Can't get my 3 year old to the table - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 12-07-2010, 04:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm having a horrible time getting my 3 yo DS to eat.  It seems like a constant battle.  He'll come up to the table, take one look at the food and often say "i don't want supper/lunch".  Of course right before bed (or about 10 minutes after he's gone to bed) after he's refused all snack ideas he'll ask to eat because he's hungry.  So he stays up way past his bedtime to eat.

 

Personally, I want to refuse to let him eat at that time (10 mins after going to bed), as we've given him ample chances during the day to eat, including before bed.  DH wants him to eat so DS can grow.  So we let him eat and he stays up way too late and since he's a bear in the morning it makes life more difficult.

 

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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#2 of 20 Old 12-08-2010, 04:09 AM
 
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My dd is 3 and she sometimes doesn't liek what I cook.  She loves TV, so I sometimes tell her, no tv if she doesn't eat her food (atleast veggies).  I know that must sound terrible, but it works. 

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#3 of 20 Old 12-08-2010, 09:29 AM
 
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Personally, I found this to be the perfect time to implement Ellyn Satter's strategies. Her book, Child of Mine, is great. I got it from the library, but most of the pertinent info is available on her website.

 

http://www.ellynsatter.com/


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#4 of 20 Old 12-08-2010, 06:46 PM
 
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Stop feeding the 'midnight snack' as it were. Stop giving in. They'll learn. DS1 knows that he can choose to eat, or not eat. I'm not going to literally force him to eat, but he will *NOT* get anything else if he doesn't eat at least a decent portion of his dinner. If he does, then maybe we can talk about a healthy (or even not-so-healthy!) snack later. Good luck!!

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#5 of 20 Old 12-08-2010, 08:27 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mamadelbosque View Post

Stop feeding the 'midnight snack' as it were. Stop giving in. They'll learn. DS1 knows that he can choose to eat, or not eat. I'm not going to literally force him to eat, but he will *NOT* get anything else if he doesn't eat at least a decent portion of his dinner. If he does, then maybe we can talk about a healthy (or even not-so-healthy!) snack later. Good luck!!

 

 

This.  I think if you stopped allowing this snack, he would figure out in a couple of days that he needs to eat when it's offered.  I think he's figured out that he doesn't have to eat at meal times, because he can weasel out a snack later in the evening.  He needs to know that isn't going to happen.  (I do understand that some children need a bedtime snack, so please don't flame for that.)  Also, IME, offering snacks constantly is counter-productive to good nutrition and eating habits.  If you encourage the child to eat at meals, and maybe offer one or two small snacks (like a handful of grapes, an ounce or two of cheese, etc.) during the day, the child actually eats more and better, since meals tend to be more complete nutritionally than snacks.  I hope you can figure something out soon!  3 yr. olds are a lot of fun, but they can be challenging, too.

 


 

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#6 of 20 Old 12-09-2010, 11:51 AM
 
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That would be my approach as well. I'd refuse the evening snack.

If it seemed to be a case of the child not being hungry at dinner time, I might put a plate of whatever was for dinner in the fridge, and then he could have it later, reheated. But I wouldn't offer "snack" foods later. It sounds like he's holding out for the food he prefers, or maybe using "I'm hungry" as a tactic to delay bedtime. My DS is famous for his bedtime-delaying excuses, so I have experience with this.

And once he's on his way to bed-- I'd be like sorry, pal, you can eat tomorrow. The most I'd offer at that time would be a cup of milk, and only before toothbrushing time.

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#7 of 20 Old 12-09-2010, 12:04 PM
 
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Originally Posted by deditus View Post

Personally, I found this to be the perfect time to implement Ellyn Satter's strategies. Her book, Child of Mine, is great. I got it from the library, but most of the pertinent info is available on her website.

 

http://www.ellynsatter.com/


Exactly.  her adage is "It is the parents "job" to provide well balanced healthy meals/snacks and it is the child "job" to eat (or not) as they see fit".

 

No bribing, cajoling, begging, threatening, enticing, one-more-biting at all.

 

The average* child will eat when hungry and will not "starve" if they miss a meal or snack. 

 

Also the average* child self regulates over a period of time so don't measure what they eat in a day or even a week but over the course of time.
 

