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What do you do when your child refuses to eat what you put in front of them?

(27 Posts)
Writerwannabe83 Sun 05-Mar-17 17:57:46

My DS is just about to turn three and he's always been a good little eater but over the last few months he seems to refuse anything unless it's out of a tin or out of the freezer.

I'm getting a bit fed up of preparing and cooking meals which he then refuses to eat. I've made spaghetti bolognese tonight and it's been in front of him for over 20 minutes and he hasn't touched it - he just keeps saying "I don't like it" or "I don't want it".

What do you do in these situations? I don't want to give in and get him something I know he will eat because then it's like he's won but nor do I want him going to bed without having had any dinner.

It's just exasperating.

MeredithShepherd Sun 05-Mar-17 19:33:38

You either eat what you're given or go to bed hungry in my house. He won't starve himself. Might take a few days though, kids have stamina!

SoMuchPain Sun 05-Mar-17 19:34:54

Same as PP eat what you're given or get nothing. Even for the young ones! The only compromise is if they've just had a tummy bug or teething

Matilda1981 Sun 05-Mar-17 19:35:17

Mine either have what they're given if they don't eat it they can have a slice of toast with butter before bead - it may be that he genuinely isn't hungry tho?

uhoh2016 Sun 05-Mar-17 20:01:25

They all go through this fussy stage around this age. Provide meals with a variety of different things to pick at because what they like and dislike change on a daily basis . Allow 10 -15 minutes to eat the meal then take it away no arguing shouting pleading or persuading. I know it is frustrating but it will get easier. The turning point for my ds was eating school dinners and trying what all his class mates were trying.

cookiefiend Sun 05-Mar-17 20:17:37

DD1 who has always been a good eater and is again now went through what I called a beige phase.

Don't make it a thing, or it will become one. Just keep offering a variety of food, but make sure there is something you know he will eat on the plate.

For us, I would never send her to bed hungry because aside from anything else she wakes up at 3am hungry. So there is always a bowl of porridge on offer. Both our kids like this (eat it most days for breakfast) but we make it is just milk and oats so not appealing enough to not eat dinner for.

She is three and a half now. It lasted a month or two- then passed. She eats most things now.

Wolfiefan Sun 05-Mar-17 20:21:03

Leave it on the table or put it in the fridge if it's warm.
When they complain they are hungry later you can offer to heat it up.
When mine have gone through the fussy stage I try and ensure there is something they will eat. So garlic bread with the meal or cheese to sprinkle on top.
Don't get suckered into offering another meal. Or cajoling and trying to get them to eat. Their choice. Eat or don't.
I don't say they can't have a pudding as they didn't eat. I do say they can't be hungry enough for a pudding if they couldn't eat their dinner. Funnily enough they often start eating dinner.

Robinkitty Sun 05-Mar-17 20:29:23

Being a fussy eater myself I wouldn't force anyone to eat anything they didn't want, like the pp suggested I usually try and have something on the plate they are happy to eat. Tonight's dinner was sausages and chips, the toddler ate the chips wouldn't touch the sausage.
I always make toast before bed anyway so I know no one will go to sleep hungry.

whensitmyturn Sun 05-Mar-17 20:29:41

I tend to just offer whatever I'm cooking then if she (2.5yr old dd) doesn't eat any I'll give her toast before bed.
All my 3 have gone through fussy phases when toddlers/pre- schoolers but all became much better around 4 when you can reason with them. Plus the free hot dinners in reception really helped with widening their tastes. Both my older 2 are great eaters now, I don't get bothered about it anymore she'll eat well eventually.

neversleepagain Sun 05-Mar-17 21:19:27

Nothing, I completely ignore their refusal to eat, I just keep repeating to eat their dinner.

We have always eaten the same food and to be honest, they rarely dont eat what's in front of them so if they do I know they really are not hungry.

I would offer him nothing else.

Banania Mon 06-Mar-17 12:33:34

Oh, I wheedle. And employ tricks. You're probably not supposed to but I do. Mine are quite small for their ages and I'm not comfortable with giving them nothing before bed. I don't get cross if I can help it though (even if I'm seething inwardly).

Some things to try:

- I think sometimes a big plate of dinner can be overwhelming and they don't really know where to start, maybe try less on the plate and the food in little manageable sections.

