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quick help re refusing dinner

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
At what age does refusing what was made for dinner equal skipping dinner? When are they old enough to understand that? Thanks!

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post #2 of 13

I've come to agree with myself that I will always be OK with a few things as substitution for dinner.  Cottage cheese, can of olives, any kind of fruit.  That sort of thing.  No, I won't make a sandwich, no you can't have cereal.  But I'm not going to begrudge an apple.  (Or at least, I tell myself that I won't.  It's hard when you've put work into a meal, and they won't even LICK it.  I know.)

 

I'd pick out a few things that you're ok with and have them available (behind the scenes, I don't put it on the table first thing... they can ask for it.)  And then be ok with them having that for dinner for a week.

 

Mine are nearing 3, if that helps.

post #3 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by neonalee View Post

At what age does refusing what was made for dinner equal skipping dinner? When are they old enough to understand that? Thanks!
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This is hard. Mostly because it is maddening to spend time on a healthy dinner and they don't even LOOK at it. orngtongue.gif. Toddlers!!! smile.gif

I think that it would only take a few dinners for a toddler to figure out that if he wants to eat tonight, he better eat what is before him. But you HAVE to stick to your guns!!! He will try every trick in the book to soften your little mama heart and give him just a little banana. Or half a cup of yogurt. Or whatever his baby brain bad picked out for dinner long before yours did!

If you give in, your done. He's got ya. Good luck smile.gif
post #4 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by neonalee View Post

At what age does refusing what was made for dinner equal skipping dinner? When are they old enough to understand that? Thanks!
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I agree with having at least some choice. I think it is cruel to say "This is what we're having for dinner and if you don't like it, starve."

My boy (27 months) is also a typical toddler and often refuses all the choices. There are occasionally little fits and more often just whining, but he always does eat something. And I agree: stick to your limits. So if you offer a main meal and he doesn't want it, then like a PP suggested have your go-to substitute choices. We also rely on cottage cheese, toast with hummus, tofu burger, or fruit. I also am a huge fan of muffin tin meals (http://www.michellesjournalcorner.blogspot.de/) where you set out either a muffin tin, or just use little bowls (although kids love fun muffin tins) and have a little buffet. I more often do this for lunch, as of course the preference is for DS to eat what we're eating for dinner. But if in your home lunch is easy and dinner is more of a struggle, maybe give up (for the time being) on him always having what you have for dinner and do muffin tin meals. I have noticed that what they say holds true: my toddler does indeed prefer food to be all separated. You can also get kid plates with separate sections and if you separate things out he may be more likely to eat, as well as feel like he has more variety and choice. For example, I made a noodle veggie casserole yesterday but did hold aside some of the veg and plain noodles before I mixed it all together and served that to my boy. He far preferred that over the casserole where it was all mixed together.

 

Good luck! eat.gif

post #5 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by P.J. View Post

 

I agree with having at least some choice. I think it is cruel to say "This is what we're having for dinner and if you don't like it, starve."

My boy (27 months) is also a typical toddler and often refuses all the choices. There are occasionally little fits and more often just whining, but he always does eat something. And I agree: stick to your limits. So if you offer a main meal and he doesn't want it, then like a PP suggested have your go-to substitute choices. We also rely on cottage cheese, toast with hummus, tofu burger, or fruit. I also am a huge fan of muffin tin meals (http://www.michellesjournalcorner.blogspot.de/) where you set out either a muffin tin, or just use little bowls (although kids love fun muffin tins) and have a little buffet. I more often do this for lunch, as of course the preference is for DS to eat what we're eating for dinner. But if in your home lunch is easy and dinner is more of a struggle, maybe give up (for the time being) on him always having what you have for dinner and do muffin tin meals. I have noticed that what they say holds true: my toddler does indeed prefer food to be all separated. You can also get kid plates with separate sections and if you separate things out he may be more likely to eat, as well as feel like he has more variety and choice. For example, I made a noodle veggie casserole yesterday but did hold aside some of the veg and plain noodles before I mixed it all together and served that to my boy. He far preferred that over the casserole where it was all mixed together.

 

Good luck! eat.gif

 

I completely agree with this part. 

 

Also, I still don't think my 2.5 year old can quite grasp the cause and effect relationship between her eating a lousy supper and being really really hungry in the middle of the night.  That's just too much time for her to make a direct connection.  And that is the connection I think she should be able to make before I say "no supper = go to bed hungry."  Even then, I'd probably give her some boring, easy alternative.

 

I don't really see the point in letting her eat absolutely nothing.  When she was younger, I used to give her some Greek yogurt for "dessert" almost every evening.  I'd have it sitting there on the table, but not put it with her meal.  Some days she'd explore her meal first, then ask for it; some days she's ask for it right away; some days she never thought about it.  But I felt better knowing she'd eaten. 

 

I haven't had to do that for a while because she eats supper more reliably now.  But tonight, for instance, she did have a hard time with the meal I offered her.  She didn't ask for anything different, but I could tell she was only going to "eat" a shot glass of V8 for supper, so I brought her something else as though it had been my idea all along.  I feel like it's unfair to expect her to eat something she doesn't like.  I mean...I wouldn't eat something I really didn't like, either - but nor would I go hungry. 

post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
These are all really helpful thank you! So here is my dilemma. I know he will eat a pb&j anytime I give it. Or yogurt. Are those my go-to? Will he then learn that he can refuse nightly in order to get them?

