Naughty Preschooler who refuses to eat..

Amy - posted on 11/28/2011 ( 22 moms have responded )

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how do other moms manage to cope with a preschooler who just refuses to eat properly and is so hard to sink in information into his head because he can be so ignorant even if you talk to him calmly.. many times we have to keep stressing out about him eating .. otherwise he wont eat at all... seriously.. he is the only one out of my kids being a pain in the butt...

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Vicki - posted on 11/29/2011

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Why does he have to eat? What happens if he doesn't? Personally I would put food in front of him, if he eats it then great, if he doesn't, then so what? Eventually he'll be hungry and eat. I find it annoying when people tell me to eat when I don't want to (mostly my father in law at family dinners, he always offers too much food!), so why would it be different for a kid? Letting have some control over his food intake may stop the struggle and let him feel he has some control.

Kris - posted on 12/12/2011

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I wouldn't be too worried, as long as what is on offer at meal time is healthy. Put out healthy snacks, cut up fruit, raw/steamed vegies, cheese, water between meals. Stay away from packaged, processed, salty food, and sugary drinks. that way you know if and when he does eat its good for him. And keep a jounal of what he eats, how much, and what time, you might be surprised at how much he does eats when you see it put together. Plenty of kids can get by on very little fuel, just make sure it's optimal fuel :)

Ashley - posted on 12/06/2011

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Amy I am glad you managed to find a solution. It is never easy figuring out how to get kids to eat what they need to eat to maintain a healthy body.

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Stop punishing your child over food unless you want to create a lifetime of eating disorders for him. Seriously?! Time out for not eating?! If he doesn't want to eat... put his food away. Eventually he will get hungry and eat.

My friend battles w/ her almost 3 year old over eating and it makes my heart break for that boy. :(

Michelle - posted on 12/11/2011

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When it comes to meal times there are a few things you need to understand. First, children can and will starve themselves. Anyone that says they won't does not realize there is a long list of physical and mental reasons why a child would not eat. I have first hand experience with this as my daughter needed a feeding tube starting at seven months and is now 2 and is finally showing some progress with eating thanks to multiple surgeries, procedures, medications and a load of therapy.

Some children are just picky eaters- that happens because parents limit food options or just keep buying something they ate well once. Someone in this thread mentioned feeding their child nothing but hot dogs and the doctor said that was fine. Hot dogs contain cancer causing nitrates and no amount of multivitamins can counteract that. The first thing you need to do is offer a variety of foods and a variety of textures.

Then, mealtime needs to be limited to 20 minutes. You have to eat your food in the allotted time. Even my daughter is given a time restriction on trying. If food is being thrown then offer one piece at a time. If it still gets thrown than you take it and the meal is done. Praise the action only. GOOD BITE! GOOD SIP! Do not describe the flavor or texture or anything else.

If your child gags, spits their food out, cries, complains of pain, vomits or demonstrates any other unusual behaviors you should see a pediatric gastroenterologist. Skip the pediatrician for these issues.

In fact, skip the pediatrician for all feeding issues and speak with a nutritionist. I find things really move forward when you seek out someone who specializes in a particular area instead of someone that knows a little about many obscure things.

Be sure your own behavior is not influencing your children. Don't talk about how much you hate a particular food. If you don't like seafood that doesn't mean your children wouldn't so please do not discuss your own hangups around your kids. Try things together and let everyone form their own opinion. Get children (even toddlers) involved in food preparation, shopping and even growing. You can have a small garden on an apartment balcony and it would encourage your child to eat healthier!

I am glad to see that things are moving in a positive direction but it seems like a lot of mothers who have replied also need assistance. If your child is losing weight and seems to have a low desire to eat please make an appointment with a gastroenterologist right away, the most important thing is to get adequate nutrition to promote brain development!

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Petra - posted on 12/10/2011

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Be careful with the advice that a child will never starve himself--that's not entirely true. While it is generally true, some children with food aversions related to developmental delays will not eat. Please talk to your pediatrician and be very plain and explain exactly what's going on. (For instance, there could be a bite, tongue, chewing, or swallowing problem). Also, look at books such as "Just Take a Bite" by Lori Ernsperger.

