Refuses to eat

User - posted on 11/25/2008 ( 17 moms have responded )

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My 4 year old is very strong willed. If he does not want to do something, he won't...regardless of consequences. He particularly plays the power struggle with food. He does not like meat...or vegitables...or anything new. If I do manage to convince him to take a bite of something, he would rather keep it in his mouth than swallow it. We have found food still in his mouth 2-3 hours after a meal. I know it is a power thing, so I try not to make a big deal out of it, while still laying down the rules (no dessert if you didn't eat supper). I have even taken the route of letting him make a peanut butter sandwich if he prefers. I am concerned about nutrition. He has not gained any weight in the last year. Does anyone have any ideas?

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Edie - posted on 12/01/2008

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I know it tough to find yourself arguing witha pre chooler- but as long as he is healthy and your pediatrician is not concerned, then I recommend that you get the upper hand on this one. Kids don't outgrow power struggles - they just change what they are fighting for. I too have a very stong willed child and we went thru the refusing to eat stage, she would keep food in her mouth for long periods of time, she would refuse to eat things that had been eaten just fine before... We have the "at least 3 bites everything on your plate" rule, we have the "no desert rule unless your plate is clean" rule - But with her I have also put the plate back in the fridge and brought it back out for breakfast, then snack, then lunch... She was really shocked, but she got the idea. I don't make a big deal out of it, but I absolutely stand my ground and wont back down or be swayed by whining, crying, tantrums...Have only had to do it one other time since the first time. It has made a huge difference. Please note that there is a difference between beign picky (actual likes and dislikes) and being strong willed (or wanting to be in control). I have one of each, and I do deal with them differently. For the picky eater (love veggies / hates meat)my goal is to teach her ways to cope with what is on the plate and ultimately make good decisions on her own about food (always trying things, eating things in a certain order, maybe having more milk to wash it down with, add ketchup, put it on a piece of bread with butter...) vs. my goal for the strong willed child which is to help her learn to respect authority, and bend her will, and not make bad decisions just to be arbitrary. I also got some good tips from my pediatrician. And we have the book "Bread and Jam for Fancis" which is good for discussions about eating. Good luck!

Kim - posted on 03/16/2013

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My 4 year old is horrible with eating. He will not eat meat,mac and cheese,noodles and sauce,veggies,milk,cheese,and loads more stuff too much to list and anything good for him,the things he likes he will only eat once in a while. The preschool teacher gets frustrated because he will not eat the stuff packed or try anything new. We have gone to the doctor and she said his weight is fine but we are worried. He is rude about it and will push it away and say "I am Not going to eat this" .I have tried offering the same meal over and over and he will not eat it,one time he went 2 days and refused to eat what I was giving him,finally I got worried and gave up and gave him what he wanted. I worry because he will not drink anything but Water,no juice or Milk. He loves chewing ice,and will want to do that instead of eating food. He is mean about it too. "That looks yucky,that smells weird". My other two kids will eat everything I serve and love my cooking,so I do not know how to make this better. I had to remove my husband from the room at dinner time because he gets so mad and frustrated. I feel like meal time is a war zone and the battle is EVERY MEAL. My son will not even eat a peanut butter and Jelly sandwich. He refuses to try anything new he says 'no' before it is even in front of him. I have seen him hide his dinner and throw it, As I am writing this I am almost in tears,so frustrated. He even refuses a multi vitamin,I have tried them all,gummys,chewables..all brands,all shapes,characters and flavors. I was thinking about going to a behavioral therapist to talk about ways to handle his strong will including meal time battles.He will scream at the top of his lungs at the table and bang his hands on the table,he makes everyone else dread meal time. I can not understand it our whole family is not picky at all,we have a positive attitude. I have tried having him plan the meal,no luck,I have had him try to help make dinner,he says" I am not eating this" as we make it together,he makes me so frustrated. Any input PLEASE

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Deana - posted on 12/01/2008

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One thing I am trying right now with my 4 1/2 year old is a bite strip. It has numbers (or can be a favorite charater) with velcro on the back and are stuck onto a velcro strip on a strip of cardboard. I ask him to eat 3 or 4 bites and after each one he takes off a number. When he finishes the four bites we put them back on and start over again. It seems to give HIM some control. I also have a cheap timer that looks like a lemon that he can turn and I say have 4 bites before the timer goes off (we set it for 10 min) then praise him when he is done before the timer goes off. It also seems to have helped with us not nagging him and takes the power struggle out of the equation. You can also try not putting as much food on the plate. If he likes to move around lots you can do some simple sitting exercies like pulling the knees to the chest or shoulder shrugs or put hands on the chair and push up. It could make him feel like he is doing something but is still at the table. Again for the nutrition part give him a multi vitamin that has everything (not just vitamins but minerals as well) and maybe a toddler formula mixed in milk. I agree that he will not starve to death. Keep trying to give him food and if he gets hungry enough he should eat. If it is a real concer try talking to you doctor or an occpuational therapist. (this is where I got the bite strip idea and exercise idea from) An OT can really help with behavioral challenges and can maybe give more ideas.