Also, any idea when he will start to understand? Because his step-sister is 13 & doesn't really get much choice. That said we don't really make anything she can't stand. Sometimes we can't even get DS to try things & she can't understand why he doesn't HAVE to eat what we do, regardless of how many times it's discussed. She's 13 & not rational.

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post #7 of 13

Here at our house, dinner is followed up by a half peanut butter sandwich, an apple, peach/orange and maybe a half a banana right before bed time.  We eat earlyish (5:00ish to 5:30) and the kids get hungry for other things in the hours that follow.  

 

That said, both kids have to eat dinner and skipping it is just not an option.  It has never been an option.  Sometimes they do not want to eat what is served but they know they still have to "try" meaning a significant amount of it needs to be eaten.  So, even when reluctant, they generally end up finishing what is on their plate (I do not give them heaps of food, so not too hard to do).  That said, I do keep their preferences in mind when I prepare dinner and introduce new things in smaller portion to reduce the freak out.  One kid never likes to eat vegetables but he enjoys fruits so I am not worried about it.  The other one could live off fruits all day.  We have no junk or snack food in our house much of the time.  So for snacks, their choices are fruit, milk, or bread (plain/with cheese/ peanut butter) and pop corn once in a while.  I don't feel so worried about their evening parade of additional foods.  

post #8 of 13

For me, it's important to know ahead of time what I'm willing to give. My husband will sometimes be suckered into playing the game where our 24 month old son calls out things he would like instead (cheerios, mango, yogurt, etc.) and he will then refuse them all after they're on his plate. The waste annoys me, so I decide ahead of time- I put what we're having on his tray and think, "if he won't touch it, he can have cheese or a cracker with hummus," which I know he likes. If he won't eat those, then he's really not hungry. I have put him to bed like that before and weirdly, he seems unbothered! He didn't wake up and wasn't starving in the morning. If they really reject it all, they're just playing and not hungry, you know? But as soon as I feel like he understands the connection between eating and not being hungry, we're going to have an eat/no eat option like I did as a kid.   

 

In your situation, neonalee, I would maybe provide a small cup of yogurt, like 2 oz along with what you're serving. Then he won't fill up from it, but it also won't be like a reward for not eating the other stuff, it will be part of the meal. Save the pb & j for when you really need a go-to! I also have been surprised from time to time when he'll finally taste something on his plate after I put it there 10x so don't give up!

post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by neonalee View Post

These are all really helpful thank you! So here is my dilemma. I know he will eat a pb&j anytime I give it. Or yogurt. Are those my go-to? Will he then learn that he can refuse nightly in order to get them?
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A million times, yes!!
post #10 of 13

I actually DON'T think that's the way it will happen.  I think that by avoiding the food battle now, he'll be MORE willing to try the foods of his own volition.  And, like I mentioned before, make it a part of his meal so YOU'RE the one in control.  Then he's actually choosing to eat a part of the meal you gave him rather than refusing your meal so you have to give him something else.  I would choose the healthiest thing that he will reliably eat.  And then you get secret pleasure out of him eating something super healthy every evening! 

 

Also, do you have a similar issue at other meals?  My daughter has been doing better lately with a smaller, lunch-type supper, and dinner-type foods at lunch time.  She's less willing to try new things when she's tired. 
 

post #11 of 13

I find when I "prime the pump" with some food she wants to eat that she starts picking at her real dinner.

post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 
As to other meals, breakfast is always the same - a full grain oatmeal. On weekends if he still wants more food he gets cheerios with yogurt until satisfied. Sometimes he gets that during the weekday mornings, and sometimes he'll also get fruit. Lunch during the week is at daycare and that's a whole other topic, but on weekends it's usually a pb&j, a grilled cheese, or whatever I"m having (usually scrambled egg). So ... I guess the entire problem is avoided at other meals.

I do very much want to avoid food struggles. I don't know that I REALLY think I would end up teaching him he can have whatever he wants. I like the idea of making something reliable part of his dinner to get him started. We often start off with a veggie pouch while setting the table since it's an easy and reliable way to get veggies into him.

Last night he started by eating the rice, then he ate the salmon. He flat out refused to even try the soft broccoli (which was actually really sweet) until I accidentally hit on the idea of NOT letting him have it (I was trying to keep him from throwing it on the floor). After some very careful actions he put the piece he "managed to grab from me" lol in his mouth triumphantly. ROTFLMAO.gif The got an actual taste, made the funniest taste and let it fall out of his mouth. I didn't mind since at least he had tried it!

Well, I think I will brainstorm a few things he will reliably eat (besides the pouches) to include with his dinner and rotate them nightly. Thanks for all the help ladies!
post #13 of 13

Sometimes my toddler - almost 3 - just doesn't want to eat. Or goes through phases (eats all the broccoli in sight, then won't touch it for weeks). I don't push it. If he's hungry, he eats. Now, later he will ask for a yogurt or peanut butter toast, and I will allow him that. He also is a grazer, and might have consumed a ton of grapes or a banana right before dinner. That's ok too. I will not cook an entirely separate meal for him. But if it's something easy, and healthy, then I might once our dinner is over.

 

We have had times too where he didn't eat dinner at all - and that's ok too. I don't fight it. He tends to eat well 2 meals out of 3, just which 2 meals varies. He's healthy and growing and I am a lazy mom that picks her battles. (LOL)

 

Now my daughter - who is 11 months - will literally eat everything and anything you put in front of her. No worries there.

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