controlling a 12 month old at mealtimes - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 21 Old 08-04-2013, 08:06 PM - Thread Starter
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My son is about to turn a year old and I am having so much trouble with him at the table! 9 times out of 10 he picks up a piece of food and chucks it either across the room or at somebody. He rarely actually eats the food, even if its something I know he loves!
I had someone tell me to take him out of his high chair and tell him dinners over. Tried this and the problem is he doesn't care! He just sat on the floor and started playing- even though I knew he was hungry!
Then I tried giving him one piece of food at a time so he doesn't feel overwhelmed. All that means is throwing one piece of food at a time instead of a whole handful!
I tried making him sit in his highchair with no food until me and my hubby are finished but neither of us could handle the screaming that goes along with that technique.
So pretty much we're at a loss. I want my son to eat but even if he doesn't, I want him to behave at the table. He's too young to understand the time out concept and we try not to say "no" too often (even though its slipping out more and more these days!) So how do you discipline a 12 month old?
I know I shouldnt compare but All of the other kids his age sit like angels and eat off of plates when we're together. I don't dare give my boy a plate cuz the whole thing will get tossed. Oh and he's obsessed with eating paper so paper plates are out of the question too!
I feel like such a mess up. I can't figure out what I did to cause this behavior! My little man is loved and cuddled daily so its not like he's craving attention!
I'd really appreciate any advice!
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#2 of 21 Old 08-04-2013, 08:23 PM
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You don't discipline him. His behavior is normal and he will grow out of it. Sometimes mine does this because he is thirsty.

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#3 of 21 Old 08-05-2013, 04:23 AM
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At 12 months some kids just aren't into solids yet very much. Have you tried giving him a toy to occupy him while he's in the high chair? I don't really see a need for him to sit through a meal if he's not eating but if it's important to you then toys and books may help him stay occupied . As he grows, he will get more interested in food and once he is, he will be too busy eating to make much of a mess.
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#4 of 21 Old 08-05-2013, 06:45 PM
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I think around that age, maybe a bit older, I was able to train my DD to hand me pieces of food or put them in the cupholder instead of throwing them.  I did it through extreme vigilance, catching her hand before she threw, and redirecting her hand to the appropriate place.  I think I also said "food stays on the table" or something also.  Honestly, I don't know if this "worked" or if she just grew out of it, but I think it sounds like your LO really just isn't interested in eating at the moment.  I would give him a piece of food or two, and if he throws instead of eating, just stop giving him food for the moment and give him a toy instead.  Does he eat better if he's the only one eating?  I know my DD responded poorly to the lack of attention during family mealtimes, but was usually okay when it was just me and her. 

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#5 of 21 Old 08-06-2013, 02:23 PM
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My LO was like that at that age - including paper eating.  Usually it was about timing and bc DH sometimes works late, we would wait for him to come home which meant eating while she was tired.  Plus she was nursing far more then than now and would always nurse before meals so she'd  be mostly full and uninterested in our food.  What helped was sitting in my lap and sharing my plate (it always tastes better off someone else's plate right?!) rather than having her own or just handing her a piece at a time.  She's 21mos now and still has meals where she'd rather toss everything to the dogs.  Sometime it bothers me more than others but it's not something I stress over.  The more you focus on a particular behavior, the more attention you draw to it, and be it positive or negative, attention is attention.  So don't sweat the small stuff, ignore the behaviors you don't like, and reward the good stuff.  If he's not into eating, then let him do something he is into for the time being.  Kids learn by example and while some adults are pretty gross in public, for the most part we all grew out of our childhood food throwing habits and are doing just fine now.

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#6 of 21 Old 08-13-2013, 03:44 PM
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Totally normal. It will eventually stop as soon as it starts. Get a dog and clean up is awesome :D

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#7 of 21 Old 08-18-2013, 11:26 PM
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My daughter is over 2 and we're just now working on the whole sitting at the table during meal times thing. When she was 1 I'd let her sit in her high chair and eat or play as long as she was fine with it, then put her down when she started to throw food or get upset. She just wasn't that interested on solids foods, eating on a schedule, or being trapped in her chair. And that's ok, so long as you can sit back down and eat your dinner while they play or whatever. She eventually got over the throwing food thing, and now will usually sit at the table with us while we eat even if she's not hungry she'll drink some milk or play with her cars. She doesn't always make it the entire way through dinner before getting down, but I'm not willing to make it a power struggle yet. I just want to eat in peace myself and we can work on table manners as her patience and understanding improves. 

