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Please help me mamas, this issue is making me feel ANGRY & RESENTFUL & MANIPULATED

post #1 of 29
Thread Starter 
OK, sorry for the caps in the title, but this is something I really didn't think we would STILL be dealing with at almost age 3.5.

First some backround, and please, if you don't agree with what I did when ds was a young toddler, refrain from saying so. Unless you have a spirited child *with* feeding issues, it might be hard to understand.

OK, like I said, ds1 is high-needs and very sensitive. Always has been. He also had severe reflux as a baby and a frenulum that was too tight (was surgically corrected at age 20 months). Because of his temperment, the pain caused by reflux and his physical problem in his mouth, solids (and food in general even before solids were started) took forever to introduce. Really, he didn't eat much in the way of them until 17 months. And even then it was almost like he would happily starve. It was impossible to get him to eat enough to maintain his weight. The *only* way I could get him to eat anything was to bring toys to his highchair and play/distract him while I shoveled the food in.

Yes, I know what you are thinking, that doing what I just described is bad and evil, but unless you've ever had a child (not a baby!) who refused to eat, it is hard to understand. That is what I *had* to do. It was almost like he lacked the ability to self-regulate or something. Very strange.

Anyway, this continued until around age 2, when he FINALLY started seeming interested in food, telling me he was hungry, etc. But, because of what I had done in the past with toys at the table, etc, he insisted that I feed him. I obliged, after all he was my only child, I had the time and I figured this would be a short lived thing and that eventually he would want to feed himself.

Fast forward to now, almost age 3.5, and we are still feeding him his meals. Yes, if there are finger foods on his plate he will feed himself those and he'll eat snacks of finger foods by himself, but anything requiring a fork and spoon, we have to do.

Now, if he were a 'normal' kid, I might have pressed the issue a while back, but he is *extremely* sensitive and is an *extreme*, and I mean EXTREME perfectionist, and he gets very very upset when he tries to feed himself and he makes a mess. This is despite all my efforts to ignore the mess, tell him that it's OK and I will clean it, tell him that practice makes perfect, blah blah blah. When I mention feeding himself, I can tell he gets very nervous. And of course, since he has little practice, he is very sloppy, moreso than other children his age.

So, just continue feeding him, you say?

Well, there are two problems with that.

One is that I have an 11 month old as well who needs to be fed. It's hard enough to feed two children without mixing up spoons, bites, and food, but forget about me being able to eat as well. Dh is a physician and works long hours, so I am the one responsible for all three meals 5 days a week and 2-4 weekends a month, so it's not like dh could feed one and I feed one.

The second problem is really what is driving me batty and making me resentful. Because ds1 has nothing to do at the dinner table other than chew and swallow (I did put an end to the toys at the table a while back), he gets very restless and starts misbehaving. Things like standing, yes standing, on the dinner table. Constantly running back and forth between the living room and the table. Crawling under the table.

He was pulling that crap tonight when dh was home and feeding him while I was feeding ds2. We both were getting very annoyed. Over and over we asked him to stay in his chair and told him that if he wanted daddy to feed him he needed to sit still so that daddy could feed him. Finally, dh refused to feed him anymore, and ds began to wail and dinner ended in disaster.

So what am I supposed to do? This is seriously becoming a huge issue for us. I am trying to be respectful of his sensitivies, but it seems like he won't even try to work with us (as in, we will feed you but you must stay in your chair). I really don't think that is too much to ask out of a 3 year old. And honestly, if he just would feed himself, I wouldn't care (to some extent) if he got down out of his chair and took the meal at his own pace.

Also, he LOVES to feed his brother and pitches a huge fit if I suggest he feed himself instead.

My dh has suggested that I draw the line starting tomorrow by refusing to feed him and providing him with a wet towel that he can clean himself up with during the meal.

I just don't know what the right thing to do is . The few times I have gotten really aggrevated with him and 'made' him feed himself ( : I shouldn't have done that, I know), it has been so pitiful to watch. He struggles so badly and gets so frustrated with himself.

*Sigh* I think maybe I overanalyze things, but man, parenting sure is hard.

