DSS (nearly 7) *really* fussy with food and it's taking over mealtimes - any advice on how to handle this?(6 Posts)
DP and I are struggling massively with how to handle DSS2's extremely fussy eating, and would really value some advice.
My DS enjoys most dishes, as do his other step-siblings; they'll all give most things a go, and feeding them is easy - mostly a pleasure. (My eldest step-son actually said to me today that his enjoyment of different foods and flavour combinations has developed a lot since we all started living together!) But DSS2 (nearly 7) is making meals into an ordeal for us all - or maybe we are because of how we're responding to him? He will eat so few things. And because everyone else likes a wide variety of foods, I try to plan a good mix of meals, with DSS2 in mind too - i.e. there'll be some element of it he'll usually like (rice, bread, etc). We're not all going to miss out on the foods we like and stick to a limited menu, just to keep DSS2 happy.
Anyway, what we've taken to doing - because DSS2 whining/crying/tantruming (at length) about a given meal had become so commonplace - is saying that if, after trying a meal, he doesn't like it, he can have either of two very simple, plain, not-coveted-by-the-others alternatives that are healthy, super-quick to prepare and which we know he likes. And he has to politely decline the main meal and defer to this back-up without fuss. To an extent, this has worked - it's lessened the mealtime dramas somewhat. But I'm not sure it's the 'right' solution IYSWIM.
This evening, I cooked jacket potatoes with a variety of toppings (including a few I know DSS2 likes). I knew DSS2 likes roast potatoes, chips and boiled potatoes, so I thought we'd be OK (even if he left the skin). So we said that this was the meal tonight, that we knew he ate potatoes - cue an hour of melodramatic tears over a potato and insistence that he doesn't like them, he never has and we should know he doesn't.
This is all new to me. DP's not used to it either, at least not with his other children (although DSS2 has always been fussy, he seems to have become worse). We wonder if it's attention-seeking; with other family, he gets a big fuss made and a separate meal of his choosing cooked for him - and he thinks we're 'mean' because we don't do this. The tears did seem pretty OTT to be honest - but I just don't know. Whatever's going on with him, DP and I are getting worn down by it and how it takes over mealtimes. We end up feeling we've been too hard on him and feel guilty - but if we were to cave, we'd feel we'd been royally manipulated.
Ultimately, we just want DSS2 to have a healthy relationship with food, for us all to enjoy mealtimes without this kind of fuss/sense of entitlement, and for him to toughen up a bit because his picky behaviour is alienating his siblings. How do we handle this fairly, healthily, effectively?
Thanks so much.
Does he have any health issues?
Does he have any allergies?
Assuming the answer to both questions is no, I would prepare a single meal (with some element that he likes) and that's it - no alternatives. Tears and tantrums would be completely ignored, I just wouldn't engage.
Explain to him how things will be, explain to his siblings that they must not react to his dramatics. You will engage when he is calm.
Thanks for your post, Andro.
No, DSS2 doesn't have any health issues or allergies (that we know of).
Your advice seems fair - there'd be something that he likes; in fact, there is with every meal we prepare as it is. We know Mum/Grandad cook alternatives and that's what DSS2 is used to - so we must seem horrible for offering just two plain back-ups! And if these go, he is going to have a ton of meltdowns. He has told school that we're mean, which his teacher raised with DP at parents' evening! Groan.
But something needs to be done. As things stand, at least when he's not with us, he never has to try anything new - so unless we intervene, he might not overcome this.
Anyway, I like your suggestion. We need a strategy/some rules that we stick to, and for mealtimes to not be about DSS2's fussiness anymore.
It sounds like you're handling it really well to me, and also that this might not just be about the food. What's he like otherwise, does he seem to struggle adjusting between the two homes at all? Does he get time and attention on his own with his dad?
why did you say to him that you knew he liked potatoes? A simple statement of 'we are having baked potatoes for dinner tonight' should have done. Sounds like it really isn't the food that is the problem. He has made an issue out of food he previously liked. Stick to what you were doing with the choices you give him. It was working, he is trying to sabotage it. Sounds a very reasonable compromise to me. He told school you are mean?? Definately something else going on. My eldest didn't eat much for years so I feel your pain. Stick to your strategy, if you change it he will up the anti!
Put food on the table and include something you know he will eat.
Put food in the centre of table and let people help themselves (helps with control issues)
Ignore any fuss or conversation about who likes what food. - just chat about ANYTHING except the food
Clear away food.
No snacks apart from fruit until the next meal - make this clear before meal is over.
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