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What age did you start to get tough with your toddler?

(36 Posts)
cairnterrier Wed 13-Jul-11 10:09:08

DS is now 18 months and feeding him is becoming a trial. He refuses all vegetables other than tomato sauce for pasta - and even refused that the other day. He will eat fruit if it's mixed with yoghurt and will eat apples and nectarines whole rather than cut up and of course bananas. Meat is very hit and miss and he's allergic to eggs and fish. Breakfast is cereal with whole milk and he only has water or milk (both cow and still a few BFs per day).

We always sit down for dinner altogether and all eat the same thing so he's not cooked anything special but I do try to make things that he's liked in the past. This changes on a daily basis though. He doesn't like chocolate and only has healthier snacks like bread sticks, muesli bars, flapjacks etc.

I realise that at some stage I'm going to take the line of this is what's for dinner and if you don't like it then tough. At 18 months though, I don't think that he's got enough concept of time such that if i don't eat this now, I'll be hungry later. So at what stage did you start to get tough? I've tried cutting out snacks all together but he will still only take a couple of bites of dinner. Having said that he's happy healthy and full of energy so maybe I'm expecting him to eat more than he actually needs?

EmmalinaC Wed 13-Jul-11 13:36:43

Hmmmm. Your DS sounds like my DD2 only she rejects almost all fruit and vegetables. She's just turned 2. I have tried getting tough - it didn't work, it made mealtimes even more stressful. Plus having suffered from reflux as a baby she can still vomit at will if I encourage her to taste something she doesn't like.

Am watching with interest to see if anyone comes along with some good advice but I suspect that if your DS is growing and is healthy and full of energy then he is getting what he needs.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 13-Jul-11 14:22:02

My DS went through a very fussy stage between about 2yo onwards. I've tackled it by offering favourites weekdays (I work and have zero patience during the week) and then new dishes and new tastes at the weekends. I found offering the food and then walking away from the table and leaving him to it was the best strategy. If I hovered around or even asked 'do you like it?' he'd always say 'no. Another good tactic was inviting friends around with their smaller children and all eating together. Amazing how often DS would make a grab for the food with the rest of the children and end up eating things he allegedly didn't like. We've gradually extended the 'favourite' list and these days (grand old age of 11) he's still a little fussy about food, but will always give something a try.

bacon Wed 13-Jul-11 16:06:53

We dont put up with it, we sit there and force it. No fussy eaters allowed in this house! Most of the time they are testing you. Try to Show no facial expression as I'm sure they love winding you up!

I have sadly had to start spoon feeding (DS2 @ 2)again here because it was either being refused or thrown on floor. My husband will not be beaten down by him.

We've been coming down like a ton of bricks on both childrens behaviour recently. We agree that nipping in the bud and disipline is paramount for an easy life. Its paying off already.

valiumredhead Wed 13-Jul-11 17:03:39

Just keep offering vegetables - toddlers need to see a new food on average 17 times before 'accepting' it (source - vague hazy memory from college days but heard it mentioned on Super Nanny too!)

Ds who is 10 rejected veg for the first 4 years of his life, I kept putting it on his plate and eventually he just started eating it - he eats most things now except baked beans and tomatoes which I can live with.

At about 5 I started "If you don't like your dinner, just have 2 big bites of everything on your plate" which actually added up to a decent sized dinner. Having school dinners really helped too.

One thing I absolutely will not stand for is any dramatics at the table, there is no need to wail like carrots are going to poison you grin

dreamingofsun Thu 14-Jul-11 11:05:40

everyone gets the same dinner if they eat it up they get desert, if they don't it gets left on the table for later, or put in the fridge. if they are hungry they will eat it. don't stress as they get too much attention which encourages fussiness.

if you pander to different tastes it encourages bad eating habits - 1 of my nieces and several IL's are a nightmare and thats because when they were younger they only eat a very limited diet and are totally unadverturous

LaWeasleyAintWeaselyAnymore Thu 14-Jul-11 11:28:00

I have always been hard line - with the rare exception of if DD is ill when I may offer her something else. If child does not eat their meal they get nothing else. If food is chucked on the floor instead of eaten it gets taken away and nothing else.

If I've had to take away a meal I offer the next meal earlier because DD when DD is hungry her behaviour is appalling, but she seems much more receptive to the second meal. I don't recycle meals either, if she has refused sandwiched at lunch, I will try pasta at early dinner.

She is extremely faddy and annoying about food atm, but I just keep going. I think it is normal for them to work out what are their favourites and push their luck to try and get them all the time.

If she is having a faddy day and has refused everything apart from a certain food group (say, fruit she is a fruit obsessive, but you can't live on fruit alone!) I will offer a few snacks while she is a bit distracted (say watching tv) but only of something she hasn't been eating that day. If she's hungry, she'll eat it.