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#8 of 21 Old 08-20-2013, 03:48 AM
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I agree that this type of behaviour, although frustrating, is normal for this age. My son, 14 months, sometimes throws his food when he gets frustrated at being in his chair or when he's just not interested in eating and we ignore that fact. We try to put him in his chair, put some food on the tray for him to pick up and feed himself, and usually read his favourite book to him. Mostly he doesn't like being restricted in the chair and having us feed him (put the food in his mouth for him). If we don't respect his desire to be out of his chair he flat out refuses to try any food. He's much more receptive to feeding himself. Although taking 5 minutes to eat 1 strand of spaghetti at a time can be frustrating for me, I try to remember the point is that he should choose how much to eat, and learn to recognise feelings of hunger and feelings of fullness. At this age we are trying to teach him that food is enjoyable and eating is a social activity. He also prefers to eat off my plate (while sitting on my lap) and will sometimes grab food out of my hands to have a bite. 


It is definitely more difficult to get him to enjoy a meal when he's tired. He also eats much better when I'm not around - as I am the milk provider. I try not to get too stressed out about the food thing - I have a sense that his average calorie intake is sufficient for his age and weight. I also agree that this behaviour does not require discipline at this age, also, I try to remember from positive discipline that an outward behaviour is an expression of an inner feeling - perhaps he is trying to assert himself, I'm sometimes surprised by how strong willed they can be. 


Good luck! This won't last forever. 

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#9 of 21 Old 09-02-2013, 09:16 AM
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Hi just want to say my lo is a yr old and has become a very picky eat and in order to get her to eat we have to entertain her or else she wants no part of it yes it can be exhausting but it works hopefully its a phase and she will start to enjoy food that she once did . And as for throwing her food she does it too only if its something that she really enjoys but once she had enough the food throwing starts and thn it's time to take her out of her chair
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#10 of 21 Old 09-02-2013, 09:52 AM
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It'll pass. I'd work on becoming okay with a little mess. Keep his food to things that won't stain and are easy to clean up, such as plain rotini, a piece of cheese, broccoli florets, plain chicken, apple slices. And limit him to a few pieces at a time. You could also get a chair that would bring him to the table so he could be a part of the meal and see how people eat together, instead of being in the high chair.
Don't react when he throws. Ignore it, and show excitement and joy when he eats properly.
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#11 of 21 Old 09-02-2013, 10:15 AM
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My kids don't reliably sit through an entire meal until they are closing in on school age.  At 12 months?  Unheard of.  They all had a short stint of angelic behavior in a high chair for a few months then turned into whirling dervishes who might snag a bite as they ran through.  I just assume eating with polite company is out of the question until they are all old enough to move out. :dizzy

Which is to say, sometimes kids just don't want to sit through a meal nicely and quietly.  A family mealtime might sound great to us, but for some kids it is an intolerable expectation. 

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#12 of 21 Old 09-02-2013, 02:16 PM
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Oh, and I meant to comment on the thread title and the choice to use the word 'controlling' ... Not my aim at all with my kids, and I've always thought it would be undue pressure on the parent to maintain 'control' once it's been administered. 'Living with' or 'encouraging' or 'support for' or 'frustration with' might be words that'd be a step in the direction of a peaceful mealtime experience.

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#13 of 21 Old 09-03-2013, 07:41 PM
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I would probably stop trying to feed him at the same time you are trying to eat. Have him sit in the high chair while you fix dinner, maybe with some frozen peas, or just enough pudding on the tray to smear around... something interesting.   When dinner is ready, he gets cleaned up, released from the high chair, and all go to where you eat. he plays where you are eating, occasionally coming up to beg a bite off your plate. You have a meal with no screaming. He doesn't feel frustrated. Win-win. (well, we hope. That's how I'd write it if I were writing the script, at least!)  


Hey, it's worth a try.   I never found 1 year olds particularly interested in set mealtimes.  He's not ready for "family mealtime".  Better to feed before or after those that actually will sit and eat. He'll get there, as many have pointed out. 

