How to feel better about mealtimes?

Danielle - posted on 05/16/2012 ( 13 moms have responded )

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My son will turn 3 in a couple weeks. He eats breakfast normally really good, has a snack, then lunch goes normally okay, sometimes will eat another snack, and then dinner is almost always horrible. It doesnt matter where we are at. If he does not want to eat there is no way to convince him, it can even be something that most other times he would totally love. It has gotten so bad lately that if you try to give him a bite he will start gagging to the point that he will throw up. I refuse to make different meals. I am not asking him to eat wild crazy outragoues foods. It is so frustrating because he will act like that, and say that he is done and then turn around and ask for a snack. I stand my ground and tell him no because if he couldnt even attempt to eat dinner then he doesnt need a snack and then he throws a huge fit kicking and crying saying that his tummy hurts. Which then causes me to feel like a horrible mother and a failure (but i still dont give in to him). I need help all i want to do is cry.

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Tracie - posted on 05/18/2012

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What is different about dinner? The location? The company? The duration? Sounds like there is something going on that unhinges him. Stay calm, offer food but never force it, and give him all the power to eat or not eat. Say, "This is all the food we have for tonight. You can have it now, have it later, or not have it at all. It's up to you." And then act like it doesn't matter to you one way or another if he eats or not. Do make sure that there's at least something offered that you know he likes, but really it's up to him. The old adage is true - when it comes to kids there are only two things you can't control, what goes in and what comes out! Good luck.

Crystal - posted on 05/18/2012

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I would stop the afternoon snack, or at least nothing a few hours prior to dinner so he'll be hungry. Then if he chooses not to eat what you want him to, then he can go without dinner and wait till breakfast. As bad as it makes us feel to do this... he's not going to starve himself...its a control thing. Best of luck.

Happy - posted on 05/18/2012

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Maybe he's not hungry. Don't force it. I have never seen a kid starve who had food to eat!

Bethany - posted on 05/18/2012

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personally, if my daughter doesn't want dinner, she doesn't need it. I've always let her lead as far as amount of food goes. I choose what, she chooses how much. I agree with you regarding no snacks if no attempt on the meal is made. She'll get the meal back if she's hungry later.

I do find it much easier to have her meat/veg meal at lunch, then a light meal for dinner. I just gave her a tortilla rolled up with cheese spread and Promite for dinner. For lunch, it's bits of brocolli, carrot, fish stick, chicken, whatever with some type of sauce to dip in. Usually "anti pasto" looking, little nibblies with not too much on the plate. She gets overwhelmed by too much food on the plate, so lots of bare plate makes for a good meal for her.

Snacks are either a carrot, an apple, a mandarine, cracker with avocado, bit of cheese, cookie, whatever. I find she'll eat whatever I put out. If I ask her, she gets picky, but if I just turn up with food and nibble at it myself, or put it on the table, she gravitates towards it if she's hungry. Nothing like sitting down to a mandie or an apple myself to make her want it ;)

You are doing a good thing sticking to your guns, he'll soon learn you mean business if you are consistent. If you know it's tasty food, and there's no reason for him not to eat it, then just let it go, and serve it up the next time he's hungry.

Stand firm, you're doing a great job!

Stifler's - posted on 05/16/2012

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Is he eating too late? What time are you feeding him. My kids used to refuse dinner and then I started making it earlier when they weren't cranky yet.

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My 2 girls would rather have snacks all day than real food. Breakfast they normally get cereal or muffins......sometimes waffles and pancakes if I am more awake than usual......lunch they normally get bread with nutella and carrots or apples & the dinner whatever I cook. I just found out they love fajitas so I make it and let them make their own (beef & they add their own cheese) they will each eat 3 of them. So while they eat that I feed my 7 month old.......he is gonna be hard, he has been through alot since birth and may take him years to eat what we eat.

