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4yo not eating dinner

(13 Posts)
cornflakegirl Fri 12-Jun-09 13:29:06

DS has just turned 4. He has never been a fantastic eater, but is okay. Not very into vegetables, but likes fruit. He eats a decent breakfast, and is usually okay at lunch time. However, more and more often, he is refusing to eat dinner.

If it's fishfingers and chips (his favourite) on offer, then he will eat no problem. If he's in the mood / hungry, he will eat. But other times he will just announce that he doesn't like his dinner - without trying it, and often when it's something that he's eaten and liked before.

If he really doesn't like something, or is even just not in the mood for it, I don't have a problem with giving him fruit or yogurt instead, as long as he has had a couple of tastes of the meal first. But when he won't even taste it, it really winds me up, and turns into a power struggle, which is clearly not a good thing.

On the days that he refuses to eat, he never seems bothered by the lack of food, and doesn't wake up hungry in the night. And he's not a skinny waif who is going to waste away. So I'm not worried from that point of view. My only real concern is that if I let him just not eat anything he takes a visual dislike too that he'll turn into a fussy eater who doesn't eat quite a lot of meals even when he is hungry.

So while I now that my insistence that he try two spoonfuls of every meal is just creating conflict at the moment, I don't want to stop it if it means that I create a bigger problem down the line. Can anyone knock some sense into me, please?

3littlefrogs Fri 12-Jun-09 13:33:12

A good breakfast, a good lunch and a small snack at teatime is fine. He may well be too tired to eat at dinnertime. If you are trying to feed him after about 5.30pm, he is probably too tired to eat.

Mine used to have cereal/boiled egg/cheese on toast at teatime (5ish) at this age, and maybe some fruit after their bath, and off to bed at 6.30pm.

It is never worth turning it into a battle.

Lizzylou Fri 12-Jun-09 13:36:55

This is exactly the same as my DS2 (3yrs old).
He is very stocky (unlike waiflike DS1)but if he eats at lunchtime rarely eats much/anything at dinner. He is the opposite as he won't eat fruit, only vegetables (he'd eat a plateful of brocolli on it's own), so I worry that he isn't getting anywhere near his 5 a day if he doesn't eat dinner.
I am hoping that it is a phase, DS1 went through a phase of refusing meals and now hoovers everything up.

cornflakegirl Fri 12-Jun-09 13:57:00

I don't really want to get into doing a separate kids' tea - although DC2 is due in August, and DS starts school in September, so dinner probably will move earlier in the day. He doesn't go to bed till 8, and doesn't seem particularly tired at dinner time - he's certainly awake enough when he wants to eat.

Lizzylou - if I knew it was just a phase, I think I'd be fine with it. But our friends' little girl has got into the habit of refusing to eat anything with a sauce (don't think it was anything they did), and now when we cook dinner for them, it's a real pain, because so many of our staples are things she won't countenance - and even when we think we've come up with something that will be fine, she'll sometimes just decide she doesn't like it and kick off. And I really don't want to encourage DS down a similar path.

3littlefrogs Sat 13-Jun-09 09:18:54

I suppose it depends on your family routine. DH was never home from work before 8 pm when mine were small, so it was much easier to do an old fashioned "nursery tea" at about 5, and get them bathed and into bed. They would never have lasted till 8.

Once they start school they get even more tired.

You will probably just have to accept that he doesn't eat much at dinner time, and don't make a huge fuss about it. Don't turn meal times into a battle ground. As long as his food intake over the week is adequate, that's all that matters. IMO. smile

3littlefrogs Sat 13-Jun-09 09:20:52

BTW - I take your point about him not being tired. Every child is different. Mine used to go into overdrive once they got past 7 pm, but would settle happily at about 6.30.

womblingfree Sat 13-Jun-09 10:14:11

Haven't read other posts properly but has anyone else suggested trying different stuff at lunchtime.

It might be that he's too tired to be bothered making the effort if he's notsure about the food.

cornflakegirl Mon 15-Jun-09 09:25:55

Don't really want to move the cooked meal till lunchtime, because I like us all eating together. However, we did have our main meal at lunchtime yesterday, and he pulled the same stunt of refusing to even try it. I told him if he didn't try it there would be nothing else till tea time. Which he was fine with - didn't seem to stop him running round all afternoon.

Lizzylou Mon 15-Jun-09 09:31:12

I think you just have to keep on doing what you are doing and try not to make too big a deal of it. I think when we make a song and dance over it all they realise that it is a way of getting attention/bargaining tool and it can escalate like your friend's little girl.
You may find once he is at school he changes, I know DS1 suddenly eats everything again. DS2 eats everything at the Childminders, just not for me!
Try not to worry, if he has plenty of energy and is not poorly, he is obviously OK.

cornflakegirl Mon 15-Jun-09 09:44:14

Lizzylou - problem is, I don't think my friends did make it into a battle. They're stricter than me on the "this or nothing" front and certainly don't get wound up like I have been recently (pregnancy hormones not helping). And she's still a pain! wink

But you're right - I guess I need to stress less, and cross the fussiness bridge when we actually come to it.

helsbels4 Mon 15-Jun-09 09:47:17

I can sympathise with you because my dd (4) is exactly the same. It's hard trying to second guess what they will eat.

My dd can polish a whole meal off one day then if I do the exact same meal a different day, she'll refuse it. Tis very frustrating. She'll also refuse food that she hasn't even tasted and whilst it winds me up a treat, I try very hard to stay calm and explain to her that it's her choice if she chooses not to eat it but she knows that she isn't given anything else until the next meal time.

My ds used to be a bit fussy when he was her age - though not quite as bad - but he's nine now and will eat most things I put in front of him, even if he doesn't really like them wink His friend at school though is still really fussy and won't eat anything in a sauce, won't eat a roast without Yorkshire puddings (her mum paid her to eat a roast the other day because she couldn't be bothered to make any!) I kid you not! The mum also cooks a separate meal for her dd if she doesn't like what the mum and dad are having. It's ridiculous.

There's no way in the world I'm pandering to that extreme, so I'd say to just chill with it and try really hard not to turn it into a battle.

khartnett Mon 15-Jun-09 12:30:57

my 6 year old was like this, in the end i left it longer between meals and then she was coming to me saying she was very hungery and from then ate the lot.

She was a nightmare at all food times at one point she was refusing to eat lunch so i didnt do her any when it came to dinner boy did she eat, i think they try and see how far they can go sometimes its for attention.

When they are hungery in the end they will eat it.

nappyaddict Mon 15-Jun-09 12:42:49

I know someone who before they go shopping sits down with her 4 year old and asks him what he wants for dinner for the next week. They cut out pictures of what they need to buy and go to the supermarket together to buy it. Sometimes he helps with the cooking aswell. Having all this extra involvement and fun around picking out his own meals really encouraged him to eat more and now he hardly ever refuses a thing on his plate. Occasionally he will refuse it and he is allowed fruit and yogurt but that's it.

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