct-11 15:59:13

We had this too. Drove me nuts. I tried reading a story, feeding, chatting, eating with her, but what worked was putting the food in front of her, saying 'that is what is for dinner. It is now x o'clock. At y o'clock, which is z minutes, it is bath time. If you eat all your dinner you get pudding, but if you dont, you will simply go to bed hungry at y o'clock, no second chances, no snacks.' annoyingly, she respnded much better to the totalitarian state than the gentle encouragement. Stalinist.

bintofbohemia Thu 13-Oct-11 16:03:50

Am in the same boat. It's a nightmare. DS1 has gone so fussy he's started rejecting everything down to raisins in the wrong coloured box. I'm trying to do a deal with him whereby we find three new things a week for him to try so we can tell Father Christmas about it. In reality though I don't get chance to really do this in the week.

Basically, if he doesn't eat or at least try he can just go straight to bed. (This is usually gone 6.30pm anyway and it takes him half an hour to get into bed.) He can have fruit anytime but he'd just live on bread and butter given half the chance.

bintofbohemia Thu 13-Oct-11 16:04:55

Oh, and same as MamaChoo - am going to start just setting a time limit, otherwise he drags it out over an hour with a huge toilet break in the middle, lots of squirming and face pulling. Torturous.

Mobly Thu 13-Oct-11 19:23:14

Yes, you should ignore it but don't throw it in the bin- just keep it in case he changes his mind. Heap tonnes of praise when he does eat.

I find that saying 'If you eat all your dinner you will grow up big and strong' really works. DS1 is nearly 4 and obsessed with being the biggest, strongest, first etc etc so this works at the moment. Sometimes I say things like 'DS do you know that broccoli is Spiderman's favourite food?' and that can work too. Even had a Transformer at the table telling him to eat his food before so try anything fun to get him to encourage him to eat but without letting on that you are stressed.

I wouldn't send them to bed hungry if they decide not to eat, but I would always offer fruit & milk. A chilled attitude to mealtimes is the way to go, although it is difficult, as mothers, I think we are programmed to want them to eat well.

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