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Advice please on DSC's fussy eating - feel like I'm going to lose the plot

(64 Posts)
Bluster Sat 27-Jun-15 13:19:26

One of my DSCs is very fussy. His siblings will give most things a go, as will my DCs, but it's beginning to feel like DSS's fussiness is taking over mealtimes and sometimes the whole household mood.

I plan the meals, do the grocery shop, and most of the cooking for our big household. It's not DP's thing (and he does other stuff).

Although we say to all the kids that it's normal to have a few things you don't especially like, there are only about four pretty traditional/safe main meals DSS will (sometimes) eat. (He's nine, BTW.) When he's due to be with us (EOW and one night a week), I have tried to plan the meals around his likes within reason - although I don't want to limit the others kids' diets and adventurousness with food, nor prepare more than one meal, so this can be tricky. But I try to be accommodating without pandering; there are always at least a few elements to a meal that he'll eat (in theory).

In recent months, he's been asking what's for lunch/dinner every time he comes, and then often doesn't stay and goes back home to Mum - even when we're going to be eating something he's previously liked. Last night, I planned a meal we only started putting on the menu because DSS liked and suggested it - and he still didn't stay.

He came back this morning and we cooked something for breakfast which he has previously loved, but he didn't eat it, saying he didn't like it and he's never liked it here at our house (which is bollocks - he's had seconds here before). Then DP prepared DSS's "fail-safe" back-up healthy snack, and DSS started asking if the main ingredient was the usual one we buy (it was) because it tasted iffy. He ate one bite and the rest went in the bin.

I've tried reasoning with DSS about it and he just walks off, which I find infuriating. There's so much inconsistency with it, endless drama, waste; it's so limiting, dominating. I feel as though he's leading us a merry dance, and nothing DP or I do to accommodate him is right. I feel I go to a lot of time and effort, and yet DSS is never satisfied and (according to his siblings) just whinges to his mum about me and food here (he gets to have whatever he likes at home, having a separate meal prepared if need be - which we don't agree with). After this morning's antics, I said to DP I've had enough and he can organise meals involving DSS moving forward and handle all the associated dramas, which I want nothing more to do with; food has just never been an issue with my DCs.

Any ideas/advice? DSS is coming less, possibly because of this, and if we take a hard line of you'll eat what's on the menu or nothing, he may well not come at all. Is it worth DP risking not seeing him at all, if it makes him realise this is a power game he can't win? There is no way all the kids could carry on like this - it would be a nightmare - so why should DSS be able to? And how can we handle DSS's fussiness in a way that would seem fair in his siblings' eyes?


RandomMess Sat 27-Jun-15 13:26:09

Suggest he brings a packed lunch/tea from home.

LashesandLipstick Sat 27-Jun-15 13:34:03

Get him to bring a packed lunch, although I don't see the problem with making his own meal for him if he's so fussy. Perhaps he would enjoy making it with you?

I was like that as a child, right down to not eating it if I could taste a different brand from the regular one. Some kids are fussy.

notquitegrownup2 Sat 27-Jun-15 13:35:32

Sounds to me as if he is using food to communicate his feelings about staying with his dad - maybe anxiety - maybe feeling (rightly or wrongly, in a big and busy household) as if he is out of control. My ds2, generally a very easy going chap, tends to be fussy about food and to use it to make his mark too.

Suggest that his Dad has a chat with him about how important he is to him, how much he wants him to come and stay, and to see how he responds. In the meantime, it could be good to take the pressure off food for a while - have a simple alternative for a month or two - fish fingers and chips? beans on toast? for a limited amount of time whilst your h can find out whether there is any underlying issue going on.

Bonsoir Sat 27-Jun-15 13:40:30

I am a stepmother and I have always made a huge effort to accommodate my DSSs' food preferences as the idea that they might not enjoy being in their father's home for a reason so easy to remedy as food is intolerable to me. There are far more important battles on which to take firm stands.