-Telling very elaborate stories with lots of eye contact seems to help as well e.g. 'And do you know what happened then?! - what? - pop that spoon into your mouth there and I'll tell you' and often in it goes.

-Just do what you can to make it appealing. Grated cheese on everything if necessary, or a blob of hummous or ketchup to dip vegetables into.

- Don't be on your phone near him while he's eating. Sit down with him and have a cup of tea. if mine get a whiff of me ignoring them on my phone, they'll stop eating.

Writerwannabe83 Mon 06-Mar-17 12:41:38

Thanks everyone for your replies.

We always eat our evening meal together so I always thought seeing me and DH eating the same meal would encourage him to eat it too, but it doesn't.

Last night I ended up spoon feeding him for 25 minutes to get 75% of it into him with only the bribe of a chocolate pudding to keep him on side. It's not really a path I want to go down but I just needed him to eat it.

TheShapeofYou Mon 06-Mar-17 12:50:18

I like banania's tips. I do similar (depending on my mood wink). My boys are just turned 3, and 6. Eldest had always been very good, youngest goes through fussy stages; and has never enjoyed potatoes in any form, nor rice sad

It's hard work sometimes so you have my sympathies OP. I'm really keen on not wanting mealtimes to be a battle though, so try to remain calm and composed. We eat the same meals, mostly, and eat together a lot (I'm a SAHM so this includes lunch). Def no phones or screens of any kind. We usually have the radio on in the background...music can help relax and distract? I'm a bit of a softy though and say "well we don't like everything". Mine must TRY everything, but if they don't like it, they get the choice of 2 x plain Weetabix, or plain buttered toast.

I always offer fruit and yoghurt if they've given it a good go. Threat to withold if they're being difficult though.

eurochick Mon 06-Mar-17 12:57:34

I do a bit of coaxing but if she really doesn't want it she gets offered a basic alternative like cheese and crackers or omelette, without any fuss. She's such a tiny thing I couldn't leave her hungry. She also doesn't sleep well without a full belly so it's in our interest to get her to eat!

I think a lot of toddler food rejection is about control and a battle of wills. If you don't enter into that, they lose interest fairly quickly.

rainbowunicorn Tue 07-Mar-17 10:24:18

I never offered anything else if mine would not eat their meal, the food would be put in the fridge and if they wanted to eat later it was offered to them. I find that is a very quick slippery slope to a child that is fussy and will only eat a limited diet. Going to bed hungry won't do them any harm really, they will be ready for a decent breakfast in the morning and be less likely to refuse.
I think we are so fixated on making sure that they are never hungry that we tend to give in and go and make them something else, before you know what's happened they are refusing all family foods and only eating pizza, nuggets, fish fingers and smiley faces.

MarzipanPiggy Tue 07-Mar-17 10:28:36

Never make a fuss. They either eat it or they don't, in which case it goes in the bin.

But I have adjusted my cooking / meal planning somewhat to make sure there's a good chance they'll eat at least something the majority of meals. E.g. I'll serve pasta with a chicken dish, fish fingers and sausages are regular features, there's always cucumber because they love that etc.

Lalunya85 Tue 07-Mar-17 10:32:18

Just to add to the chorus of: "it will pass". If he was a good eater before, he will go back to being a good eater eventually I think.

Both my DCs have always been good eaters, quite adventurous etc. But in my experience, there is a "control what I eat" stage around 18 months, and then again around 3. Suddenly ALL they want is bread and butter; then NO bread at all, only cheese; next day it's ONLY raspberries etc.

I try to stay calm, but I totally empathise with you, it's not easy and so frustrating if they don't eat what you have made.

The key, in the long run, is to stay calm and relaxed about the whole thing. Food is an enjoyable experience, fun even; so I try to keep it that way.*

Every other day or so, I ask them what they want for dinner. It's usually cornflakes or porridge. If I give them the choice, I then provide what they have asked for. So cornflakes it is!
I think it gives them a sense of control. In my experience, they are then more likely to eat whatever you provide for them the next day.

*full disclosure, I do sometimes "bribe" with pudding or TV. I know you shouldn't but when you're desperate... Everything is ok if it doesn't become the norm.

thethoughtfox Tue 07-Mar-17 10:33:53

I like the advice of: you decide what and when they eat and they decide if and how much they eat. I wouldn't try to make them eat something they don't want but it's not good to make it a control issue where you are bribing or forcing or cajoling them to eat something. Another good tip I read was to put a small amount of something healthy that they do like with the meal so there's something they will eat. Sometimes it takes them going a bit hungry at times till they realise they can't dictate what they eat and live off crackers!

