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How to get this message across to a friend?

(18 Posts)
Poppinjay Sun 23-Mar-14 23:42:55

I have a lovely friend who has four DCs. She isn't very confident about her parenting despite the fact that she does a pretty awesome job under difficult circumstances.

She is constantly stressing that DC4 (3) won't eat. He won't sit at the table and refuses most meals.

She uses snacks to manage her children a lot of the time, i.e. every time she thinks they need to be distracted. Therefore her youngest is stuffed full of biscuits, brunch bars, bananas, crisps, all day to keep him busy/quiet/happy.

This seems to be a bit of a blind spot for her and it's really alien to me. We have never done snacks between meals at all. I've tried commenting on how my DCs wouldn't eat later if they had all those snacks but it falls on deaf ears.

I wouldn't bother about this but she is getting into food battles with him and it's making her really miserable. His weight is healthy but she can't seem to see past the fact that he won't eat at mealtimes so he is missing out on food.

I need some MNers' ideas on how to help her see what she's doing without shooting her down in flames which would be only too easy to do.

pictish Sun 23-Mar-14 23:45:22

Tricky. It's a toughie isn't it?

Poppinjay Sun 23-Mar-14 23:46:09

It is tough but I want to try because she's getting so upset about it.

TheFabulousIdiot Sun 23-Mar-14 23:50:43

I do this, it's the only way my son will eat. We don't think forcing him to sit at a table when he's totally uninterested in food is worthwhile so we let him snack on the go and try to make sure it's healthy.

Not every child will sit at a table and stuff their face.

Maybe you would be better off getting her the book 'my child won't eat' which is very reassuring to parents like me and her and makes you realise that actually they are eating quite a lot.

Clearly with his weight being fine he is doing ok?

TheFabulousIdiot Sun 23-Mar-14 23:51:34

Do her other children eat 'propely'?

Poppinjay Sun 23-Mar-14 23:55:55

Clearly with his weight being fine he is doing ok?

He's doing absolutely fine.

I'll look for that book.

I think she needs to do what you've done and make a decision whether she wants him to live on snacks (which I know could constitute a healthy diet) or eat proper meals at the table. At the moment she wants to do both.

I think she genuinely doesn't realise just how much he is eating as snacks.

Poppinjay Sun 23-Mar-14 23:57:56

Her other children are all different but none is so steadfast in refusing to eat meals at the table as the youngest.

Abbierhodes Sun 23-Mar-14 23:59:23

I think that if you're close enough to know how upset she is then you're close enough to give it to her straight. Not in a nasty way, just something like, "Have you thought about cutting down on snacks? then you'll know he's definitely hungry at mealtimes. If he still doesn't eat then you can take it from there". No shooting down required.

FrameyMcFrame Sun 23-Mar-14 23:59:52

These food things usually self resolve, it's quite common with kids of that age.
Mine went through phases but are good eaters now, I certainly did not restrict healthy snacks in order to make them so hungry that they'd eat meals on my schedule.,,
Sounds like your friend is doing on to me.

Poppinjay Mon 24-Mar-14 00:05:31

I have suggested that he might eat better if he was hungrier but she's adamant that he is hungry by mealtimes.

I was thinking of suggesting that she writes down all the snacks he eats but haven't because she doesn't have time with four of them and she would also have to compare it with the amount someone else's toddler gets through to see what a high percentage of the calories he needs is coming via the snacks.

Are there guidelines anywhere on the volume of food a three year old should be eating?

Poppinjay Mon 24-Mar-14 00:09:09

Maybe I just need to sit back and let this run its course. It's just hard seeing her get so uptight every single meal time. It isn't a nice way for either of them to live.

He will happily eat a meal at the table with me if she's not around but I know that's par for the course for children this age.

ItsSpringBaby Mon 24-Mar-14 00:26:28

My youngest (3 turning 4) is not a big foodie. Sometimes snacking is the only way to get anything into him, it's not healthy but if he's not in the mood he will just refuse to eat a proper meal. I agree it seems to be something that some children go through and then grow out of. To be honest I'm not sure it's something you should be worrying about for her.

Goldmandra Mon 24-Mar-14 00:32:22

I'm not worried that he's snacking.

I'm wondering if there's a way I can help her to be less upset and anxious about his eating and have less stressful meal times.

The child is fine and I make no judgements about how he should be eating.

Goldmandra Mon 24-Mar-14 00:33:29

Oops, just posted in wrong user name. Had changed in case she recognised me.
Never mind!

TheFabulousIdiot Mon 24-Mar-14 10:07:06

I think that they say an amount as big as his fist would make for a good sized meal. Obviously though it shouldn't be a fistfull of chocolate!

I am watching with interest because, like I said, I do the same with my son but it would be nice if he would sit at a table. We do make sure that we have meals at the table as well as snacks inbetween but maybe we could reinforce the eating at the table thing.

Perhaps she could too.

Goldmandra Mon 24-Mar-14 10:29:37

So a banana, a cereal bar and half a packet of biscuits during the afternoon is very likely prevent him from eating a meal at 5.00pm because that's way more than a fistful.

She makes a lovely meal every evening, puts it on the table and he rejects it immediately. It's such a shame.

maybe we could reinforce the eating at the table thing

I think you have to do what works for you. If your child is eating a decent diet through snacks and you're happy with that there's no reason to upset the apple cart.

TheFabulousIdiot Mon 24-Mar-14 13:49:32

I know children who would have the banana, biscuits and cereal bar for snacks AND then sit down and eat a full meal.

Is he a picky eater? Maybe that's why she feeds him throughout the day?

Goldmandra Mon 24-Mar-14 16:10:32

I don't think there's much that he won't eat. He just doesn't want to be sitting eating a meal and, I think, perhaps feels under pressure to eat at the table, whereas there's no pressure to eat the snacks. She certainly feels under pressure to get him to eat at meal times and feels like a failure if she doesn't achieve it.

I could suggest that she forgets trying to get him to come to the table and just feeds him snacks, although that would probably cause issues with the other DCs

She doles out the snacks to all of them constantly but maybe to him a bit more because he's younger and therefore harder to get to sit still, wait patiently, etc. The others will sit and eat some, but not particularly large meals and she seems happy with that.

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