However, it would seem from the OP that there are probably more issues than mere food preferences going on. Investigate!

RandomMess Sat 27-Jun-15 13:48:55

I agree I don't think the real issue is food at all hence bring a packed meal. Perhaps he just doesn't want to visit, or wants his dad to himself not as part of a blended family?

alwaystryingtobeafriend Sat 27-Jun-15 13:55:08

I was a fussy eater as a child and it's made life awkward now I'm an adult.

My dss claims to dislike potatoes. Which when I first met him he would eat to a band playing. Everytine we hav. Them it's an arguement. But it's a case of 2 choices at dinner- take it or leave it.

But if it gets left no dessert or treats. We soon find the platehad been cleared!!

i admit I am slightly hypocritical as like I say I was?still am a fussy eater. I don't wantthe kids to be like me so I do my best to encouragehim to eat what i put down.

There are occassions when I will make him chips instead of potatoes wedges for example.

Ask him what he wants , get him to help maybe or as others suggest a packed lunch from mums.


PacificDogwood Sat 27-Jun-15 13:58:20

Is he a fussy eater when staying with his mother?
What age is he?

Don't let dinner time become a battle ground - either accommodate him or let him bring his own food.

It is very possible that food is not the issue here.
No child has ever starved in the presence of food, but refusing food is a way of having some sort of control when so many things are out of a child's influence.

Bluster Sat 27-Jun-15 14:38:46

Thank you all for your posts - plenty to think about.

DSS is nine. He's fussy in his other home too, except there it is accommodated and he has a different meal made if he wants it. This has created some bad feeling among his siblings, who say he gets a special fuss made of him.

This is why I'm surprised at the amount of advice to accommodate DSS by offering him something else/a packed lunch from home. Not only is this the opposite of everything I've read on how to handle fussy eaters, but also, how does it work in a household of other kids who'll eat most things? If DSS has something different to eat, then his siblings/step-siblings are all within reason to request an alternative too, which means cooking many different meals, not just two. It would also mean them possibly opting for something they fancy more when they'd actually eat the main meal we've cooked. I feel this might help DSS, but would dumb down the other children's otherwise great eating habits, which wouldn't be much of a solution.

DP also worries about DSS having the piss taken out of him as he approaches secondary age; his siblings already roll their eyes over his eating (yes, it would seem different brands of a particular product are now an issue - even though we haven't changed brands?!).

All this said, I feel that within reason, we do accommodate what we thought were DSS's preferences - to the extent that the other kids not infrequently groan, "Not that for dinner again!" I'm a foodie. I love different flavours and trying things, as do the other children, and I find the thought of sausages and mash every week, and a whole weekend of relatively boring food, unappetising. I don't think DSS should be wielding this much power over everyone else's eating, nor having us make several meals to accommodate him and then not eating what we make him anyway (as happened today).

I do appreciate your advice. I just don't think fully accommodating DSS (especially when he's fussy here and at home, and his preferences seem to keep changing, and there are siblings to think about) is as simple as one might at first think. I think the packed lunch idea is probably the best, then the other children wouldn't see us make him an alternative, so would be less likely to ask us for the same.

DP has talked to DSS, but not got much out of him. As far as we can gather, Mum is encouraging him to view us negatively, which isn't helping him or this situation. And this part of the problem we have no control over. Still, I think it would be good for DP to try chatting to him again, if only to affirm how much he wants him to come (as suggested).

LashesandLipstick Sat 27-Jun-15 14:54:16

Bluster - if my parents would have taken the "eat it or nothing" line id have starved. You might not believe it but I had problems when my school tried to make everyone have school dinners because I just refused to eat. So accommodating it is really the only option

With siblings you don't have to take a one size fits all approach. His siblings don't have issues with food, therefore they don't need the same treatment. A very extreme example but if your stepson needed a wheelchair, would you tell him he couldn't have one because his siblings moan it's unfair? Whatever the reason your stepson has issues with food. You can look at each child's individual needs instead of having one rigid rule for them all

As for teasing I'd tell his siblings to pack it in. I wouldn't tolerate them taking the piss out of him

I honestly don't understand why some parents get very rigid about food - if he wants sausage and mash and no one else does is it REALLY a big deal to cook him it and make a different meal for everyone else?

