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Second problem: My daughter will not eat

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 

For the last couple of months, I cannot get her to eat. It's clear that she is just too busy. She will not/cannot stop what she is doing to put food into her mouth. She refuses.

 

Yes, if she starves herself all day she will gobble up her dinner about 90% of the time. The other 10% she will refuse the dinner, go to bed hungry and wake up several times in the night screaming that she is hungry, waking the baby up who then screams, and then none of us can get back to sleep.

 

The absolute worst part is that when she is hungry she becomes a monster and as an AP, gentle disciplining mom who loves her daughter more than anything in the world, I do not use that word lightly. Absolute. Monster. Screaming horrible things at people, crying all day long, yelling, kicking, throwing, destroying everything. Since last week, I have taken to forcing her to eat which is horrible and I'm ashamed, but I don't know what else to do. She's driving everyone insane and I can't deal with her anymore. I'm sure you've seen your kids when they've missed a meal on accident. Imagine they are like that every second of the day. She complains every ten minutes or so about how hungry she is but when I make her something or tell her to go get something (we have an open pantry policy on food), she always says "no, I'm busy dancing/playing with Legos/building a castle/etc."

 

Here are the things I have tried and their results:

 

1. Give her her favorite foods. She doesn't seem to care if it's her favorite thing ever or if it's disgusting to her, she's not touching it.

 

2. Leave food out, she'll eat when she's hungry. Nope, she just ignores it the entire day.

 

3. Leave several things out in the fridge for her to choose from. Nope. Sometimes she will actually go to the fridge and stare at the things for five full minutes, then close the fridge and go back to playing. She won't eat it, even though she realizes she is hungry.

 

4. Experiment by giving her junky sweets to see if it's some kind of eating disorder. Yes! She will happily stuff her face all day long with ice cream and cookies without stopping. I'm still not going to give her junk all day. I've since stopped buying sweets.

 

5. Bribe her with dessert. Yes, this works, but if I were planning on using food as a bribe, I wouldn't be here. :) I want to get away from this, even though it's working sometimes for now. About 50% of the time.

 

6. "You can't get up until you eat." This also works about 50% of the time. The other 50% of the time, it ends in tears and screaming that she's tired and wants a nap (which you would say "aha! The problem!" to, but it's not true. It's just a ruse. She's absolutely not tired, she's just trying to get away). Clearly, I am also trying to never do this again as well. I don't want her having more serious food issues than she already has.

 

7. Bring your toy/game/art to the table and eat while you do it. Doesn't work. For one thing, my Southern family would FREAK OUT on me if they found out I let her play with her toys and things at the table (not that I really need to care what they think) and for another, it doesn't make her eat. She just sits at the table doing her activity and completely ignoring the food.

 

8. Make the food interesting. While this does work, I have neither the time, the money or the mental capacity to come up with a new and interesting decorated snack on any day other than a special occasion, let alone 5 times a day. I have a clingy 9-month-old who won't go down or in the carrier, anyway.

 

Any advice for a mama losing her mind?

post #2 of 31
I would cut out all drinks except water between meals if you haven't already. Juice, milk, and soda have calories that can fill a kid up. At meal times I suggest waiting until ten to fifteen minutes have passed before offering a drink of any kind. I noticed my dd was a lot less picky when I spaced meals out three hours from snack time and when she had to stay at the table and have table conversation because mealtime didn't end when the corn was gone. She also ate more when dessert didn't happen until I was done and leaving the table meant you are too full for dessert.
post #3 of 31
I second one girl

That being said, does she have any health issues? Seems like food is causing her a lot of stress
post #4 of 31

Can you get her more interested in food by letting her help prepare it?  My daughter will always eat a soup when she helps to chop the vegetables.  Other kid friendly cooking ideas:  baking bread, mixing oatmeal, making granola, putting together smoothies in the blender, putting toppings on pizza, etc. 

post #5 of 31

It sounds like you have thought a lot about this and have tried just about everything you can think of. It also seems quite obvious to me that you are a very caring, concerned Mama, intelligent and intuitive, and there isn't much I can offer that you haven't already thought of. From what you have described about your little girl, she sounds like she might possibly have some sensory processing issues, in that she has low tolerance for overstimulation (like when she is in groups of children) and low tolerance for understimulation, she gets kind of desperate when understimulated - her range of comfort is very narrow. Does this sound right?