Sue - posted on 11/28/2008

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I've raised four kids and am now raising two grandchildren. I try to avoid making a fuss about them refusing food. If they are not eating what you put in front of them just remove it and say "OK I can see you're not really hungry". They won't starve themselves. Try not to make it an issue, and don't fill them up on sugary foods just for the sake of filling them up!
One of mine went through a phase of refusing any protein food except cheese spread, so I just made her Dairylea sandwiches for every meal until she was so bored with it she begged for something else! Several things I have found useful. If they don't like a certain taste, just accept it and say "Yes, it's a grown-up taste". That leaves it open to them to explore more adventurous flavours later. I have also found that some healthy foods are much more popular raw, so they might try to "steal" bits of raw carrot waiting to be cooked, for example, or best of all, raid crops still growing in the garden, like peas. Also, my kids liked vinegar (on chips, for example), from which they progressed to liking salad cream or french dressing, and would eat raw chopped Swiss Chard (oodles of Vit C and folic acid), provided it was doused in an oil and vinegar dressing.

Gina - posted on 11/27/2008

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I still encourage you to talk to your doctor. We ended up at a neurologist and a gastrio. doc and they advised that my son was not doing this to be "difficult." Yes, some children do it in order to be controlling, but some have other developmental issues. He truly couldn't help it, and as long as we could get him to eat a protein, a vegetable, a fruit and a carb, we should count ourselves as lucky. He has had a child that was so "picky" that the child ended up with scurvy. Believe me, like you, we tried EVERYTHING! People would make suggestions and comments about how we weren't trying hard enough, or we just needed to be "firm." I cannot tell you how many showdowns happened at my house. I researched the internet and tried everything that everyone suggested. Sometimes it is beyond a "discipline" issue.

User - posted on 11/27/2008

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Thanks for the advice. I welcome more. I have done the eat or go hungry method, but EVERYTIME he is throws up several times the next morning out of hunger (we have been able to link it to not eating and not illness). So I do not use that method anymore. Also, we have tried not letting him leave the table until he eats and he will stay there for 3 hours and then fall asleep at the table out of exhaustion from crying (which also poses a choking hazard if he has food in his mouth he is refusing to swallow). I told you I have a strong willed kiddo!



I have not tried taking away other privliges or reoffering the same food at every meal until he eats it. The first might work better, since the second would appeal to his strong willed nature again (refuse to eat it until it goes rotton and I can't offer it again).

User - posted on 11/25/2008

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Don't let him leave the dinner table until he is done. It will be hard at first and it may be hours and a ton of crying and whining. Just tell him he can't leave the dinner table until he eats a certain amount. Also, try only putting a few things on his plate at a time. If you know he isn't a good eater just place a few things there and start off small. He will be praised by you when he finishes his plate and he will also feel good. The next meal, try putting a little bit more on. Hope that helps!!!

Deana - posted on 11/25/2008

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My 4 year old is very similar in attitude (although is starting to eat much better now). One thing I have done is hide meat - mainly chicken or pork - on crackers with cream cheese. For the vegies I puree it up and mix it in spaghetti sauce, in hamburgers and meat loaves etc. You can also do this with the meat into sauces. Also, i found that if the veggies had a sauce like hollindaise (sp??) he would eat it. Sauces and dips can be your best friend to get him to eat. When he was at his worst for eating, I bought some toddler formula and mixed that up with his milk plus I give him a multi vitamin.

Jill - posted on 11/25/2008

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I disagree with Dawn a little bit, only because you have a strong willed boy. I am a mom of 4, and I have had these issues with them all, but, you have a strong willed one and that throws everything into a new dimention. My strong willed son is now 10, and it doesn't change, the power struggle is always there, it just changes dynamics. Pick your battles, and if he is having temper tantrum or other issues, deal with those first, and let him eat peanut butter for a few weeks! If this is the biggest issue, then it is good to try "eat what we have or nothing" and he isn't allowed to play or watch tv ect if he doesn't eat. Then start over the next day, give him something he loves for breakfast and then ease into dinner. As with any new rule with these kinds of children, it will get worse before it gets better. I wouldn't force him to eat a bite, or yell or fight. It is a way to get your attention. Just say this is it or nothing and then ignore all the behavior that comes after it. He will get worse and worse and you may have to lock yourself in a closet so you won't react to him. but eventually, he will give in and eat what is in front of him or nothing with out a fight. I wouldn't make him eat it every meal, it will only make a more defient boy and more angry. Read Dr. Dobson's "Strong-willed Child" and I will pray for you! It is sooooo hard to have one of these unique individuals! But they can be so awesome in their own way too!

Lavina - posted on 11/25/2008

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My daughter, liked ruling the dinner table... I remember the evening my aunt laughed in my face and told me I was about to create a spoiled brat. ( I was stunned at the moment ) She told me to never give into that crap, and after noting her raising of 4 kids I realized she was right) Since then...my rule has always been you must eat and swallow one bite of everything served at dinner. If you do not like it you do not have to finish it, but you get NOTHING other than what is put on the table. You will find that they may decide to not eat for a day or so... but eventually hunger wins, and the rules are understood miraculously!! They try everything at least once, and you are not making different meals for every member of the family.

