Meals vs. 2 1/2 year old.

Stephanie - posted on 09/11/2009 ( 11 moms have responded )

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My daughter will be 3 in november. For quite some time one of our major battles is over meal time. She doesn't want to eat! Sometimes she will finish her plate, and when she does we always praise and reward, however, more often than not she will fuss and shout and refuse the meal in front of her. She is not a picky eater, just terribly stubborn. (like her mom) I refuse to make separate meals for her (as i already have to cater to a nine month old) Anyway, she is aware of the difference of snacks and meals, I do not go over board on snacks, the schedule (and i'm very schedule orriented) is : Breakfast-7am snack-9am lunch-11:30am nap-1-3 snack 3pm supper 5pm (sometimes 5:30 depending on daddies arrival) So... what am I doing wrong? any suggestions?

Sometimes she will eat if I spoon feed her, but I'm scared to do it too much. I don't want to start bad habits.



p.s. a snack is normally a yogurt sized cup of blueberries, or fish crackers, or cheese etc.

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My baby girls have all been through this stage. The first baby, I fretted over, at my wits end. Then, when the twins came along, I had no time norf energy to fret or argue with any of them. I found that, by all of us sitting down to a meal together and making normal conversation without mentioning the food in front of them eased the whole situation. I ate slowly to give them all plenty of time to have, what I felt, long enough for a meal. Then I took their plates away. I did'nt really think about it at the time. I never praised them so much when they finished their food either. My first seemed to crave it more and more and expected it as she got older then the cycle started again until I gave in. So I stopped praising. I did sometimes say, "who ever has finished their meal can have pudding", suprisingly, their plates became clean quickly when they saw the double chocolate gatueax. I stopped trying to work around my children and fussing over what to cook, in the end they had what I cooked or quite simply went without. I must admit, the first time it happened I felt guilty, but I knew, if I gave in to them it would start all over again. Within two days, they were all enjoying their meals and pudding has become a special treat at the end of the week with well deserved 'specials' at the weekend. I now have 5 children all together and they all have happy good apetite's. So, being strong was the key. Don't treat meal times like a battle field. Pretend you don't notice your child being stubbourn. Put the plate in front of your child, sit down and eat. When you feel meal time should be over, take the plate away. Say good girl regardless of her behaviour,(this really does throw them a bit), then tell her she may go and do what ever activity she wants to do. If you are worried she is hungry, DO NOT GIVE TREATS! Cut up a carrot for her and allow her to snack on healthy carrot sticks. It won't fill her up for long but long enough until the next meal, where she will be too hungry and eat without fuss. Patience and strong will, not stubbourness, will pay off. Just remember not to ask her to eat up or hurry up and finish. You take away the plate after YOU feel it has been long enough and ignore any outburst that may follow. You can do it, Your mum. x

p.s. you are doing nothing wrong...she's testing you to see how far she can cross the line. And I also found that my eldest enjoyed the attention of me constantly asking her to hurry up and finish. Not sure why. She still does it now over other things and she's 11, still, I got her eating meals. One step at a time I guess. :)

Toni - posted on 09/11/2009

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I don't believe you are doing anything wrong. My son (3 yrs this past june) goes through the same spurts and has ever since he started walking. They are just too busy to eat sometimes and they get mad at you for making them stop. My advice is don't stress...they won't starve themselves. When my son does this, he'll do it for a week or two at a time and then for a couple of weeks, he'll eat me out of house and home. Don't stress!! :)

Sandra - posted on 09/11/2009

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I would not worry to much, I have a 3.5 year old, who is just as stubborn. She will eat when she gets hungry. Also, it sounds like she is a bit jealous of her younger sibling. I have a 16.5 year old son, a 3.5 year old daughter, and a 1 year old daughter. The 3.5 year old went through something similar regarding being spoon fed. I did it a couple of times and then realized that it was pretty much just to get my attention so that I was soley focused on her. Once I realzed that, and told her that she was so lucky to be able to eat like a big girl, because babies can not have cookies, and M&M's like you. It took her a couple of days, but she came arround. She still a stubborn eater, but she eats when she is hungry. I hope this helps.