CakeForBreakfast Thu 14-Jul-11 14:41:49


Interesting thread,to the posters above who take a hard line, (of the style, eat it or go without), do you remember the age at what you started?

My 20month old will sometimes refuse a meal, or not eat much of it asking for fruit and treats instead. Last night he refused a meal he has eaten and enjoyed before so he ended up for the first time ever not eating any dinner and going to bed hungry. He did cry in bed on and off for about 40mins but then fell asleep and didn't wake up until morning normal time. But I of course felt terrible wondering if the hard line is too early at 20months??

dreamingofsun Thu 14-Jul-11 15:52:02

cake - i work 4-5 days a week, have 3 kids and run the house so i've never really had the time to encourage fads or tailored meals. i guess its always been like it - only ever cooked one meal each day, maybe with bit less chilli or curry in it once i had kids. so from when they stopped eating out of jars i think.

personally i think you need to start as you intend to go on.

LaWeasleyAintWeaselyAnymore Thu 14-Jul-11 17:29:04

Yes, I'd say I've always done it really. Although when she was tiny and still weaning any shortfall was made up by with extra milk.

She still does that now I notice at 28mths, sometimes she will refuse meals and ask for milk. I suppose at some point I will have to refuse milk as well, but she is not that reliant on it, so I let it go for now.

EmmalinaC Thu 14-Jul-11 20:12:12

I fully subscribe to the idea of 'this is your meal, eat it or go without' but bacon you force it?! Really? How exactly do you do that? Prise their jaws apart? Hold their nose? I can't imagine anything worse, if that's what you mean be 'getting tough'.

cairnterrier Fri 15-Jul-11 21:36:14

Hi Everyone

Thanks for your replies, sorry for my delayed response but we've been moving house. So people who say that they've always been tough, is that really since the DCs have been toddlers? As I say, I don't think that DS has any concept of time or actions and consequences. Bit like trying to top up a baby with milk just before you go out - they'll never take it and then they're starving a few minutes later.

I guess we'll hang fire a bit on the tough cop stance for the moment then!

LaWeasleyAintWeaselyAnymore Sat 16-Jul-11 09:08:16

Erm, no I really mean, forever.

When we were weaning and she was 8mths old, if she wasn't interested I took it away, and offered the next meal slightly earlier. I haven't seen any reason to change this technique.

Meglet Sat 16-Jul-11 09:19:51

Mine are generally ok with food but even they have had some silly fussy phases. I managed it by completely ignoring it. Bit of encouragement at first to eat whatever they were fannying around with then let them get on with it. If it was messed around with, splodged or ignored then I let them do it and took the food away afterwards. I would never force it.

As long as they are getting some food and not wasting away I think ignoring is the best way to deal with it.

Do you ever take your ds out for meals? Is he picky there or does he see all the grown ups eating and want to join in?

Mellowfruitfulness Sat 16-Jul-11 09:34:40

I think you are doing the right thing by eating together, and would be against any 'forcing'.

At this age it could be more about testing limits and exercising wills than real likes and dislikes of food, so I would try to be calm and consistent. I would make sure your child was served last (so he can see other people are getting something, and it might make him want it), and I'd give him only a small amount. Each time he finishes something, I would smile and say, 'That was good, wasn't it? Here, have some X', to avoid creating any negativity about food. You and your partner could make 'M'mm' noises and show how much you are enjoying the food. I would also try to distract him while he is eating by making him laugh and making meal times happy, relaxed times.

If he doesn't eat anything, I would remove his plate without comment, just for a few meals, in order to break the habit of you trying to persuade him to eat (if you do this), and the next meal would be earlier.

Mellowfruitfulness Sat 16-Jul-11 09:43:16

The thing is, at this age they are learning how to differentiate between things they like and don't like. You could make sure he does this by using toys or colours, but it's best, ime, if your starting point is the assumption that he will like all food. If you just try to take it for granted that food is good and he will eat what he needs, it might help to remove it from the conflict zone.

You are going to have to negotiate about absolutely everything else in his life - if you can remove the important things like eating and sleeping from the conflict zone, he can exercise his will to his heart's content over the other things. It's all part of the wonderful process of his developing personality - I hope you manage to enjoy this stage too!

TheRealMBJ Sat 16-Jul-11 09:47:39

DS is 18 months old and I don't personally believe in creating pressure around food or turning into a area where a battle of wills is appropriate.

DS is offered a health breakfast (usually muesli and yoghurt with a slice of toast), fruit as a snack, a healthy lunch (sandwiches or pasta with sauce usually), another snack in the afternoon, (sometimes a Yeovalley yoghurt tube frozen - he loves them) and a balanced dinner. It is up to him to eat his meal. If he refuses he doesn't get anything else (except maybe at dinner time - when I'll give him fruit instead in a vain attempt to make him sleep later grin)

He won't starve himself and I won't allow myself to either be manipulated into giving him alternatives or get into a battle of wills.