 

*yes, there are always exceptions and rare medical disorders that can impact a child ability eat/absorb nutrients 


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#8 of 20 Old 12-09-2010, 01:42 PM
 
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my almost 2 year old is starting to do this and I'm trying to not let it get to the point where I give him a bedtime snack. He does okay, but sometimes I have to pull his dinner out a half hour later and offer it to him when he asks for a snack before bed. Usually he'll eat it then. I try and only offer him his dinner again and nothing else, especially if he hasn't even take one bite yet. If I were you I'd give him 2 chances.. at dinner, and then like a half hour later or so, and if he doesn't eat, then he doesn't eat. He will not starve, I promise. Your DH needs to know this! :) You might deal with some tantrums for the first few nights, but eventually he'll learn :)


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#9 of 20 Old 12-09-2010, 01:45 PM
 
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Also, my neighbor has an interesting technique. She lets her kids(3 year old included) pick whether they want to eat their dinner or a peanut butter sandwich(no jelly, just peanut butter) and she said that 9 times out of 10 they chose dinner, because they get bored of the same alternative every night. Might be worth a shot. I don't know..I could see how some kids it wouldn't work for, as they get stuck in ruts of foods they like and don't mind eating the same thing every night. It might be worth a try though!


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#10 of 20 Old 12-09-2010, 05:20 PM
 
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When DD went through that phase, I just put her dinner aside and offered it to her again when she asked for a snack. Once she realized that she would still have to eat dinner, , whether at dinner time or at bed time, she started eating it at dinner time, rather than "holding out" in the hopes of something snacky. If it was truly something that she did not like, I would offer an alternative but nothing snacky until after the meal was finished.


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#11 of 20 Old 12-10-2010, 11:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your responses.  It's nice to know I'm not the only one going through this.

 

I'm going to talk with DH and let him know that we're not going to give in to DS.  We'll tell DS about his lack of choices too.  This was how I was raised and it makes sense to me, but DH was raised differently and he's worried we'll "starve" DS (but we all know that if they're really hungry they'll eat).
 

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Originally Posted by amma_mama View Post

When DD went through that phase, I just put her dinner aside and offered it to her again when she asked for a snack.


I've done this a couple of times.  I think i'll try it again.

 


Quote:

Originally Posted by deditus View Post

Personally, I found this to be the perfect time to implement Ellyn Satter's strategies. Her book, Child of Mine, is great. I got it from the library, but most of the pertinent info is available on her website.

 

http://www.ellynsatter.com/


I'll take a look at the site.  Thanks!

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#12 of 20 Old 12-10-2010, 01:44 PM
 
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My DS is generally a decent eater, but he has trouble sitting down at the table and easting sometimes and skips meals sometimes too. Not the same thing as you are facing, I know, but what I do it (and I don't think it's perfect): if he doesn't like what we cooked for dinner he's welcome to have bread with something easy (butter, ham, whatever's in the fridge...) and I also let him choose an alternative place to eat. Sometimes he eats from a tray sitting at the computer bag.gif (I never offer, but I let him if he wants to, sometimes). I remind him before bedtime that it's last call for food and sometimes he will have something then, otherwise I am immune to complaints about hungriness at bedtime. It sucks to have to listen to whiny, tantrummy little kiddos, but I don't think it's good for anyone to eat right before going to sleep, stay up too late and then be cranky in the morning (this goes for adults too). He might not get used to it fast, but if you stand firm, he'll get used to a "no eating at bedtime" rule. Of course, your husband has to get on board

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#13 of 20 Old 12-11-2010, 02:48 PM
 
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My 2.5 year old daughter hates to eat.  Her pediatrician just warned us that we need to start monitoring her because she is too small for her age.  We constantly offer her various foods but it is a battle to get her to eat.  Mostly she will eat the following:

 

rice and lentils

an Indian pancake type thing made from chickpea flour (we sometimes sneak pumpkin or squash soup in instead of water)

potato fries

okra fries (and they have to be fried to a crisp)

plain rice

plain bread

roti with sugar (I hate giving her this)

fruit juice (I only give her 100% juice)

strawberry milk (she would be thrilled to subsist only on this if I let her)

a vitamin-enriched chocolate drink called Milo (I've only seen it here in Singapore, but it is similar to Horlicks, Complan - sorry, I don't know the American alternative)

blueberry or chocolate muffins

carrot cake

pumpkin pie

 

Occasionally she will deign to eat the veggies I put in front of her and she will eat fruit only when she feels like it.  We wanted to keep her vegetarian, but since she is not eating we have had to start offering chicken which she eats sometimes if it is plain.  No amount of cajoling, bribery, etc. is working and since she is not up to par in terms of height and weight, I am afraid to let her be content to not eat.  The doctor doesn't think she has any biological or medical problem preventing her from eating.  Ironically, she adores Indian spiced tea and coffee (don't ask how she was able to try those things - it is a long and involved story, but both were decaffeinated, thank goodness) and please do not mention iced tea in front of my child.  Any suggestions?

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#14 of 20 Old 12-13-2010, 07:41 PM
 
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I have a 4, 3, and 1 year old.  This is our approach to food with my 4 & 3 year old (my one year old eats everything he can put in his mouth):

 

1.  We eat at meal and snack time.  If they are hungry between then, there is free access to fruits, veggies, and water.  I would get the occasional "but I'm still hungry" because my kids wanted more snack.  My best response is that they are welcome to an apple, grapes, whatever.  