Dolce - posted on 12/10/2011

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A child will never starve themselves put the food on the table & let the family carry on as normal. If he doesn't eat take to food away. Eventually he will tow the line. Punishing him for not eating is no incentive to eat, get him involved with the cooking process to start an interest with food, touching & feeling the food helps the learning process & let's him experiment with food. Offer him to try even putting in his mouth & tasting are great baby steps. Also watch a UK show the house for tiny tearaways they deal with this alot. & reward trying, tasting this is more positive

Jessica - posted on 12/07/2011

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HI All,

I'm having the same problem and I've tried to let my 3 year old son go without any dinner as some of u suggested but he never returned asking for food. All he did was ask for milk.

So what do I do? If I keep allowing this, soon he will stop eating and just enjoy his milk.

I'm worried that if this happens, he will lack nutrition and lose weight.

Please help as at times, he really drives me crazy.

Crissie - posted on 12/06/2011

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don't worry about it. He will eat when he's hungry. I used to have the same problem with my son. He wouldn't eat and sometimes would go a day or 2 without eating hardly a thing. but then he would have sperts where he would eat. so if he didnt eat supper because he didn't think he would like it or because he would rather go play I started telling him if he didn't eat then at that meal, say breakfast, then we werent' going to eat again until lunch. etc.

Amy - posted on 12/06/2011

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thank you Ashley.. he has become more cooperative and more interested in food and is eating well now with out me having to stress it to him that much.... big improvement for him now hopefully he puts more weight on and continues this.. :)

Amy - posted on 12/06/2011

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thnx 4 the replies.. i would agree with you saying to let him not eat if he doesnt want to and wait til hes hungry but in my sons case he will not eat at all.. even if he is hungry he doesnt want to eat.. just chooses not to touch any types of food... doesnt even want to touch junk foods..
in any case if i tell him he will have timeout he may eat a little.. i am reinforcing eating with him as he cant just eat nothing... its not healthy at all... i did my research on the internet and found a supplement which has vitamins and vegetables included in it which is said to increase a childs appetite and you can buy it even at supermarkets.. its called natures way vitamin and vege gummies designed for kids.. cost me like 20 dollars but is worth it.. since i started him on two of those and a multivitamin with fish oil he seems to eat whatever is put in front of him and he eats quickly.. and now he asks me for food or drink.. which is a big improvement.

Rebecca - posted on 12/01/2011

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I have two boys, a 6 year old and 15 months....they are BOTH the pickiest eaters in the world. They are addicted to hot dogs and pizza....it's like the only things they like. I talked with my doctor about whether or not eating hot dogs everyday was a bad thing and she said no...if that's what they like then give it to them. Some kids just don't open up to the different varity of foods until they get older. I also make sure they both take vitamins everyday. I also try to give them pediasure as often as i can and you can find coupons online. I know it's frustrating but your not alone. I agree with the other posts that you shouldn't stress over it so much. I understand your frustration and have been there myself when my oldest turned 18 months and we switched from bottle to sippy cup...he refused to drink milk or eat anything white (bread, mashed potatoes) for a YEAR! I had to supplement with calcium vitamins and used milk in everything i could when i cooked. =)

Jenni - posted on 12/01/2011

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I'd say it's pretty normal for many preschoolers to be picky. As well as normally unpicky preschoolers to go through picky phases.



My son has always been relatively picky. When I make meals I try to provide at least one healthy food I know he'll eat. He loves carrots. So I heap those on his plate. If nothing else... he'll eat those. Then I put smaller portions of foods he's iffy on. If he refuses to eat anything at dinner. I put it away. If he says he's hungry again later. I give him the leftovers. Usually the second time around he eats them.



For snacks I allow him a choice between two foods. Sometimes I allow him to pick certain parts of his lunch. This allows him to feel some control over what he puts in his mouth.



I encourage him to try new foods or foods he previously refused but don't stress over it. I cheer him on when he does try a new food or one he usually refuses. With him it's usually meat.



My son has come a long way since he was 1-2 years old. Now he pretty much will eat anything. He's still a little fussy on meat but he's actually been eating it lately when he use to refuse it all together. And he still doesn't like pasta! But he learned to love tomatoes and he use to hate them, ever since he got to pick them and eat them from our garden this summer.



