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Gentle parents - how do you set limits around food?

(9 Posts)
Mafiti Tue 09-Feb-16 21:51:19

DD1 has just turned three and it's like a switch has been flicked. She is constantly whinging and getting upset because she doesn't want the blue fork, she wanted her toast in triangles, no I want to put my bib on, I can't do it! Do you want me to help you? NO! You get the idea... Her little sister was born 9 months ago and she is definitely in a renewed phase of struggling with that (maybe because DD2 is getting more mobile?) Anyhoo, mealtimes are becoming unbearable.

She started getting picky about tea shortly before her sister was born - suddenly refusing foods she used to like and refusing to eat anything in a sauce. Fast forward to today and every single step is a battle. Getting her to sit down, getting her to eat any meal. I've tried giving her choices, (do you want the red cup or the blue? GREEN!) getting her involved in the food prep (she's not keen), choosing what she wants and buying the ingredients at the shop (but I don't LIKE baked beans. But that's what you chose?!?!?!). I'm very confident that this isn't about the food. She is testing boundaries like there's no tomorrow and she's found a fertile arena in mealtimes because I keep failing to keep my cool. I just don't know how to enforce the boundaries without resorting to tactics I was brought up with that I don't want to perpetuate - you have to eat at least three bites, no pudding until..., eat it or go hungry etc.

I get that in the moment it's the end of the world that her fork is blue rather than pink, and that she's changed her mind and doesn't want the baked beans she asked for 10 minutes ago but I am at a completely loss as to what I say to her, when I do whatever it is she wants (getting the pink fork out of the washing up, giving her a new piece of toast cut into the "right" shape) and where I enforce a limit. I dont want to make a thing of food. but we seem to be in a vicious cycle and I don't know how to stop it.

Can anyone offer fresh perspective? how do I hold limits at mealtimes without making it about the food?

Juanbablo Wed 10-Feb-16 05:06:06

I just say "ok, you don't have to eat it." I don't care if they eat or not, but they will have to wait until the next snack or mealtime to have something. The toast thing is so toddler typical, I usually ask how they want it cut and if they change their mind afterwards I'm not making more. Forks/plates whatever I don't mind about that they can have whatever they like.

Just don't get into a battle. If she sits down bs starts kicking off because she doesn't want the beans just say "don't eat them then." And that's the end of that. You are aware she is looking for control so let her have it, if she doesn't want to eat she doesn't have to, but there will be no alternative.

PseudoBadger Wed 10-Feb-16 06:09:50

Forget about the meal, leave her to it and read this www.mumsnet.com/Talk/mumsnet_classics/1301196-If-my-3yo-had-access-to-AIBU

TweeterandtheMonkeyman Wed 10-Feb-16 08:10:17

I've only learnt this by going through the same thing twice, with DD and now DS, but 100% what the previous poster said - don't engage!! I just say "fine don't eat it then" and either continue with my own meal, leave the room whatever. Within a few minutes he will start eating , guaranteed. On the other hand , I do respect genuine food dislikes and hesitation over a new food...but messing around about fork colours - just no grin

cornishglos Wed 10-Feb-16 08:44:40

That old thread is brilliant. Can we start a new one over on AIBU for giggles?

imwithspud Wed 10-Feb-16 09:03:46

I agree with the 'fine, don't eat it' approach. I've been mostly doing this with my 3yo and it seems to work. She will fuss/tantrum sometimes but usually ends up eating at least some of her meal. If she doesn't then I don't worry too much, she won't waste away after missing one meal but I know if I 'gave in' to every demand then I'd be forever battling with her over it.

FusionChefGeoff Wed 10-Feb-16 09:44:58

I also tend to ignore "I don't like / want it" with 'oh, that's a shame. Never mind I'm going to eat mine"

However, I've also decided that I want him to think his thoughts / needs are important with the bloody cup / bowl / beans on the side of the plate etc.

So, if he is able to rephrase 'I don't WANT the pirate cup' and instead ask nicely for an alternative - and BEFORE I have sat down to eat - then most of the time, I try to accommodate.

strictlylurking Wed 10-Feb-16 10:37:49

You might have a look at Ellyn Satter's How to Get Your Kids to Eat (But Not Too Much). As previous posters have said, she has a sort of take it or leave it approach. It's your job as a parent to provide the food and your child's job to decide if and how much they eat. If they don't want to eat it, fine. That's their choice. But there's no negotiating or bribing. We've been doing this with our 3.5 year old and fully expected him to at least go a few meals without eating hardly anything, but after about 15 minutes when he realizes it's either what's on the plate or nothing, he eats everything. Even the things he insists he would never eat!

BabyGanoush Wed 10-Feb-16 10:46:49

I think it is a mistake of many parents to give their small kids too many options.

It seems to be received wisdom that giving them a choice like "Blue cup or green cup" gives them an element of control and makes kids happy.

I have always been a very gentle non-conflict-seeking parent, but I learned quick enough not to give them too many options, as they just will start to dictate all kind of weird dictates grin

So I'd give them their meal on whatever plate and cup, whatever meal I fancied making (never let them choose their own food, as most young kids change their mind 10 times in as many minutes anyway). I tried to make what i thought they'd like and what was healthy, and left it at that.

Whining gets ignored.

I really think too many options are not actually what a kid wants. They are often quite happy for you to make the choice for them, and tell them gently that that's what they are getting.

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