 

2.  No one has to finish their meal.  My DH and I were both brought up having to clean our plates, but I don't want to push this on our kids.  If they say they're full, then that's it.  However, if they haven't touched their meal, I put it in the fridge to have at snack/meal time.

 

3.  My best approach to getting my kids to eat dinner is to offer smorgasboard style eating.  They would eat incredibly little if I just made a lasagna and a salad.  Standard on our dinner table is homemade bread, applesauce, raw veggies with dip, and milk.  DS & DD always have these on their plate every dinner by their own choice.  I usually also make a protein, cooked vegetable, and starch with this and they pick through those.  

 

4.  My DH used to always think DS & DD didn't eat.  I am a WAHM and he is out at work.  He would be concerned because they do pick at their dinner, but my kids both tend to eat significantly more food at breakfast and lunch, and a healthy afternoon snack.  From his perspective, the kids didn't eat.  From mine, they did -- just unevenly throughout the day.  Kids can have dramatic changes in how much they eat at one sitting, or one day, whatever.  I have always heard it's more important they are getting a balance of food over the course of a few days.  

 


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#15 of 20 Old 12-13-2010, 07:50 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TreyaJames View Post

My 2.5 year old daughter hates to eat.  Her pediatrician just warned us that we need to start monitoring her because she is too small for her age.  We constantly offer her various foods but it is a battle to get her to eat.  Mostly she will eat the following:

 

rice and lentils

an Indian pancake type thing made from chickpea flour (we sometimes sneak pumpkin or squash soup in instead of water)

potato fries

okra fries (and they have to be fried to a crisp)

plain rice

plain bread

roti with sugar (I hate giving her this)

fruit juice (I only give her 100% juice)

strawberry milk (she would be thrilled to subsist only on this if I let her)

a vitamin-enriched chocolate drink called Milo (I've only seen it here in Singapore, but it is similar to Horlicks, Complan - sorry, I don't know the American alternative)

blueberry or chocolate muffins

carrot cake

pumpkin pie

 

Occasionally she will deign to eat the veggies I put in front of her and she will eat fruit only when she feels like it.  We wanted to keep her vegetarian, but since she is not eating we have had to start offering chicken which she eats sometimes if it is plain.  No amount of cajoling, bribery, etc. is working and since she is not up to par in terms of height and weight, I am afraid to let her be content to not eat.  The doctor doesn't think she has any biological or medical problem preventing her from eating.  Ironically, she adores Indian spiced tea and coffee (don't ask how she was able to try those things - it is a long and involved story, but both were decaffeinated, thank goodness) and please do not mention iced tea in front of my child.  Any suggestions?


My oldest DS is small for his age, but dr is not concerned because he has been his entire life (since infancy) and my DH is also the same build.  I am wondering is it genetic for your DD???   Are there more people in your family who are small/slender?  I have come across some dr's who do not seem to realize that small children are also healthy.  Has she always been small, or has she fallen off her growth curve?  If she has always been small, there is not much to be concerned about.  If she has fallen off her normal growth curve, I can understand your dr wanting to watch her.

 

Anyways, what we do with DS is just to add more calories to what he is eating.  Butter, cream, and cheese are the top ones -- you can easily add butter to the muffins, breads, and cakes.  I read you are trying to keep your DD vegetarian, but it seems she is eating very little proteins besides the lentils. chickpea flour, and occasional chicken.  Will she eat eggs?  Nut butters (if that is not an issue for you)?  If you are making your own breads and muffins, you might look at how you can add more fat and proteins to your recipes ... maybe using nut flours, higher fat creams or milks, more butter, whatever.  

 

It's a long and slow process.  We're still there with my 4 year old, I feel your concern.  I don't know your daughter's personality at all ... when my DD was 2.5 if she knew we really, really wanted her to eat there was no way she would do it.   Lots of hugs!


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#16 of 20 Old 12-13-2010, 08:15 PM
 
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I would not stop allowing the snack because of his weight. I would, however, only allow an after bedtime snack of something high calorie and nutritious but not something he really likes. Keep meals something he he's willing to eat but don't pander to fussy requests. Hopefully he will realize that if he eats at meal time he will get food he likes.

 

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#17 of 20 Old 12-15-2010, 03:52 PM
 
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I will add what we do because we go through this too. Now my Dd will though, could probably starve herself. Really, she can go days and days with only eating 1 bowl of cereal. She is small for her age, she refused solid food until she was over 2 and yet there has been NO medical reason they can find why. So I do have to watch carefully her intake. I was told I ate like a bird as a child and was very small for my age, and so was DH. We can very easily fall underweight even now at almost 40 years old - in fact before I got pregnant, I was 10 pounds below the lowest weight for my height. Literally we "forget" to eat - I know people don't believe me, but it's true. I think the same thing happens with DD, so I have to judge everything on a daily/weekly basis with her. I don't buy into that "if they are hungry enough they will eat - they won't starve" because the less I eat, then the less I want to eat. If I go a long time without eating, the last thing I want to do is eat because it will make me feel sick. It's hard to explain, but I can go a long time without eating much, and I have a feeling my child is the same way.