 

Anyway, I know that putting a label on it isn't always the best thing, except that there might be some environmental modifications you could make that might extend the range of her ability to feel comfortable. Food issues are common with sensory issues. It might be worth doing a google search or asking on the special needs forum. My DD doesn't have sensory processing disorder or anything you can really label, but she still benefits from some of the interventions used for SPD. I think most kids can benefit from that sort of stuff. DD likes the large yoga ball I got for Christmas; she'll bounce on it while focusing on some other task for longer periods, and after a good swing on the swings she's calmer and less intense for a while.

 

I like your idea for getting some rest by having her use headphones with a movie. When she is sitting still, is she more likely to eat? Although eating in front of the TV is not considered a good idea in general, as it tends to lead to mindless eating, mindless eating might be just what she needs. My DD will eat if she is calm and sitting, and watching a movie. Getting her to stop what she is doing to eat is otherwise more difficult, or at least it was when she was younger (she'll come and eat with me at the table now, albeit very slowly, and with a lot of getting up). Maybe when you settle down for the nap, you could also provide her with some healthy snacks and see if she's more interested at that time, since everything is calmer.

 

A PP mentioned limiting drinks to mealtimes only, and I thought that was an interesting idea. But then I thought if she does like to drink frequently, maybe that could be a source of healthy calories. My DD wouldn't touch a smoothie but maybe yours will? Even just blending yogurt with milk to make it drinkable might work for her if she likes to drink more than eat.

post #6 of 31
I'm with BellinghamCrunchie - we have the same problem in our house, but if we let her watch a show as long as she's eating, it makes things much easier. I also don't get too picky about wat she eats, as long as she eats something. (Not that we allow junk food, but if dinner is an apple and cheese rather than chicken and potatoes, I don't lose too much sleep over it.) We also insist that our DD sit at the table with the family during meal time even if she's not eating. And most of the time she gets bored and eats something ha ha!

good luck, mama, that food thing makes me crazy because I'm a control freak. it's hard for me not to be able to *make* someone do something. smile.gif
post #7 of 31
Do you sit down with her for meals? I know you said in another post that she craves constant attention, so maybe extra attention will entice her.

Also, having blood sugar issues myself, I know it can be really really hard to eat if you are too hungry. When I haven't eaten in a while, I can only tolerate sugar/carbs, although after I've gotten my blood sugar back up I can eat a normal meal. So maybe offering a small sweet/dessert before the meal could help get her sugar up enough to eat. It sounds like you are kind of stuck in a cycle of her not eating, so she's cranky and less likely to eat, so she's not eating, and the cycle just keeps on going.

Ellyn Satter, who I don't really follow exactly but am very intrigued by, suggests having set meal times & snacks with no food/drinks in between (except water). http://www.ellynsatter.com/to-years-feeding-your-preschooler-i-32.html You might want to poke around that site, it sounds like her approach is a little different than some of what you've mentioned trying so far.
post #8 of 31
Thread Starter 

Thanks, everyone! Let's see if I can answer all of your questions:

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by One_Girl View Post

I would cut out all drinks except water between meals if you haven't already. Juice, milk, and soda have calories that can fill a kid up. At meal times I suggest waiting until ten to fifteen minutes have passed before offering a drink of any kind. I noticed my dd was a lot less picky when I spaced meals out three hours from snack time and when she had to stay at the table and have table conversation because mealtime didn't end when the corn was gone. She also ate more when dessert didn't happen until I was done and leaving the table meant you are too full for dessert.

 

She doesn't get anything to drink except water or milk, but she does like milk more. I'll see if I can get her to drink only water instead. She drinks very, very little as it is. Maybe two cups of fluid at most per day. Some days one cup. She's the same about drinking as she is with food. She just doesn't have time. She's busy! Dessert is sometimes an issue. She wants it, but she often can't sit through the meal and will give up after a few minutes. She wants to get back to her activity or I just can't get her to the table at all. I'll think about more deserts, maybe.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chel View Post

I second one girl
That being said, does she have any health issues? Seems like food is causing her a lot of stress

 

Nope! Doctor says she's doing great and she seems super healthy.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dovey View Post

Can you get her more interested in food by letting her help prepare it?  My daughter will always eat a soup when she helps to chop the vegetables.  Other kid friendly cooking ideas:  baking bread, mixing oatmeal, making granola, putting together smoothies in the blender, putting toppings on pizza, etc. 