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#14 of 21 Old 09-05-2013, 05:50 AM
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Don't push it. He will grow out of it! Did he just start walking? Sometimes that can make them way too busy to care about eating! Also, consider doing a snack plate for the time being. Cut up fruit, veggies, finger foods and leave it out. Let him get down, play eat, play eat. Unless he acts hungry and won't go to sleep because of it. Let it go. He'll grow out of it!

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#15 of 21 Old 09-05-2013, 12:22 PM
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Don't take advice from me!  I have a six-month-old who literally just started solids a couple of days ago.


That said, I was also thinking, "Have you tried letting him sit on your lap and eat off your plate?"

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#16 of 21 Old 09-06-2013, 12:05 AM
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Don't stress out about it ... your child may be a great pitcher one day!

Seriously, if you have a child that is a thrower, you just have to kind of go with it. My daughter, age 14 now, was a thrower from an early age. She threw rocks through windows, during our dovorce she threw rocks at me, and even now, it's hard for her to just stand around without picking up rocks to throw. She was a late talker, and when I tried to read her books at an early age, she would grab them and throw them. Today she's an honor roll student and has been
pitching in softball for the past two years.
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#17 of 21 Old 09-08-2013, 07:35 AM
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I hesitate to respond to this, but now I figure that others have already posted wise words concerning an exceptionally beautiful philosophy of childrearing, you'll be able to take my thoughts with a grain of salt. Everyone's situation is different, but there are things that I wish I'd known about ten years ago...
(I originally posted a similar comment to a thread on the WAPF chapterleader's list, but it is still relevant here, I think...)

I was raised by a couple of not-quite-ex-hippies, the oldest in a family of five kids. We were all unschooled a la John Holt: we had exceptional freedom to follow our interests and passions, and we had a lot more chores and responsibilities than any of the other kids we knew. We were out in the world, meeting people of all ages and walks of life, creating adventure and our own "education"--and when I grew up, I vowed that I would give my own child(ren) the same gift of freedom that my parents gave to us.

Fast forward several years, to when my husband and I had our first child. We were planning on homebirthing and co-sleeping and homeschooling and Accepting Children For Who They Are. And for the next six years, we did our absolute darndest to love and appreciate and nurture our eldest son, who was always just a "little" bit MORE than all the other kids. He was more whiny, more wakeful, more "colicky," more delayed in reaching his "milestones," more needy of constant adult attention, more picky in his eating, more focused, more prone to stomach aches, more clingy...and later, more anxious, more depressed, more obsessive, and increasingly prone to more and more explosive tantrums.

He was our first child. People kept saying, "It's a stage!" "All kids have tantrums every so often!" "Lots of kids breastfeed for a long time, and don't want to eat solid foods until they're two." "Kids don't like it when their parents leave." "Is ANYONE truly 'normal'?"

I was so loathe to box my child into someone else's idea of normal. And even pediatricians and child psychologists didn't have a definite idea or diagnosis. Our son was just...hard.

It wasn't until the spring of 2010 that we realized just how much we had been compensating for our little boy's challenges, and how much energy it took to pretend that he was normal. Gradually, over his first six years, he had gone from an almost-but-not-quite Bouncing, Happy a withdrawn, "rude," antisocial, tantrumming six-year-old, whose language was slipping away and who was at the very bottom of the percentile charts for height and weight. He ate three foods, I couldn't leave the house without him having an anxiety attack (forget about taking him anywhere), he had no friends or apparent desire for social contact, and his belly was distended and swollen while rashes were torturing him constantly.

It is now three and a half years later. I still have trouble using the word autism. He didn't have all the symptoms anyway. And for the first year and a half of the GAPS protocol, we had to deal with the most acute case of anorexia that I have ever known, to the point where no doctors or therapists had any further ideas. It became more crisis management than coming-to-terms with a diagnosis. We watched our child battle raging infections, and we're not out of the woods yet. But now, after nearly 42 months of monumental effort, my nearly-ten-year-old is turning into the little boy who was hiding inside all along.