BaronessBomburst Tue 07-Mar-17 10:34:42

DS went through this phase but has now come out the other side and is back to eating everything.
I never made a fuss.
I would ask him if he was sure he didn't want it as DH or I would eat it if he didn't.
Sometimes I would offer to put it in the fridge in case he changed his mind.
And then I just took it away.
Letting him help himself from serving dishes helped too as at that age they can't resist taking a spoonful from all of them. I would ask him to dish up onto my plate too, so he was involved in the meal 'like a grown up'.
I don't recommend using white tablecloths if you're going to try this approach! grin

Lalunya85 Tue 07-Mar-17 10:35:00

in which case it goes in the bin shock
Not sure that's a good lesson to teach them? I suppose it depends on what it is and whether it can easily be heated up for the next meal/day.

I tend to finish my kids' leftovers... wink

FuzzyFalafelz Tue 07-Mar-17 10:36:47

I have 4 excellent eaters. They eat a huge whacky grown up range of meals. Weekly we serve two or three new meals. We have been through phases like yours though. I never put any pressure to eat. Never nag. Meal times are about catching up with each other and chatting. There is one family meal and they either choose to eat it or not. Can't afford to make numerous meals each night. I don't care either way. If they choose not to eat, they can always eat it cold at bedtime. Most children won't choose to go to bed hungry - the exception to this is if they have underlying things like Autism or mental health issues.

You're very much at a critical time. You're developing his preferences taste wise. If he seems quite hooked on specific ready made food, maybe you need to avoid it completely for a few months. Reset his tastebuds. Kids do get hooked on fishfingers, nuggets, chips, beans sometimes.

BriocheBriocheBrioche Tue 07-Mar-17 10:45:05

Mine are both good eaters but the eldest, 4 yo sometimes looks at something that might be slightly different and says 'I don't like it'.

She'll eat mussels, olives, chorizo and all sorts but she has had a few phases where only pasta and sausage will do - I'm sure at this age they just like to see how much they can control us!

Last night I made a cottage pie with sweet potato... she pulled a face but I asked her try a spoonful. She did and she ate it all up.

I agree that not making a fuss is important but I do always insist that they at least try it. Motto in our house is that you 'don't have to like it but you at least have to try it'.

TheShapeofYou Tue 07-Mar-17 13:27:50

Disagree with the person saying that leaving them go hungry doesn't do any harm...my 3yo ds wakes up 90 mins earlier the next day as he's ravenous. Being woken up at 5.45 by a grumpy preschooler during half term when you've no plans for the day was horrible!

Plus, personally, I don't think giving Weetabix and banana instead isn't too bad. As long as it's only now and then and not every day. I'd rather they had something in their tummy, and we all got a decent nights sleep.

I think offering a wide variety of foods, always putting something on their plate they'll eat, and not giving up are key.

Also, fussy eaters doesn't always = will only eat fish fingers, chicken nuggets and chips etc My youngest won't eat any of those things, and he can be fussy at times. My eldest doesn't like them either...which is annoying for me as I'd love now and then to just shove some breaded shite in the oven and relax grin

wonkylegs Tue 07-Mar-17 14:06:01

In our house they get the same as everyone else, if they haven't started by the time everyone else has finished then tough, no other choice is given, they have to wait til next meal.
Everyone must try things at least twice if after that they genuinely don't like it I won't force it, we usually have at least 2 veg choices but I don't make alternatives for example DS1 doesn't like salad leaves so he can not have them but does have the rest of the salad - tomatoes, cucumber, peppers
Both so far are pretty good with their food. I extend this rule to the cousins when at our house as they are fussy buggers and it's amazing they always seem to eat something.
It seems harsh when they are little but actually mine picked it up very quickly that mummy wasn't taking any crap, I also let them choose dinner once a week.

LlandudnoLlandudno Tue 07-Mar-17 16:54:23

Just wondering would people give the same advice for a 13mo? DS is going through an extremely fussy stage and is refusing anything homemade. I have decided today that if he doesn't eat a meal he waits till the next one. I give him a supper of weetabix before bed which he always eats and he has a bottle of cows milk too. I am terrified he will start waking in the night again though sad

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