ETA: OMGosh, I just looked at this and I swear I didn't mean to write a novel. I have been mentally composing this post all day, so it didn't take long to type and therefore I didn't know it was this long. Thanks for reading!
post #2 of 29
well im no expert at all but heres my 2 cents
1st does DS 1 have any buddies about his age? as in peer pressure so to speak. lke "oh look at Billy feeding himself!! wow isnt that awesome ds1"
2. i defintly think have a wet cloth near by will help with the being dirty, my oldest MUSt have a napkin when he eats so he doesnt get dirty.
3. what kind of foods are you feeding him? obviously spagettit wont go over well in terms of cleanliness lol
4. i saw you say hes high needs but not special needs right? so when he starts acting up imo id let him go play whatever.
again im no expert at all but i do have a 3.5 year old and there are days when he will barely eat breakfast and thats it all day. he gets drinks and maybe an apple. i just go with the flow and try to make his favorite meal the next day (so i bribe him lol)
hugs mama its tough i hope you get many more responses!!
oh and p.s. while the post was long it wasnt a long read ya kwim? so dont feel bad!
post #3 of 29


First off toys at the table is not anything bad, nor is feeding him. YOu did what worked best for your child. The way you made it sound, I thought it was going to be something awful. That sounds fine to me

Second why not let him feed DS2 first while you eat. Finish DS2 If he does not get enough Then feed DS1. I only say this because you never mentioned when you eat. Or switch that arond, which works better.

Alternate things...like one night make food you only eat with your hands. And then another night experiment with rubber banded chopsticks. Change it up. Find a way he likes to eat. Something that works with him.

Let him go get special utensils and plates that he picks out.

Could you be silly and play games. Like tonight I am going to feed you with my toes! Or you could try to use the fork. Or something. I am tired or my solutions would be more creative.
post #4 of 29
my suggestion is to get an eval done by an occupational therapist. an OT can help your son learn self-help skills that he is lacking, and honestly, it sounds to me like he may have a touch of sensory integration dysfunction. you say that the 3 things that caused a delay in intro of solids are reflux, tongue tie, and "his temperment". well, those sensitivities may be SID related. of course, since pretty much figuring out that my 3yo ds has it, (and looking back and wishing i had had internet when my 10 yo was a baby, cuz man, does he ever have it, and now i dont know if OT will help), i see "sensory issues" in every one, so take this with the proverbial grain of salt. (my now 10 yo ds did not get going on real solids until about 18 mos. had a ped accuse me of neglect. my 3yo cries for food ALL. DAY. LONG. 5 min after a high protein snack, he's whining..."i'm huuuuunnnnngggg-eeeeeee!" one avoided the sensory input, the other craves constant stim in his mouth, but is not satisfied mouthing a safe non-food item. )

and i wanted to add that i would not flame you for the feeding method you used in the past. it's scary to have a toddler who would go without food for days if allowed to. but while you're figuring this out, be kind to the little man, and come here to vent all you need to.
post #5 of 29
Thread Starter 
Oh, just to clarify, ds is not special needs. He is very bright and his hands and fingers work perfectly. So good in fact, he can feed his brother just fine.

eta: blessedwithboys, we must have cross-posted. Yes, there are times I am convinced that ds has a mild case of SID, other times not at all, but most of the time I think he is just on the very very sensitive end of the normal range--if there is such a thing. Actually, sometimes I think I may have mild SID, so I suppose it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for ds to have it.

As far as the OT goes, it's not that he doesn't know how to feed himself. I am 100% positive that if he would 'just do it' for a day or two, he would quickly get the hang of it. Like I said, he does pretty good when feeding his brother (because he isn't worrying about it, stressing over it and focusing on it), so I know it isn't a motor skills thing.

My plan for tomorrow is to load up the spoon for him and then let him actually put it in his mouth. That way, he's doing part of the feeding and hopefully it will be enough to keep him from getting too distracted and restless AND help him practice.

Well, off to bed...
post #6 of 29
Could there maybe b some sensory issues?

I would start pushing the issue BUT go slow and have him feed himself easy foods. Stuff that sticks to the spoon or stuff pretty easy to spear with a fork. Large beans work well for forks. Also peices of banana and apple cut up. make it a game. maybe even have some sort of prize for when he hits the target enough times. For a spoon, thick oatmeal, chopped speghetti, mashed potatoes and the like. be there for him to help him clean up and all but insist that he try to feed himself and refuse to do it for him. I wouldn't push it for the whole mea though. Start small with making him take 2 or 3 bites by himself and then each meal add a few more. after he cooperates for the number of bites you decide on finish the meal by feeding him to make sure he gets full. Make sure he has the tools he neds to be successfull. perhaps an ergnomic toddler spoon, ledged nd suctioned bowl, all those things you would normally use for a toddler. He has to start from the beginning. be patient and go slow and reward cooperation.

and for the record, my almost 5 year old still has a hard time and she has insisted on feeding herself with silverware since she was about 6 months old. So she has had all the practice in the world and still has trouble with somethings as far as self feeding goes. Also if he has perfectionist tendencies that is probably playing into it more than anything else. So you didn't wreck him. you fed him. you did what you had to do to get food into him. we all do what we have to do to keep our kids healthy a zillion times a day. if you had let him starve then we would have real issues
post #7 of 29
First of all s !
Have you thought of moving to all finger foods for him? You could just all eat finger food adaptable meals for a few days, then announce that you'd be having soup (or something) the next meal and that he would need to feed himself and if he didn't want to he could have such and such finger foods again. Would that work for him?
post #8 of 29
Thread Starter 
Quote:
First off toys at the table is not anything bad, nor is feeding him. YOu did what worked best for your child. The way you made it sound, I thought it was going to be something awful. That sounds fine to me
Thank you for understanding!