 

I do allow snacks before bed if I know she hasn't eaten much. But most of the time, for her, it's a way to put off bedtime. So sometimes she will pull the "I need a snack" out after she has told me she doesn't want to go to bed, and wants one more book, and then needs to do this or that. At that point, no, she doesn't get any food. There have been times I have offered her water and crackers - like wheat crackers - really bland stuff. Sometimes she will tear through them, and then fall asleep right afterwards, and then I know - yeah the child really is hungry. I also do "last call" - we are going downstairs and getting something to eat before bed (also what time do you eat dinner? We eat before 5pm, when DH comes home, so I kind of expect another snack before bed for all of us) if she does not want to get one, then that is it, and I warn her she will only get water.

 

So anyway - that is my experience - I have no "rules" I take it day by day. Sometimes she is really hungry, and sometimes not. Sometimes even after eating dinner, she wants a snack, and sometimes she won't eat dinner or a snack.  She is NOT picky - oddly enough, she just doesn't eat much. She likes odd foods and when she does eat she likes to eat what we eat. She likes veggies and salsa and all sorts of stuff most kids her age don't, when she is in the mood to eat.


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#18 of 20 Old 12-23-2010, 09:44 AM
 
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Thanks for all the suggestions.  My daughter is small for her age and her weight has been the same for the last 6-7 months.  That said, she has also had three major viral fevers, one of which lasted ten days and at one point she could barely lift her head off the pillow.  Also, we have moved internationally, away from the only home she has known.  So I think part of the issue is her trying to assert some control over a situation she can't understand.  I am in the process of trying to change how meals are done.  We'll see how it all works out...

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#19 of 20 Old 12-27-2010, 11:01 AM
 
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I'm the meanie here. I (or usually DH) say "You can eat your dinner, or you can stand in the corner until you're ready to eat your dinner". My kids are 13, 10, and 5 right now. But they've always had to try everything if they could (2 out 3 of them have food intolerances). DS is extremely picky and extremely restricted with regards to food, and has been on a rotation diet for over 2 years. So there's not much food left that he will eat. If I try to make something new that he can have, he has to try it. DD1 hates salmon but it's one of the meats that the whole family can have, so she has to eat one bite whenever I make it. Same thing with brussel sprouts, asparagus etc. They have to eat their "no thank you" helping. And if they eat that, then they can get more of whatever they do want (rice, rice noodles, gluten-free roll, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.). Because I'm already making multiple meals because of the food intolerances, I'm not going to make something else because they're picky. Just isn't happening. That being said, there's usually a choice at dinner. For instance (and we're not vegetarians obviously), there will be roast beef, a turkey burger for DD2 because she can't have chicken, white mashed potatoes, sweet potato for DS because he can't have white potatoes, raw carrots and cucumber that they have to eat their age in any combination of, and broccoli. My DD2 will share an avocado with DH -- they'll just scoop it out and eat it. That's good fat. All the kids will do smoothies (coconut milk yogurt, banana, frozen strawberries, peaches). My kids have always loved soups. We do mix it up a lot making different foods. But DS who is the pickiest is very difficult. DH is the only one in the right weight bracket. The rest of us are underweight (as an adult, forgetting to eat is either adrenal or thyroid related, I can't remember which since I have both issues). So I try to make nutrient dense foods. And all the treats I'm making are home made (because of dietary restrictions). But I wouldn't give the bedtime snack. We've told them over and over that dinner is the last food, so eat up!


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#20 of 20 Old 12-29-2010, 05:32 PM
 
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My Ds is often like the OP's. He is now 4, but it started when he was 3. He just for some reason did not like the idea of "dinner" or "lunch" or whatever we called it. He liked snacks. Some of it was food related-control issues, and he does have some lingering texture issues from his reflux as a baby. But sometimes he just didn't like being told "come to the table". So sometimes we will just go ahead and fill our plate as well as DD's (who is all about meals, even if she does not always eat a lot) and sit down, without saying anything specific to him. Within a minute he'd be over at the table "where's MY dinner?" at which point we would act surprised "oh, you'd like some too?" and fix him a plate, which he would then proceed to eat.

 

Not saying this would work for your LO, but just something simple you could try that puts the "power" of deciding to eat the meal back into their hands. Good luck-DS is still pretty picky and it can be SO frustrating.


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