He is still bf and has a morning and bedtime feed (and usually one during the day) he I'd offered water/cow's milk/watered down juice in a beae with meals.

jetmonkey Sat 16-Jul-11 10:18:12

Thank you OP for starting this thread grin very comforting to know that other people have the similar challenges!
My dd can also be fussy, but like a lot of others have said, if she is hungry she will eat! Sometimes I stick to things I know she likes and sometimes I try to get her to eat new things (depending on how strong I am feeling!) She also eats better with others present e.g. at nursery where she goes 2 days a week apparently she eats everything including curry & lamb tagine! I found it very hard emotionally to begin with and had to leave the room OFTEN but I have got used to it more now (she is 22 months) and try to accept that even if she eats very little at one meal, over the course of the day she will eat enough. She is a pretty good sleeper on the whole.

skybluepearl Tue 19-Jul-11 23:18:47

if he doesn't eat tea/luch i would just throw the food in a tupperware box and take it with you - he can just have it later if hungry.

are you giving too many snacks - enough so that he is too full to eat his lunch/tea? I tend not to give snacks up to an hour and a half before a meal.

I wouldn't create pressure, but be very mater of fact and quietly laid back about the whole thing. do not worry about not eating or make a fuss with child.

ppeatfruit Wed 20-Jul-11 16:36:01

I find it hard to believe that anyone would 'force' their DCs to eat. Esp. nowadays when so much is known about the psychological results of highly controlling parenting; anorexia, bulimia. obesity to name just a few.

Why do some parents not allow their DCs to dislike something? It's possible that they had the same done to them and think it's a good way to carry on. What about DCs with allergies, illnesses or a hatred of meat etc. are they made to eat their vomit? DH had that happen at a catholic school in the 50s and it has scarred him for life.

IMO I wouldn't want to be forced to eat anything, so I don't stress out about eating, My 3 DCs have grown up with normal appetites The fussiness is just a sign that yr DC has a personality and wishes to control her own life it's not a big deal and shouldn't be made into one.

COCKadoodledooo Wed 20-Jul-11 17:13:48

Like LaWeasley this is something we've always done (i.e. since beginning solids). That's what's on offer and if you don't want it, meh. I'd never force a child to eat but equally I'd never consider pandering.

When ds1 was around 2 dh used to say he was part snake - he'd have maybe one day a week where he was absolutely ravenous and would eat everything in sight, whereas the rest of the week he'd have maybe as much as a piece of toast (plus milk). It wasn't that he was fussy or didn't like what was on offer, he simply wasn't hungry. We still made him sit to the table with us to include him in mealtimes, but he wasn't made to eat if he didn't want to.

dreamingofsun Thu 21-Jul-11 10:33:04

ppeat - think there's a difference between really not liking something and being a fussy eater. i have several relatives who have very restricted diets - to the extent that i could barely put together a meal for my niece - no red meat, no fish, limited veg options, no eggs........ my husbands family are the same (they just like very bland) - thank god he went to college and was forced to eat things or go without.

i think its bad parenting to bring a child up with very limited taste buds, who to some extent is scared of trying out different foods. because i love a wide range of food i would feel that i had failed them.

it also makes it a nightmare for people they visit and eventually for their new family when grown up. they all have to eat restricted diets or someone has to cook loads of variations - a pain when you work.

i don't think many of the people on here are actually talking about forcing. it seems to be more along the lines of here's your dinner take it or leave it but there's nothing else (my approach)

bacon Thu 21-Jul-11 12:27:15

For gods sake talk about reading too much into words used in print "force it" doesnt mean we pin him down and rub his neck like a goose!!! please people especially ppeatfruit get a grip, yr really going off at a tangent!

It means we dont have the closed mouth and shaking his head, We use firm words and NO and then he opens his mouth. Believe me he is not full and then all of a sudden he starts eating. He testing us. No way is this having a physological effect because over the last few weeks his habits have improved! No way do we make our children finish their plate either.

My children are fed extremely good food - the baby loves coq au vin made with wine and brandy, rich beef stews, fish pies....etc All of which are small portions. Both my boys are extremely healthy, slim and are learning table manners.

In some instances fussy children are allowed to be this way. Not here!

ewaczarlie Thu 21-Jul-11 12:35:40

this is really interesting. DS is quite fussy at home but suprisingly unfussy at nursery (will pretty much eat everything put infront of him). Why? bc they dont give options. This is the food you get, eat it or wait till the next meal. Me i'm a soft touch and offer substitutes if DS doesnt like what i've served. Even writing it now i think "what an idiot i am". just goes to show most of the problems we create ourselves

bacon Thu 21-Jul-11 12:40:19

Haha, I had the same problem as ewaczarlie this is why I starting to clamp down. His diary would say he eat all his food plus second helpings!!!!

Came home and starting winding me up by throwing his meals on the floor. This surely tells you something about a brain of a 2 year old!!!!

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