 She usually does help prepare whatever we are eating. Not always. I'm going to try having her help me GROW the food and see if that has any different effect.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BellinghamCrunchie View Post

From what you have described about your little girl, she sounds like she might possibly have some sensory processing issues, in that she has low tolerance for overstimulation (like when she is in groups of children) and low tolerance for understimulation, she gets kind of desperate when understimulated - her range of comfort is very narrow. Does this sound right?

 

Anyway, I know that putting a label on it isn't always the best thing, except that there might be some environmental modifications you could make that might extend the range of her ability to feel comfortable. Food issues are common with sensory issues. It might be worth doing a google search or asking on the special needs forum. My DD doesn't have sensory processing disorder or anything you can really label, but she still benefits from some of the interventions used for SPD. I think most kids can benefit from that sort of stuff. DD likes the large yoga ball I got for Christmas; she'll bounce on it while focusing on some other task for longer periods, and after a good swing on the swings she's calmer and less intense for a while.

 

I like your idea for getting some rest by having her use headphones with a movie. When she is sitting still, is she more likely to eat? Although eating in front of the TV is not considered a good idea in general, as it tends to lead to mindless eating, mindless eating might be just what she needs. My DD will eat if she is calm and sitting, and watching a movie. Getting her to stop what she is doing to eat is otherwise more difficult, or at least it was when she was younger (she'll come and eat with me at the table now, albeit very slowly, and with a lot of getting up). Maybe when you settle down for the nap, you could also provide her with some healthy snacks and see if she's more interested at that time, since everything is calmer.

 

A PP mentioned limiting drinks to mealtimes only, and I thought that was an interesting idea. But then I thought if she does like to drink frequently, maybe that could be a source of healthy calories. My DD wouldn't touch a smoothie but maybe yours will? Even just blending yogurt with milk to make it drinkable might work for her if she likes to drink more than eat.

 Understimulated, maybe, but no, she has never been overstimulated before. No sensory processing issues. She's just too busy. That's even the excuse she gives me. "Honey, time to come and eat!" "No, Mama, I'm BUSY! I'll come later!" I'll read up about the interventions used, though. They might help her.

 

Actually, YES! She IS more likely to eat when sitting at the computer! I forgot she loves to snack there. I stopped letting her, though, because she makes a huge mess on the floor and in the keyboard. The computer is back in the bedroom and I *really* don't want roaches, but maybe I need to rethink this and give her something to eat in front of the computer. Maybe something less messy like sliced veggies or something. What a great idea!

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by crunchy_mommy View Post

Do you sit down with her for meals? I know you said in another post that she craves constant attention, so maybe extra attention will entice her.
Also, having blood sugar issues myself, I know it can be really really hard to eat if you are too hungry. When I haven't eaten in a while, I can only tolerate sugar/carbs, although after I've gotten my blood sugar back up I can eat a normal meal. So maybe offering a small sweet/dessert before the meal could help get her sugar up enough to eat. It sounds like you are kind of stuck in a cycle of her not eating, so she's cranky and less likely to eat, so she's not eating, and the cycle just keeps on going.
Ellyn Satter, who I don't really follow exactly but am very intrigued by, suggests having set meal times & snacks with no food/drinks in between (except water). http://www.ellynsatter.com/to-years-feeding-your-preschooler-i-32.html You might want to poke around that site, it sounds like her approach is a little different than some of what you've mentioned trying so far.