I apologise if any of this seems blunt I have a very specific writing style that can seem that way and it's not meant to. Just offering advice to hell you and your stepson

PacificDogwood Sat 27-Jun-15 14:59:46

IME battles over food create only losers, nobody 'wins', and it's just not worth it.
The less fuss the better - if he feels less 'observed' he may actually chill a bit about eating with time.

I have 3 good eaters and a youngest DS(5) who eats only beige hmm.
He is now old enough to talk about it and will now occasionally nibble on a carrot stick. So far he has not succumbed to scurvy. I don't make an extra dinner for him, but make sure that our dinner contains something he will eat. So he'll have pasta and a banana (beige enough for his liking). It used to really stress me out, but I now figure he'll get there when he gets there.
I do not have the added dynamic of a blended family of course, so no advice on that score, sorry.

Yes, don't let the other kids tease him. That's just mean.

tumbletumble Sat 27-Jun-15 15:17:59

I don't believe in pandering to fussy eaters, in that I wouldn't cook an alternative meal for a child, but I also don't believe in forcing a child to eat something they don't want. I give everyone the same, if they don't eat it and they're still hungry they can have toast or something boring like that.

I agree with Pacific - the less drama the better, especially in this case when it's a particularly sensitive area (because of the bit about him not staying). So no persuading / negotiating etc - if I were you I would try to mention the subject as little as possible.

RandomMess Sat 27-Jun-15 15:23:26

I completely agree about not pandering and making alternate meals. My thinking with the packed meal is that he eats it or goes without but doesn't have the option to go home. Kind of completely get a non-reaction to what he has to eat as he's brought it with him.

Sounds like he has a lot of control at home and is perhaps trying to create the same with at yours?

Bonsoir Sat 27-Jun-15 15:37:02

The OP's DSS is clearly distressed about something (which may be as straightforward as not liking her food, but may be a lot more serious and in any case requires investigation). "Not pandering" is not the issue here. The issue is getting to the root cause of DSS' distress and solving his problem.

LashesandLipstick Sat 27-Jun-15 15:40:11

Exactly Bonsoir, and "not pandering" is only going to upset him further and make it worse

RandomMess Sat 27-Jun-15 15:43:17

I would hope that by not pandering the route cause may actually surface more clearly.

LashesandLipstick Sat 27-Jun-15 15:46:15

Random, what if it doesn't? What if he feels upset and that no one values his feelings so he won't tell anyone? What if he feels he's being punished? What if he has a physical problem (mine was sensory) that means he's not trying to be awkward and genuinely can only eat certain things? What if he has anxiety around food?

Pushing him into something he's uncomfortable with isn't going to do anything

RandomMess Sat 27-Jun-15 15:56:06

As I said I would have him bring a packed meal from his Mum's so he does have food to eat that he likes/is willing to eat.

That way if the issues is about the food itself then the problem is solved. I suspect it's not about food but anxiety about something else and his behaviour will deteriorate about something else which means they can tackle it differently. However at the moment the don't know what the problem is.

alwaystryingtobeafriend Sat 27-Jun-15 16:35:45

I don't agree with making seperate meals just because he is being fussy.

Like an other poster said make something he will eat and let him choose which parts to leave. If it's all of it then great if not then I'm afraid he is going hungry. Sometimes if it's something with potatoes I'd make a bowl of pasta for dss or he gets a small portion of fries. but generally I find if me and dp ignore his 'I don't like potatoes' they get eaten.

Maybe it is something more deeprouted and if that's the case then dp and mum need to try and find out what it is and address that issue.