It's just that I have seen responses in other threads where people have been slammed for doing what I did. I have seen it said that it is disrespectful to the child, even, to distract them to get them to eat. That if they are hungry, they will eventually eat. That they won't develop a sense of hunger/fullness if they are forced or tricked into eating.

And some of that I agree with in NORMAL children without feeding issues, but my son wasn't/isn't 'normal' when it comes to feeding and I did what I felt was best for him and what I had to do.

OK, off soapbox now and truly off to bed.
post #9 of 29
I second or third the OT idea. OT is very non-invasive and could be a big help. They give you a lot of ideas to try at home and most kids like going.
post #10 of 29
look, what is done is done.

would I recommend what you did re feeding. No. But you did your best.

Now is the time to bring in professionals.

You can talk to your ped about this, but if you are not satisfied with that I would look to an OT for help as pp's suggested. Even if he does not have clear sensory issues, there is clearly a short term problem that needs to be "gotten over."

Having a "program" to be followed, which an OT will help set up will take this out of the "discipline" camp where it does not belong and help your ds move to independance.
post #11 of 29
I have a 3 1/2 year old who also had some feeding issues, but can feed himself just fine. However, he wants us to feed him about half the time ( or more). It's got worse since his now 10-month-old brother arrived. He's had lots of practice and is pretty normal in that department, but is also a perfectionist. He doesn't like to be messy. So I commiserate, but I also don't think it's that big a deal. We usually feed him when he requests it unless it is very inconvenient, because it helps meet some of his dependency needs. He gets jealous about us feeding his little brother. We don't however allow rude/wild behavior at the table. If he runs off to play that's fine, but we won't keep feeding him if his behavior is annoying us. So all this to say, I don't think your son's behavior is particularly abnormal.

Perhaps the bigger problem is you having to feed two little ones by yourself. I'd say you should do whatever works to get you all fed with the least fuss. Go with finger foods. My 10-month-old eats almost exclusively finger foods at this point. So I don't have to feed him most of the time. For the baby: cheerios, grape halfs, apple slices, baked tofu, egg yolks, beans and rice, avocado... For the older child: Sandwiches, quesadillas, fruit... You can easily go with nearly a whole diet of finger foods (heck in some cultures, they only use fingers). At least cut the spoon feeding down to one meal a day JMHO. Good luck, and don't worry. Your son sounds fine.
post #12 of 29
My first thought was SID. If it is SID, then trying to force it will be terrible for him - the mess will feel painful on his body. I'd seek assessment and advice from an OT before doing anything. Handling this wrong may cause distress and more problems.

How about feeding him non-messy foods for a while that he can practice the fork skills with, without making a mess? Dd was very similar in terms of mess and perfectionism - she has SID and it took a long time before she could bear having a mess on her face. She liked me to sit next to her with a napkin for a long time, just in case seh made any mess. She still hates it if something gets messy - we had to work at some therapy which really helped her.

Have you read The out of sync Child? And the Out of Sync Child has Fun - which has lots of practical suggestions.
post #13 of 29
I totally get why this must be so frustrating. And I don't think you were wrong to cajole him into eating or going along with feeding him.

I haven't read the replies, so I don't know if this is already mentioned, but the only thing I thought of while reading was to offer him finger foods at meals. Pasta with no sauce, carrots, plain chicken breast, or whatever version of what you are eating, but in neat pieces that he can pick up himself. Then if he wants other food he is welcome to it as long as he feeds himself.

We had to institute a rule that while anyone is eating, there is no climbing on the table, playing under the table, trying to ask us to read a book, etc. etc. Ds is welcome to come and go as he pleases, but he can't be disruptive to the rest of us. At some point I also ask him if he is done eating, and I remove his plate to the kitchen, so he can ask for it if he wants it. I know my ds doesn't have the same eating issues, but since your ds will tell you now if he's hungry, maybe you can try a "if you're playing you must be done" approach.

It sounds like you've done a great job in being sensitive and gentle and making sure he stays healthy.
post #14 of 29
Is this an issue of not having the actual skills honed well enough to eat neatly? If that is the case, are their games you can develop to help his skills? Maybe having an egg and spoon race in the livingroom with him with a hard boiled egg. That would help his balance as he tried to hold an egg on a spoon.

