Thanks for all of the ideas. We have been slowly and gently trying to establish some boundaries around eating. I don’t want eating to become a power struggle, but it obviously hasn’t been working leaving it up to our child either.
We definitely do the snack assortment. Unfortunately since our dentist visit, the only snacks DS can have without brushing his teeth immediately after are veggies. I do put out a veggie tray, but his willingness to eat from it wanes after an hour or two. Anything else has to be “monitored” by me so I can make sure his teeth aren’t bathing in bacteria (even from eating crackers, cheese, bananas, yogurt, etc), which means I need to prepare/get it, make sure he eats it within a certain time, brush his teeth , and make sure he doesn’t consume anything for 30 minutes after brushing (to achieve the full benefit of the toothpaste our dentist has recommended).
As for feeding him with a spoon or fork, if I leave him to feed himself, he’ll take 2 or 3 bites over the course of an hour. After an hour, his interest in whatever food he’s been eating is gone, and thus wanting a different snack and wasting the food I have prepared for him. The only “efficient” way to get him to eat within a reasonable time frame (meaning less than an hour) is for me to feed it to him. Last week for example, I wanted to go to Target, so I started lunch at 11:00 am. Just trying to get ½ a sandwich into him so he will cooperate while we’re at Target. Well at 2 o’clock I had had it. I was trying to help him eat so we could go, and lunch took 3 HOURS!!! That is so unacceptable in my book, but the alternative would have been to bring the sandwich and give it to him when he wanted a snack (and he would have then thrown a tantrum because he wants a DIFFERENT snack) or let him go hungry and throw a tantrum because he wants a snack! So my choices are suffer through a 3 hour lunch or suffer through running an errand. It seems like no matter what I do we’re asking for some type of issue related to food.
I have started telling him that I will help him eat during lunch/dinner but once I am done eating, he’s on his own. But it is hard to let him go to bed hungry because he can’t focus on eating for 5 minutes, and then even if I let him suffer the consequences of being hungry, I’m the one getting dragged out of bed at 5:30 because his belly is telling him he’s hungry to make him a bowl of cereal that he’ll eat two bites of and then want something else.
As for requiring him to sit at the table, this is something DH and I go back in forth on. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to just have him sit with the family during dinner, but he is a high-spirited energetic child. If he’s “forced” to sit at the table, he responds by interfering with his baby brother’s dinner. He’ll go out of his way to distract, interfere and just plain bother his baby brother and then we have two kids who haven’t eaten dinner. We’ve also tried bribery- just sit and eat then you can have dessert. It seems to help to give him something to work towards, but even then he doesn’t really have the focus or the attention span to just eat 4 bites of pasta. I’m almost thinking in some way he is using food to get my attention. As we are a family of 4, one on one time, while not rare, is not a daily occurrence.
We have talked many, many times about eating habits, sugar bugs, and brushing both with and without the dentist. He does get it, but for whatever reason there is a block between hearing what is said and being agreeable to me helping him take care of his teeth.
As far as sensory issues around eating, I’m not inclined to think it’s a sensory thing because it seems like it is the typical thing any child does. Meat always hangs out in his mouth for awhile, which I remember doing as a child. Other times, it really seems like a procrastination or even civil disobedience, unwillingness to cooperate type of thing. It’s almost like he can’t he focus long enough to chew and swallow, he wants to be doing other things, anything other than sitting or standing at the table and eating. He doesn’t do it the majority of the time, but it is frequent enough for me to notice.
I guess what my problem comes back to is if I leave him sitting at the table for 20 minutes to eat however much he wants, he will eat a bite or two and then complain as soon as he gets up from the table that he’s hungry and he wants something different to eat. And as his mom, I know that if he doesn’t eat X amount, he is miserable to be around and everyone, including him, suffers. So my goal is to make sure he eats X amount within a certain time without causing a power struggle, without creating food issues and without wasting food (because like velochic, I would double my grocery bill if I let all of the foods he is given go uneaten by him). Unfortunately, I don’t know how to achieve that goal. I let him listen to his body, but now his teeth are literally rotting out of his head (which I went through as a child and I vowed I would never let my child go through that same horrible experience, it impacted my self-worth, my confidence, my thoughts regarding dental health and dentists, etc) even though we don’t buy/consume juice, soda, cookies, dried fruit, candy, and all of the other cavity culprits!
Maya44, I originally chimed in on this post because what is put out for lunch or dinner is it, but of course, if he does eat all of his dinner and wants a banana for dessert, I’m going to give him the banana. I guess I thought my problem was with wasting food, but after having posted about my struggles, it now appears that the wasting food was only a symptom of the greater problem I am facing. I don’t mind if we’re having salad, pasta, meatballs and bread for dinner and ds only eats bread or eats salad and bread (amazingly enough when he actually does eat, it is very varied, he doesn’t ever say “I don’t like X”, but rather indicates he wants something else) and fruit; it’s the getting him to eat X amount within a certain time that I struggle with. It’s clear that’s what needs to be done for his and for the family’s benefit, but even reading now as I type, it seems like if there’s anyway to guarantee food issues this is it. But as a family we can’t live with him constantly nibbling, brushing, still being hungry five minutes later and wanting something different (on many occasions he’s been actually at the dinner table with some food in front of him and complaining that he’s hungry!) and we can’t live with him being miserable because he’s hungry either? Maybe it is a sensory issue?
Anyway, this is what we as a family have been struggling with for about the past year, even just putting this out there makes me feel a little bit better. It’s clear there’s no easy solution.