Yes, we always eat together. That cycle sounds just about right. What kind of sweet would be okay, do you think? Raisins? Or does it need to be something a bit stronger. Like maybe chocolate-covered raisins.

post #9 of 31
Have you tried a water bottle for drinking? I used to leave them in each room so my dd would drink water throughout the day. It may also help to track what she eats,how much she eats, and times she eats. It may show you the doctor is right or it may help the doctor see that you have a valid concern that needs to be looked into. Not drinking or eating would worry me a lot, one or the other isn't a big deal because calories are being consumed but both together seems like something to chart and evaluate.
post #10 of 31
Thread Starter 

She has always been that way about the drinking. She won't drink more from a bottle than from a cup, but I do leave the drink out for her all day long on the table. We have an open floor plan, so she's never in another room. The living room, dining room and kitchen are all the same room. Doc says as long as she's not constipated and her skin looks good (it does), I shouldn't worry about it. She's very healthy. She does drink a lot more when we are out of the house and it's hot.

post #11 of 31

What about a toy at the table?

 

Oh man, I'm on day 2 of a food strike, and it is not fun.  Yes, she is hungry.  So much for the "They'll eat when they're hungry." line.  And mine is miserable when she's hungry.  Bedtime last night was like some kind of video they'd show in high schools to keep kids from getting pregnant.

 

So - what about a toy at the table?  I might try this as well today.  Something washable, and she can only have it at the table, making meal-times more "special" and "fun".

 

 

So mine, at 15 months, has figured out that if she can get herself into time-out, she can get out of her chair and therefore out of eating.  (We don't eat our meals anywhere but at the table.)  She knows that she's not allowed to stand in her chair, and last night I realized that she was, after asking to be excused and not being excused because, as I see it, one cannot be "all done" until one has started to eat in the first place, standing up in her chair and cheerily going to time out with Mama, briefly discussing the fact that seats are for butts, and then being washed off and sent on her merry way.  It's not a proud feeling when you're outfoxed by a very young toddler.

post #12 of 31
Thread Starter 

I tried the toy at the table thing, but she would just be so absorbed in the toy and avoid her food. I even have to remove everything else from the table because she'll play with them and forget about the food.

 

Today was purely awful. She did eat breakfast (she ALWAYS eats breakfast if it's eggs and toast) but I made her favorite for lunch - mac and cheese - and she didn't touch it. She swore she wasn't hungry and refused. Even though it was "so yummy, Mommy! I love it," she was "too full to eat" after two bites. We had to get in the car five minutes later to be somewhere and she started crying in the car about being so hungry. We had to make a pit stop at McDonalds (*shame*) for some nuggets to get some protein in her. Then at dinner, she refused to eat her food. I forced her again by saying she wasn't getting down until it was in her tummy because I had had a rough day and did not want her crying and waking the baby and me up all night. She finally did eat it and then my husband came in and fixed himself something else for dinner (I swear this was about FIVE MINUTES LATER) and begged him for what he had, that she was SOOOOOO hungry (OMG, you JUST TOLD ME YOU WERE TOO FULL TO EAT ARGGGGHHH!). Of course, she didn't touch it. She just sat there staring at it and complaining about how full she was, so I just put her to bed.

 

At least I was able to get food in her today. I just wish it wasn't such a battle!
 

post #13 of 31

What a tough situation.  It's hard to not feed them.

 

I do have another trick I've used;  in fact I busted it out last night, to great success, finally!  It's not my proudest parenting moment, but I'm personally finding parenting to be an all-around humbling experience anyway, so I'll go with it.

 

I always give her dessert.

The trick is, dessert is an acceptable meal.  For example, I keep Kashi brownies in the cupboard.  We always have fruit and dried fruit on hand.  We also keep a stock of these awesome date rolls in the house. 

 

So last night she was refusing her soup, and we were about to do bedtime (which has not been magical lately) so she really did need to eat as it was "last call", so I gave her dessert.  She ate it.  So if the goal is simply to have them eat, there's an option.  Little Miss loves it, I think she really feels like she "won" and gets to skip dinner and go straight to dessert.  Sure, she's not getting as much protein as I'd like her to.  But, worst comes to worst, I'm gonna start giving her chocolate hazelnut spread for dessert.  We'll see who is laughing then, my little legume-consuming munchkin. 

 

For the record, my husband isn't sure if I'm an idiot or a genius for this.  My doctor's nurse and I discussed this eating policy, and she, a mother, approved it.