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Alexandria - posted on 09/11/2009

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Well I am a mother of three so I've been there. At first I thought it was me. Something I was doing with snack time and what not. But as I have learned they go through growing spirts. Some times they'll eat everything on their plate and more then other times they'll eat a bite. As long as your daughter is growing and healthy your doing great.

User - posted on 09/11/2009

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Toddlers of this age usually eat when they are hungry. I would not worry about it unless you notice significant weight loss or anything that is affecting her health, then I would be concerned, but from my experience and what I have learned over the years is that a child will eat what they need and as toddlers they really do not need to eat as much as what we think they should. She will be okay and so will you. Trust your child to let you know when she is hungry. This does not last very long and in time she will be back to her normal schedule. Hope this helps.

Jill - posted on 09/11/2009

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Just stick it out. I have a 3.5 year old and she is very stubborn. She goes through phases where she does not want to eat what is in front of her either. I refuse to make other meals because then she will expevt that. You can't give in now. You have set a rule and soon enough she will learn that she needs to respect it. If you give in a inch she will take a mile and it is very hard to get that back. Just stick to your guns and know that she will eat anything that is in front of her if she gets hungry enough. I few nights without dinner won't hurt her and will make your life easier in the long run!

Stephanie - posted on 09/11/2009

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Thanks ladies :)

It's all helpful, it's more helpful knowing that i'm not the only one out there going through this!! Tonight was chili (mild of course) my nine month old ate it, but the other refused, insisting she hated beans (that's weird, because she loves them every other day lol) I don't worry about it too much, i think i was jsut stressed at the time, lol.

I do normally offer pudding as the reward too! I don't have candy or stuff in the house because, well hey, i'm the one thats gonna eat it before they do! But I do follow the rule, if you don't eat this, you don't eat till breakfast. (or lunch etc) It's probably nothing, but thatnks for the encouragment :D Haha, now that they are in bed, i'm right as rain. I think she was just having a weird day because she was cranky since morning... oh dear i'm yabbing away.

thanks again.

Laura - posted on 09/11/2009

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My daughters are teenagers now, but I went through some of this, too. I agree with all the people who said that she will not starve herself, so I would not worry about it too much. As my daughters grew, if they did not want to eat what I made, they were allowed to go make something for themselves. My one daughter would make herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich more times then not :)

[deleted account]

Like the others said, it's not you, it's the age. I also had this with mine. Make sure she isn't filling up on juice or milk between meals. It's ok if they are hungry for lunch, you might consider cutting out her snack and giving her a little more breakfast. My daughter threw fits about that age until we realized that she wanted to sit at the table like us, not in a high chair, pulled up to the table. So we got her a booster seat in a chair "like ours". It helped. Just be consistent and you'll make it through! Good luck.

Carrie - posted on 09/11/2009

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Toddlers will not starve themselves, but they definately go through periods of wanting more food then other times.

I have a 5 year old and a 4 year old and Dinner is still the 'iffy-est" meal of the day. I try to get them to eat at least 1 bite of what I put in front of them, usually I find that even if I make them something different they still won't each much of it, so its rarely worth the extra effort. But if they do at least try the food and don't like it, I might offer them an alternative. Sometimes they just aren't in the mood for mash potatoes, but a PB & J sandwich hits the spot. (I know I feel that way sometimes :)

If I'm serving something I just know they won't eat, I will serve them alternate, example, my youngest just won't eat spagetti unless it comes out of a can, so she get a can when the rest of us have homemade spagetti.

If she just refuses to eat, then the plate will stay at the table til she goes to bed. I don't want to "force" her to eat if she's truly not hungry, but she does not get anything else to eat unless she eats the dinner food.

Nicole - posted on 09/11/2009

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It sounds like you are just like alot of mothers! You have a terrible 2's issue. I have more then just eatting lol! But you're on the same schedule as me so thats good and I just think like the other response, she may be a little jealous of the baby or maybe she is just pushing buttons to see what she can or can't get away with. I would try and dress up the food a little, give her"dip" choices and let her sprinkle her own cheese on top, or crackers, or whatever you are having. Making it more fun might help her want to eat it. Let us know how it goes!! :)

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