Preschooler Eating Question - Mothering Forums
Life with a Toddler > Preschooler Eating Question
Polarbearfish's Avatar Polarbearfish 05:23 PM 06-03-2010
This is my first time posting on this board, although I've been lurking and reading the good advice here for a while...

I have a 3.5 year old who is perfectly capable of feeding himself, but often at dinnertime I find myself feeding him. And by that I mean that he'll sort of get distracted or disinterested and I'll remind him of the food in front of him by scooping up some guacamole and offering it to him. (I would never force food on him or anything like that!)

He often will have 1/2 the meal fed to him. Sometimes he asks me to feed him. In some ways I think he likes the comfort of being fed. It's been our style to give him the source of comfort that he needs and asks for, such as letting him sleep with us until he seemed comfortable to be on his own and gradually potty-training.

In any case, there is a teacher at the Montessori preschool that he attends--a very experienced teacher--who has made me think twice about this. Today she came to me and mentioned that she has been needing to feed him his lunch every day and it's taking too much time, etc. And that maybe he doesn't like what I'm sending to school with him. Well, that's when I confessed that he often likes to be fed, no matter what he is eating. And she said that I should stop feeding him and that he is old enough to feed himself. Which--of course he is! I know that, he knows that, I just don't find it inconvenient to be a part of his meal and have just been assuming that it's fine and he won't want to be fed forever, no big deal. With things like this, I always think to myself that he will grow out of the need to have that extra comfort and he always seems to.

The thing is that he has always been slow to make the "big boy" leaps. I mean, he talked really early but was slow to start walking without holding on to something and only was brave enough to go down a slide by himself just recently. Each time he takes a leap forward he seems to want a little extra babying in other aspects of his life, you know? Anyway, right now he is potty-training and I'm loathe to take something away that might give him comfort.

Any thoughts on this? Should I follow her advice and go against my instincts?

wife&mommy's Avatar wife&mommy 05:30 PM 06-03-2010
Personally, I wouldn't feed my child at 3.5 but if you feel it is right for your child then do what you feel he needs. Each child is different and you know him best.
serenbat's Avatar serenbat 05:47 PM 06-03-2010
I would remove him from the class, it really is putting a burden on the teacher to feed a 3.5 year old. He doesn't seem ready to be in the program. I would wait until he is able to function (and do it) on his own.
Polarbearfish's Avatar Polarbearfish 05:58 PM 06-03-2010
Well, removing him from the class would be extreme. The same teacher is always talking about how well he is doing and how happy he is there. And he is capable of feeding himself. I've already told her that it is not necessary to feed him. He will eat on his own if he wants to do it.
I'm just wondering if I should push the issue at home, that's all.
serenbat's Avatar serenbat 06:09 PM 06-03-2010
I ment he is not in a baby sitting class-he should be expected to feed himself. Taking the teacher away to do so is not what I would expect other parents would want either. Since he does not have a disability, I would push the issue, the teacher certainly seems correct in doing so.

The issue is at home and it is carrying over, to me that would be an issue to be addressed.
Polarbearfish's Avatar Polarbearfish 06:16 PM 06-03-2010
okay. Well, I've taken your point. thanks.
alegna's Avatar alegna 06:23 PM 06-03-2010
I would be concerned that your feeding him is teaching him to disregard his internal signals about food. It was always important to me that my kids listened to their own bodies about food. I would not feed a 3.5yr old as a matter of course. A bite here and there to be silly or try something new- sure. Every meal? No.

jillmamma's Avatar jillmamma 06:34 PM 06-03-2010
My DD is 4.5 and sometimes does this too. For her, it is mainly when she is really tired or feeling overwhelmed, or being served something that is not one of her favorites. A couple of things that help us are me offering to take turns...she does one bite, then I will help her with one, etc., or asking her to take 5 bites, and then I will help her with the rest, or sometimes if I just need her to eat and be done, I will set the timer in the kitchen and leave it up to her to eat or not, but when the timer is done, the table gets cleared and food put away.
FarrenSquare's Avatar FarrenSquare 10:14 PM 06-03-2010
You could try easing your pre-schooler into feeding themselves by taking turns. For instance, ask him to feed himself so many bites and then match his offer. Eventually have him take more bites himself than you are giving him.

I think it is important that a pre-schooler is able to feed themselves. Not only is it great for their own independence and confidence, but it builds excellent fine motor skills and coordination. It doesn't have to be a jarring experience, though!
pbjmama's Avatar pbjmama 01:45 AM 06-04-2010
I would work on it. PPs suggestion of taking turns is good. And if he doesn't eat much for a few meals don't stress
tbone_kneegrabber's Avatar tbone_kneegrabber 02:06 PM 06-04-2010
ds does this and so do tons of kids I know. I think its a way to feel "taken care of" they still want to be a baby sometimes and that's okay. I also think its totally okay for the preshool teacher to say "no I am not feeding you, at school we each feed ourselves" Ds has been in preschool since 20months and they don't feed any of the kids, they help open containers and will peel an orange etc, but they will not feed the kids. However, at home we still sometimes feed ds if he wants us to, he is totally capable of feeding himself, but sometimes he asks to be fed a few bites.

I find it easy to have different rules at school than at home. For instance at school they are not allowed to share lunches (allergies, food issues, parents wanting to know what the kids ate etc) but at home we share food, not a problem.

We also put off if ds is being needy, "feed me my yogurt please" might receive a response like, "Well, I'm eating right now so you do it yourself and when I'm done eating I'll help you" then he does it and maybe forgets he wants me to, or sometimes notices as soon as I am finished my food and repeats the request, which I then honor my promise.
lnitti's Avatar lnitti 03:08 PM 06-04-2010
I know you feel that you are serving his needs best by giving him that source of comfort that he "needs and wants" (your words from your post). But by feeding him like that, I don't really feel that you are actually meeting his needs. I don't think it does him any real favors and may actually leave him feeling that he isn't good enough to do it himself or that you do it better, etc. I think in the long run, doing too much for our kids for things they can and should be doing themselves can have a damaging effect to their self-esteem and confidence. When kids are allowed to do the things they are capable of, it builds there self esteem and self confidence.

I think you should tell the teacher that at school he should be treated no different than the other children. I am actually shocked that a Montessori teacher would feed a child. Even if you are feeding him at home, there is no reason for the teacher to do it at school. Things do NOT have to be the same in both environment. Children adapt pretty well to different sets of rules in different environments.

At home, I think you should find some other way to provide comfort and attention. You should wean him off of you needing to feed him. Probably not cold turkey, but maybe give him a couple bites, then tell him you need to eat your food while he eats his. Maybe repeat a few times. If he is truly hungry, he will eat. if it is not eating, don't cajole him into it or offer to feed him the rest. He will not starve even if he doesn't eat much for a few meals (or days, etc). When is is hungry he WILL eat. It will also help him to listen to his own body's signals regarding hunger and food.
Polarbearfish's Avatar Polarbearfish 03:34 PM 06-04-2010
Hey thanks to those of you who gave the practical suggestion regarding how to deal with him asking to be fed. Last night at dinner he didn't ask to be fed, but this morning he did. I offered to take turns and he took one bite from me and then forgot to ask me to do it again. I don't know why I never thought of that!! So thanks, it's very helpful to have that advice.

I also reiterated to his teacher this morning that she does not have to feed him. We never asked her or anyone to feed him and in the last 7 months of him attending the school it was never mentioned to me. I certainly would not have expected the teacher to do that. That would be absurd.

Thanks again for the great suggestion about taking turns. He viewed it as fun, I think. I'm kind of embarrassed that I didn't think of it!!