Does feeding his brother help his skills? Does he drop food when feeding him? If so, maybe you can make light of it and show him how easily it cleans up....so he does not feel bad about making the mess with his brother. Maybe that would transfer over to himself and help him to let go of his perfectionism with feeding himself.

I think 3.5 may still a bit young to be expected to sit at the dinner table. Do you have room to set up a small kids table in your dining room or kitchen....where ever you all sit? That way, he would have his own space, his own sized chair and table. Maybe then, if he wanted to come and go from the table, it wouldn't disrupt you and your dh quite so much and would give him more control over his meal. (I'm wondering if more control over things will empower him?)
post #15 of 29
i just wanted to chime in saying that sensory-defensiveness is quite common and an OT could be a big help. my friend is an OT and has told me a lot about her job, and it really sounds useful. i don't know, it might be worth investigating for your own sanity at mealtimes...
post #16 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by oceanbaby
...the only thing I thought of while reading was to offer him finger foods at meals...
This is EXACTLY what I was thinking.

It might be a good way to ease into self-feeding. You could also feed him things (cooked, diced carrots come to mind) that are easy to spear with a fork.

Good luck mama!
post #17 of 29
The Lucky One,

It sounds like you are trying your best to meet your child's needs. There are many very bright people with sensory issues. And, the behaviors you are describing sound like sensory issues. Speech Therapists usually work on food issues, you may want to consult one.

I would also just serve him finger foods for a while. If you let go of the utensils for a few months and then reintroduce them after he is used to eating by himself, you may have success.

It may be a good idea to give him many sensory experiences throughout the day. For example, foam paint in the bath tub, bowls of rice or oatmeal or beans, finger paint.... etc.

~Laura
post #18 of 29
I second (third?) the vote for finger foods only for a couple days. Maybe even make a game of it- like it's "no utensils" week. ALso maybe just do it for lunch an b-fast if you feel uncomfortable with that at dinner.

I also have a very sensitive kid who refuses anything that feels like an issue. So I feel that anything you can do to diffuse the tension is good.

A
post #19 of 29
Quote:
Originally Posted by harmonymama
I have a 3 1/2 year old who also had some feeding issues, but can feed himself just fine. However, he wants us to feed him about half the time ( or more). It's got worse since his now 10-month-old brother arrived. He's had lots of practice and is pretty normal in that department, but is also a perfectionist. He doesn't like to be messy. So I commiserate, but I also don't think it's that big a deal. We usually feed him when he requests it unless it is very inconvenient, because it helps meet some of his dependency needs. He gets jealous about us feeding his little brother. We don't however allow rude/wild behavior at the table. If he runs off to play that's fine, but we won't keep feeding him if his behavior is annoying us. So all this to say, I don't think your son's behavior is particularly abnormal.

Perhaps the bigger problem is you having to feed two little ones by yourself. I'd say you should do whatever works to get you all fed with the least fuss. Go with finger foods]...[ At least cut the spoon feeding down to one meal a day JMHO. Good luck, and don't worry. Your son sounds fine.
I have a 3 1/2 yo who VERY recently started feedind himself. No younger sibling so a little less difficult for me. The first foods he was willing to self spoon feed were his absolute favorites like mac and cheese. Even then, he would only eat about half of what he should have wanted to eat. I have been known to shovel it in while watching a video. I give him finger foods a lot. I make PB&J on Ryvita crackers because they are easier to hold. His dexterity is fine, doesn't have sensory issues. He IS slightly sensitive, doesn't like face or fingers to get sticky. I know he knows when he is hungry but if he is tired, he doesn't want to eat no matter how hungry he is unless it's a total treat food that he also hasn't had in a long time.

I like the idea someone had of letting him feed his younger sib. It will give him confidence with no pressure and will hopefully be a chance for you to eat.
post #20 of 29
My middle child suddenlt decided one day that he did not want me to feed him, but he did not want to use utensils either. He also has never really cared about eating and would go whole days eating nothing but a piece of bread when he was two. Being one to pick my battles, and having a dd who is only 14 months youger than he is, I decided to just let him eat only finger foods. We don't really eat at the table, either (I know, we should), so he eats wherever and life is much easier because I just don't worry about it! I think as he gets older, and all of the kids are 4 and up, it will be much easier to work on these issues. Until then, I'm not going to bang my head against the wall. I do wish he ate a better variety of foods, but at least I know he got 14 months of breastmilk (up until the day dd was born), and super-healthy homemade foods with lots of flax, etc. added until he started refusing them between 18 months and two.
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