 

Edited to add/ Dessert is available at every meal.  Breakfast dessert is fruit.  Lunch dessert is a fruit and/or a date roll.  Dinner dessert is that brownie I mentioned. 

post #14 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrsGregory View Post

What a tough situation.  It's hard to not feed them.

 

I do have another trick I've used;  in fact I busted it out last night, to great success, finally!  It's not my proudest parenting moment, but I'm personally finding parenting to be an all-around humbling experience anyway, so I'll go with it.

 

I always give her dessert.

The trick is, dessert is an acceptable meal.  For example, I keep Kashi brownies in the cupboard.  We always have fruit and dried fruit on hand.  We also keep a stock of these awesome date rolls in the house. 

 

So last night she was refusing her soup, and we were about to do bedtime (which has not been magical lately) so she really did need to eat as it was "last call", so I gave her dessert.  She ate it.  So if the goal is simply to have them eat, there's an option.  Little Miss loves it, I think she really feels like she "won" and gets to skip dinner and go straight to dessert.  Sure, she's not getting as much protein as I'd like her to.  But, worst comes to worst, I'm gonna start giving her chocolate hazelnut spread for dessert.  We'll see who is laughing then, my little legume-consuming munchkin. 

 

For the record, my husband isn't sure if I'm an idiot or a genius for this.  My doctor's nurse and I discussed this eating policy, and she, a mother, approved it.

 

Edited to add/ Dessert is available at every meal.  Breakfast dessert is fruit.  Lunch dessert is a fruit and/or a date roll.  Dinner dessert is that brownie I mentioned. 

That's a good idea! My friend makes some healthy, protein-packed granola bars I might try.

post #15 of 31

My daughter would eat very little unless we were with friends.  Social creatures we are!  

 

Now that we have no friends, she'll fixate on one or a couple of food items and pretty much not eat much unless she's in a specific emotional comfort zone. 

 

Her older brother is often the one who inspires her to eat.  If not for him, our degree of food struggles would be similar to yours.

 

What about conjuring an imaginary friend or group of tea party friends?  

 

As an only child, all of my toys had personas and roles in my life.

 

I still struggle with eating and often feel weak/dizzy before I realize how long it's been.

 

Where is a PHYSICAL tribe when you need one huh? eat.gif

post #16 of 31

This might not be helping with the core problem, but straws help me get my kids to drink more.  Drinking out of a straw is just more fun I guess!  It might also help with soup type things.  

I noticed that my older kids went through a phase at around 3-4 where they didn't want to eat anything that was work to eat, like spooning soup, so it helped if I put it in a mug to drink. 

I also find a transition to meal time helpful.  Cleaning up the toys or whatever they were doing, washing hands, helping to set the table... so that the meal isn't an interruption to an activity, it IS the activity.  We only consistently do this for dinner but it would be good if I did it for lunch too!

post #17 of 31

We read books at the table.  If we are reading aloud he will usually eat for the entire book and more.  Sometimes we play guessing games.  That makes the meal a social activity too.

post #18 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by tbone_kneegrabber View Post

We read books at the table.  If we are reading aloud he will usually eat for the entire book and more.  Sometimes we play guessing games.  That makes the meal a social activity too.

We've done this in the past too - a page for each bite.  It definitely got food into people, but then I decided that I needed to eat at the mealtime too, so we stopped.  But if the choice were a crabby and hungry child vs. reading at the table, I'd go for the reading, hands down.

post #19 of 31
My lo often says. I'm full. When she really means she just doesnt want to eat it.
Also sounds like your lo often holds out to see what else might be offered.
I think th easiest thing would be to come up with healthy junk food options
I do have decent luck getting healthy food eaten when we are in the car.
post #20 of 31
Thread Starter 

She does eat well when we are with friends, but only THEIR food. LOL! But whatever works. It does work for us because when all of the kids get together, the moms always bring snacks to share and put them out on a table for all of the kids, so she doesn't have to steal anything from anyone.

 

I can't do the book thing because I also have to feed the strongest 9 m/o in the world while we are eating. He goes psycho if we are eating and he's not and he can sure scream! I have a high chair, but he will only sometimes use it.
 

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