Now my 11 year, the most finicky at 3, eats every type of vegetable(other than brussel sprouts) all meats, fruits, etc.

Loved the response from Cory Fields... wish I had thought of that one.

Good luck to ya...

[deleted account]

My oldest daughter is the same way. She will only eat certain things and my mom her grandma is always on my back about it. I can't even get her to try new food if she puts it in her mouth she will make her self sick. I would try giving him Nutripals by PediaSure she really likes it and drinks it for us. At least she it getting a nutrition drink and it comes in chocolate or strawberry. Also she really likes the strawberry Nurtigrain cereal bars. I was amazed that she likes them but she just loves them and its really good for them. For right now I would let eat what he wants for awhile so maybe he'll start gaining some weight. Hope this helps.

Megan - posted on 11/25/2008

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I agree with Dawn. Our little girl will be 3 next month. She has to eat what she is given and if she doesn't, she has to wait until the next meal to eat again...no snacks but she does get water. She usually chooses to eat what's on her plate. You can't cater to children. They will only take advantage of you and tend to become bratty (not saying anyone's child is...believe me, mine have their moments like any other ; p ) and not do anything they are told. Things go a lot more smoothly when I act as the parent and she listens as the child.

I actually had a friend who switched to a new type of diet - no meat and 'raw' recipes (as close to the source type foods - if that makes sense). She didn't make her boys eat, but if they didn't eat what she put on the table, they went without. They'd go without a few meals at a time but they would get so hungry that they would eat what they were given. I don't think it is cruel, I do think that as the parent/mom we need to feed our children what is best for them and if they decide not to eat, then so be it. They need to learn to appreciate what they are given and be grateful or they can choose to go without.

I hope this helps and that it didn't sound as harsh as I'm afraid it did. I apologize if it didn't 'come out' as nicely as I hoped. Good luck!

Gina - posted on 11/25/2008

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My 3 year old is the same way. He is extremely picky to the point that he is slightly anemic. You should mention this to your doctor, especially if he is not gaining weight. My son ended up having some other issues as well. My advice is to always offer new things... you never know when he might say yes.

Dawn - posted on 11/25/2008

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He's 4 !! He eats what you give him or he doesn't eat that meal. The longer you give in the longer he will play this with you. You MUST stick to your guns. What you say must happen, always. You know when he's playing you. You know what he likes and doesn't. Our oldest tried that with us. One week she did the next she didn't. It was all about what type of mood she was in that day/week. There is no dessert in our home during the week. If your still hungry have more good food. We save the special treats for the weekend so it's NOT expected during the week. GOOD FOOD ONLY....

User - posted on 11/25/2008

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My daughter was just like this at this age!!! Here is what I did once. One time my daughter started complaining that she didn't want her corn. In our house if you complain about the food on your plate you get a second helping and have to eat it. Well that didn't go over as you can imagine so I told her that if she didn't eat her corn she would get it again for breakfast. I did let her get down from the table and didn't punish her in any way, just put the corn in a container and popped it in the fridge. At breakfast we all sat down to her favorite breakfast of bacon and eggs (I know I'm evil) she was dished up a microwaved bowl of corn. That didn't go over well either...back in the fridge it went for lunch.... Lunch came and went.... same thing.... Dinner that night... her favorite again...she scarfed the corn down this time and ate her favorite dinner. After that all I have to do is remind her about the corn incident.



A few weeks ago her little brother tried the same thing with his carrots, baby girl told him of the story of the corn and he ate all his carrots with no complaining. As for the meats, try letting your little one pick out his own dip for the meats and even veggies. Mine love ranch dressing and ketchup on everything. If that doesn't work...hide the veggies in sauces. When I make spaghetti (sp?) I will puree uncooked squash and mix it in with the sauce. The kids never know it is there. It works in casseroles too.



As for his weight gain as long as the doc isn't concerned I wouldn't be. My daughter didn't grow much from 3-4 yr old. She was in the same size clothes for 2 years even her shoe stayed the same. The funny thing is when she started growing she shot up quick!! In Pre-K she was in 2T clothes and a size 6 shoe at the end of Pre-K she was in a size 4 and size 10 shoe. Go figure!!



Good luck...remember your the momma and your the boss!!

:)

Cathy - posted on 11/25/2008

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Hi, my 20 month old twins eat a bit but don't like trying new stuff either, i am scared that they will start to be very fussy too. The only idea i know of is.. if he likes speghetti you could hide veges in that. Good luck

Amanda - posted on 11/25/2008

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I would say just give him his favourites for a bit, and don;t even offer the new foods. It might be a good idea just to get him eating well before you worry too much about what or the variety of what he is eating. My daughter is 3 and is very similar. We have tried forcing her to eat vegetables, and she makes herself vomit!! We have found that by not making an issue of what she is more open to new things. She still doesn't eat great but is open to trying new things, she even ate mushroom soup the other day!! While you are trying to get him eating better give him multivitamins and also ask your doctor about supplements that can be given, like sustigen, that is added to milk to help with weight gain!! Hope this helps someway.

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