Also get other kids to stop teasing its not funny or fair and probably making the issue worse. Xx

Nandocushion Sat 27-Jun-15 17:01:25

I would make something that makes the rest of the family happy, and encourage the good eaters to keep being good eaters. Right now he gets too much attention for being like this.

Echo what a PP said about his dad having a talk with him about how much his visits mean to your DP, and encourage him to bring a packed meal so that he can eat something at the table with you. Keep individual things that he will eat in the house (bananas? carrots? anything healthy) so that he can always eat something at the table with everyone else. But I'd use the other good eaters to model good eating behaviour, and enjoy yourselves, not focus every mealtime on him and his issues. Even though he seems to want the attention, it's a huge amount of pressure on a 9-year-old. Point the spotlight on his siblings instead.

Nandocushion Sat 27-Jun-15 17:02:36

You don't want your other DSC to remember meals at your place as being boring and a showcase for their brother's behaviour. Make it about them, and about enjoying family meals together.

K888 Sat 27-Jun-15 19:35:26

For me the main issue here is that your DSS has the power to just go back to the other parents house when he wants to. It's like a big stick he can use to make both sets parents pander to him.

His mother probably feels good if he 'chooses' her against you and his Dad for a night - you will both feel guilty and try even harder to accomodate - his siblings will, quite rightly, get cross at his special treatment.

You sound fair about the food - it's good to accomodate and like you said - you want him to feel okay about eating there - but it is okay to cook the odd meal he doesn't like - he could always get a sandwich if he's really hungry that time.

I always cooked the meals that my SDs liked - and we always had a curry on a Saturday night - my OH did it to treat the kids and make them want to stay. It was awful sometimes as because they were also allowed to 'choose' - when we didn't have curry - or the XBox wasn't working - they'd often just suddenly have a reason not to come over. It is really unhealthy.

MeridianB Sat 27-Jun-15 20:14:41

I agree with Nando and K888.

I too was shocked that he can just scoot back to his mum and that she (and your DP) allow that.

Melonfool Sat 27-Jun-15 22:38:53

I've not read everything posted, but we have exactly this issue.

If we ever find a thing he will eat (for a while it was pizza) he quickly changes his mind and says he hates it, has always hated it or that we buy the wrong ones, or his mum says he's not allowed to eat pizza at our house etc

He's no interest in cooking with me. Practically the only thing he will eat is pot noodle. He hates all forms of potato except Smash. He won't eat even a small piece of any veg. He won't eat fish fingers. I can't think what he does eat. Even things he will eat he whines about.

We've tried everything - the "no pudding" (he doesn't care, he'll just takes himself to bed), the "sit til you eat a bite of that" (he'll pretend gag and throw up on his plate or into his drink), ignoring it (he just eats nothing) etc etc.

For breakfast he will only have Cocoa Pops (no other brand, though I refuse to buy brands) and without milk.

He refuses to take a packed lunch to school, we don't give him money and his mum has stopped putting credit on his school food card thing so I literally have no idea what he eats.

He used to eat things like chicken nuggets (chicken being the only meat he will eat at all other than chorizo) but his mum has told him that he's allergic to processed chicken so now he gets to choose which chicken he will eat on that pretext.

I would say though - there should be no option to go back to his mum's if he doesn't fancy the food, that is giving him way too much control. We've always been very clear - when you're here, you're here, you're a child, you don't get to choose.

I know full well the food thing is about control and attention but that doesn't help resolve it. Oh, and no, he probably won't starve, but he's not exactly healthy, skinny, pale, often ill. So some decent food would do him good in my view.

CandyLane Sun 28-Jun-15 00:19:52

It sounds like your DSS is using food to control what's going on around him.
He probably doesn't even realise what he's doing, I'm sure it's not a concious thing, but when children feel that they have no control over their lives and everything else that's going on around them, some will use things like food to gain a tiny bit of control.
And when they realise that being fussy about food gets them some attention, it fuels it further.
I'm not sure what the answer is but it sounds like there's probably some deeper emotional problems going on? Maybe speak to his GP?

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