Think of it this way... when we first start feeding our babes. We start with the basics and introduce foods slowly. It is still a slow process of adjusting to new foods all the way to adulthood for some people. There are many things I even refused to eat as a teenager that I eat now as an adult. It takes a long time to increase and adjust our palettes. But making this learning process a negative one will only be detrimental. Take it slow with him and don't stress. Some people are pickier than others but by stressing over it, punishing him, forcing him... you may inadvertently making it much, much worse.

Jana - posted on 12/01/2011

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I am also in the frustrated stage, my little girl just doens want to eat anything except yoghurt, she is losing weight and keeps my up at night screaming. she looks healthy bu i know and can see she is getting skinnier, and she just has that F you attitude when it come time to eat. I am also running out of ideas and patients.

Kathleen - posted on 11/30/2011

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sounds normal to me. I know sounds frustrating. Remember they probably are not ignorant, at a preschoolers age they have no comprehension of what is a healthy or proper food. Don't stress over him not eating, they all go through this annoying phase of eating, not eating, being extremely picky. My son did not like to much a couple of times to eat, let alone eat well. When he went in for his well child appointment I asked. She said his weight is fine wouldn't worry about it. So I stopped. I offered the food, if he didn't eat it, fine, it was put up. If he got hungry i returned his bowl/plate to him. He now eats his food, not usually all of it unless it is mac and cheese lol. Just keep offering, or if you know of a food he likes to eat such as spaghetti or mac and cheese sneak other stuff in. I used to put squash into both the spaghetti sauce and into mac and cheese. A book called Deceptively Delicious was a great tool. Though never really had to sneak the good stuff in for my son, but I do have to for my hubby lol.

Corinne - posted on 11/30/2011

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Please consider reading the book 'My Child Won't Eat' by Carlos Gonzales. It can be quite expensive to buy so another option is to ask at your local library & they should be able to get it in. I'm sure it will *really* help.
Also check out www.ahaparenting.com & search using key words, or in the pre-schooler section - I find this website so helpful - always gives me a better understanding of the issues & a different, more-connected way to move forward with any problems I have.

Carys - posted on 11/30/2011

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I stressed like mad when my son refused to eat the food I made freshly for him, especially when he'd happily eat rubbish. I stopped trying to force him, only offered him good quality and healthy food and almost never bribed him! He's now almost 4, and eats everything except green things. Let it go, as long as he's growing, gaining weight and looking healthy.

September - posted on 11/29/2011

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Personally I would never punish my child for not eating. He's not going to starve himself. Maybe he's feeling the pressure from you and that's why he's not eating. How is not eating wrong? I think it's more of a phase that most toddlers go through and to be honest reading your OP made me quite sad. Our son is 3 and sometimes he eats well and sometimes not. It's not something I push on him day in and day out. Plus there are days he hardly eats at all and days that he can't seem to get enough so it really balances itself out. I think you should lay off a bit and see what happens, don't be so forceful.

Ashley - posted on 11/29/2011

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@vicki, my grandfather is a food pusher. He cannot stand it if there is food left over on your plate and will call you "too skinny" if you can't eat another bite... Very old school Ukranian/ survivor of the Great Depression. There are times when I ate till I was sick b/c I didn't want grandpa to be disapointed with me.

Ashley - posted on 11/29/2011

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We have a rule in our house about supper, my son has 2 hrs to eat... meaning if he eats at supper great, if he doesn't then gets hungry before bedtime he gets his supper some more. He has never not eaten supper wven if it is 30mins or so after the actual supper time. If he goes to bed without eating that is his choice, but it has NEVER gotten that far before b/c he couldn't survive without some sort of food. We do not offer him other choices other than what we cook for dinner and while he hates rice I do encourage him to eat little bits of it b/c it is always polite to eat some of everything.
Kids shouldn't be given time outs if they are not hungry when you are. Just take it away and offer it when he complains that he is hungry.

Amy - posted on 11/29/2011

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i tell him he needs to eat.. i dont try and make him feel bad or anything... but i do mention him to him if you do not eat properly then u will have to sit in the naughty corner and most times he snaps out of it.. although i do reassure him that what hes doing is wrong and he needs to behave.... tonight i fed him and he did it again and was testing to see if i meant what i said bout time out so i put him in time out and then for the remainder of the meal he ate properly and quickly.

[deleted account]

When he doesn't eat as you want him to, do you tell him he's naughty, ignorant, and a pain in the butt?

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