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Worried about putting eating disorder stuff on to my toddler - bit long, sorry!

(9 Posts)
Sunnymama Fri 12-Sep-08 13:25:26

DD has always been a brilliant eater until the last month or so (she's 2.5 so I guess this is par for the course). She's got fussier and fussier and started to say she doesn't like food that she's always loved. Anyway, we were having a terrible day on Monday, awful tantrums, very demanding behaviour,plus I'm quite stressed as we've just moved house and I've also got a small baby. It all culminated in her dumping her entire bowl of food on the floor at tea time while shouting and crying. I got really angry, didn't shout at her but told her very firmly that we do NOT throw food on the floor and that it made mummy very upset etc. etc. Luckily at that point DH came in and took over so I could take a breather.

So today we're having lunch and she's been lovely all day and she ate everything. I said "Oo that's brilliant DD, you've done really well and eaten your food so nicely, look DS hasn't she eaten well etc. etc." She looked at me and said "Make mummy happy, make daddy happy, eat all my dinner."

Now I may be over-analysing here, but I'm really worried about her thinking that if she eats her food then mummy is happy. I had a very unhealthy relationship with food and was anorexic for most of my 20s (am totally fine now), and my mum also has a weird relationship with food (which might only be obvious to me cos I know all the signs - she hides it well but I know where I got my warped views from). I don't want DD growing up with the same guilt and anxiety I had about eating, and I certainly don't want her thinking that her eating is what makes mummy happy. Am I being silly, or should I do something about it now?

Janni Fri 12-Sep-08 13:40:56

It's an interesting question and perhaps the thing to emphasise with your DD is that when you take time to prepare food, you do not want it thrown on the floor or loads of it left on the plate. 'We do not waste food', rather than 'if you eat everything mummy will be happy'.

blueshoes Fri 12-Sep-08 14:38:56

No eating disorders in my family.

Eating is one area where toddlers have the upperhand over parents. It looks like your dd is discovering it and has decided to flex her muscles, because of the age she is at and also because it allows her to compete for attention with her sibling. How old is your baby?

My ds 2 does all the things you describe - throws food on the ground, refuses to eat etc. I do tell him categorically not to do it and take food away if he plays or throws it. We do ask him to eat food that we serve up but don't make a big deal if he does not eat. I cannot help but praise him if he unexpectedly tucks into something I never thought he would eat, though I can see your point about eat=mummy happy=emotional value to food.

I think you do need to tell your dd what is expected behaviour eg not throwing, playing food. And trying at least once. We do this in all areas of our dcs, not just food because we have to gently shape their rather anti-social ways. I think the key is not to get too worked up if our dcs don't comply (which at 2.5 is not surprising at all) and not to over-praise when they do comply. And to allow food treats every now and then which are not linked to good or bad behaviour, but for the sheet enjoyment of food eg ice cream on a day out.

Hard to get the balance right IMO.

freshprincess Fri 12-Sep-08 15:32:06

You could incorporate finishing her meal into teaching her good table manners ie eating with a fork, sitting nicely at the table etc.. So the 'well done' is not about what but how she has eaten.

Sunnymama Fri 12-Sep-08 21:50:56

All very sensible. I'm over-analysing. I'm really hot on teaching her good manners and not to waste food so will focus on that side of things. Bloody nightmare though isn't it.

solidgoldbrass Fri 12-Sep-08 21:56:08

Oh it is at times. I have no eating disorders but I still get in a flap about food issues: should I coax DS to eat more when he's refusing his food because he wants to go and play/watch CBeebies, or is that teaching him to override his appetite and not know when he's hungry and therefore get obese, should I not let him have a snack if he didn't eat his dinner, etc, etc. But I think focussing on the 'good manners' side of it ie no throwing food or playing with it is probably the best way to go.

Janni Fri 12-Sep-08 22:04:12

Sunnymama - it is particularly hard if this is your first child, because you feel so responsible for everything and a bit unsure about whether you're getting it right. My oldest is 12 now and I just laugh when I think how I used to get my knickers in a twist over everything when he was little. Just try to keep things in perspective - if one meal goes wrong, there's always the next one to try a different approach.

Habbibu Fri 12-Sep-08 22:18:37

Agree with fresh princess - focus on the social aspects of meals, rather than eating, but also talk about food you like, why you like it, taste, texture, smell, etc - not trying to gloss over difficulties you may have, btw. I think it's so good simply that you recognise it - that's probably half the battle won.

Sunnymama Sat 13-Sep-08 19:32:59

DS is 9 months, and still at the stage where he'll eat whatever is on teh loaded spoon that I shove at him. I'm just worried that meal times become fraught - I have to concentrate on feeding him and she doesn't really get as much attention as she'd like. Plus I do try to eat with them at lunchtime but most of the time it's impossible to prepare food for all of us. It just feels like a losing battle sometimes to establish good family eating habits!

Like your suggestion though Habbibu. We have an allotment so we talk about whether the food comes from there or not. Perhaps talking about the other senses is a good idea. I just get so frustrated by suggestions to 'make food fun' by turning it into ships or frogs or snails or whatever. Yes, that would be lovely, but who the hell has the time???!!

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