The girls only get snack of they eat all of their dinner so stick with the no snacks unless he finishes all his dinner. Good luck :)

Ruth - posted on 05/21/2012

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For some children, especially older toddlers, not liking dinner can be a control issue--often they can choose what they're eating for breakfast or lunch, but I know at my house there is no choice about dinner--my daughter can choose to eat what I've cooked, or she can wait until breakfast. Your son may be trying to assert his independence a bit. I know my 3 1/2-year-old daughter does.

Bethany - posted on 05/20/2012

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I agree with Ange's bread component. I keep that until my daughter has tried everything on her plate once, then she gets the bread. Garlic bread if it's italian, bread and butter if it's not. Same goes with drinks.

Ange - posted on 05/20/2012

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There's a really good book out there called "How To Get Your Kid To Eat...But Not Too Much" by Ellyn Satter. It's got a lot of good ideas and also is broken down by general age groups and tells about what nutrition kids that age really need. (I just saw it available on Amazon in "good" condition for less than ten cents.) I also saw an interview on the Today show, not sure if it was this same lady (the author) but they said the same type of thing.



Basically, what Bethany said - you choose what, they choose how much. As parent, it's your job to provide a good healthy meal, it's their job to eat it, to determine how much and of what. There's one bit that is also in line with what Tracie said, about having at least one part of the meal be something you know they will eat, I think the book suggests always having one "bread" component of a meal, rolls, hamburger bun, bread n butter, whatever, as most kids will eat that even when they don't want anything else.



The Today show lady also gave one other way to handle it: if they don't want what you fixed, they have one, only one, option. You choose what it is from things you know they eat. But that is their only option every day, every meal, if they don't want what you fixed. The thought is, eventually they get so tired of that one option that they will at least try whatever else you fixed.



My boy is a problem-eater also. He never eats very much at one time, and his list of what he will eat is short. I worried about him getting full nutrition, about him not eating enough, not gaining any weight even though he keeps growing taller, etc. His alternate in our house is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He generally likes breakfast and lunch foods, and he gets fruit for snacks, and he's ok with that stuff. But he rarely likes the dinner stuff, and my hub is a professional cook, so you know it's well made and healthy. He just doesn't like it. So he gets pb&j. And yes, eventually he does try what we're eating; sometimes while he's protesting that it's "yucky" he's eating several bites. Sometimes he says it's yucky and then takes a bite and then crows "It's GOOD!" And sometimes he gets the pb&j instead.



Anyway, that book really helped me to know what I should and could be doing to help him and what I should worry about, and what to not worry about. Maybe your library has it, or can get it for you, if you don't want to buy it. Good luck! (To all of us)

Danielle - posted on 05/19/2012

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Tracie- I have wondered what is so different about dinner also. I have come to the conclusion that it is probably the way that i am handling the situation. I need to be calmer and go into dinner with a postive attitude. I just need to offer it to him, and if he chooses not to eat that is his choice. I dont ever force feed, but i have spent a lot of time at the table trying to persuade him which in the end gets us absolutely no where but very frustrated with each other. When he hasnt ate he must not truly need it because he still sleeps through the night and wakes happy. The last couple nights we have had diner earlier like Stiflers mum suggested. I think that combined with a calmer attitude from me is helping =)

Heather - posted on 05/18/2012

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If my 2 year old won't eat dinner, I offer him cheese and fruit. I used to keep chicken nuggets in the freezer for this reason, but I quit catering to him. You could keep his plate in the microwave and offer it to him later when he's throwing a tantrum.

Danielle - posted on 05/17/2012

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I try to have dinner done by 6, but maybe that isnt early enough for him. He does seem to be on an early schedule. He gets up early, eats lunch early, so he probably does need to eat dinner earlier also. I made sure to have dinner ready at five tonight and it was like a complete change from every night the past few weeks. Hopefully it will continue to work. Thank you so much for the suggestion.

Katherine - posted on 05/17/2012

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My 3 year old does the same thing to me. I give in and give her a snack before bed. And I know it's not good practice, but I don't want her to go to bed hungry, besides she will stay up all night until I feed her.

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