This little boy actually loves people, and is finally starting to learn all of the social "niceties" that he failed to pick up over his first eight years. This child still has tics and anxieties and obsessions, but gradually the tantrums are decreasing, and his coping skills are increasing, and we're all having a bit more of a chance to breathe. And all of this, pretty much every bit, is due to the healing power of Foods alone. In fact, the most amazing thing is that my used-to-be-anorexic, tossing-food-on-the-floor-child LOVES food now! He still hates raw liver, but now he eats every ferment, vegetable, meat, and soup that is placed in front of him (including the liver), and occasionally wonders why he used to not want to eat.

With any luck, we found GAPS in time to save my kids from becoming members of the Omega Generation.

Anyway. Many people will note correctly that their child is not nearly as bad as my child became. And I, still a die-hard unschooler who is inspired by "non-coercive parenting" and Accepting People for Who They STILL loathe to put any "spirited" "high-needs" child into someone else's diagnostic box. But it's also true that many years ago, MY child wasn't as sick as my child became. And because I was so determined to "accept him for who he was," I turned a blind eye toward the troubling symptoms that nobody could explain, including his delayed and picky eating, and I tried the squelch the "complaining" voices in my head that would pipe up and say, "Gosh, I'm exhausted! Parenting is....a LOT harder than I thought it would be! I have...absolutely no time for myself. He is just such a...needy kid..."

When my second child arrived, I began to get an inkling of how "normal" parents might feel--tired, but not incredibly and completely drained of energy and coping mechanisms. These parents of normal kids might be tired of putting most of their energy toward childrearing and homemaking...but they would also be energized and inspired by their child's hugs and enthusiasm and joy for life. In our case, there really wasn't much reciprocity in the parent/child relationship (with our eldest), and instead of recognizing what was going on, I blamed myself for my poor parenting, poor household management, poor organization...ANYTHING, rather than noting the Not Rightness.

So anyway...I have a feeling that much of what I'm describing is NOT your situation at all, and probably is not applicable. But my main point is that I think it's okay to take stock of how things are going, and notice whether things are Not Right enough to be really a problem. And this _doesn't_ necessarily mean that there's a lack of Good Parenting or Household Management Strategies, or that a child is Bad. It might not be anyone's fault...but STILL things might be Not Right, and there may be ways to address these things. What I'm learning is that healthy children and healthy parents are resilient, and don't require perfection in order to enjoy their days. It is the growing resilience in my little boy that is one of the things I treasure most about his healing.

These days, even when things are imperfect he doesn't always scream about it, or "act out," or whine for three hours non-stop. (Sometimes he does, but often he doesn't.) My husband and I are starting to be able to appreciate the perfection in our imperfect lives, and share it with our children. And this is, I now realize, one of the things that families are all about.

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#18 of 21 Old 09-08-2013, 08:28 AM
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Hmm... it sounds like he is right at that whole "cause and effect" stage. One is probably too young to be expected to sit and eat, when there are so many exciting things. Mealtime should still be about discovery at that age, and chances are, he's getting enough to eat -- pretty typical for kiddos to eat like birds one day and eat everything in sight the next. IMO, five minutes is probably as long as you should reasonably expect him to sit still and focus on food. Is it more important to spend time together as a family, or having enviable table manners? One piece of advice that stuck with me was to feed dd dinner before the actual mealtime, because it was less distracting, and then let her have a "snack" with the family at dinnertime, so there's less pressure on everybody involved.
Best of luck to you!
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#19 of 21 Old 09-08-2013, 10:08 AM
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#20 of 21 Old 09-09-2013, 03:26 PM
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While I don't know what "the answer" is, I agree with many of the suggestions here.  I thought I'd post a warning or two.  (This is my first post, I think!)


1)  Personally, I would use the suggestion to "let your LO sit on your lap" as a last resort.  Unless it won't bother you, meaning: it won't bother you at holiday dinners, at restaurants with friends, at more formal events like a wedding.  


2)  Don't worry about your LO starving to death so much that you change your standards.  I imagine you take him/her to the regularly scheduled doctor appointments.  Your doctor will let you know if there's a real concern.  I say this due to my experience.  My DH worried so much that I lowered my standards of what food was acceptable.  Now, my 6-year-old son barely eats anything and is a sugar junkie.  


3)  Try to avoid power struggles and/or negativity in regards to food and meals.  I'm sure you know what I mean.  You don't want food to become a source of contention and the means by which your LO eventually proves his/her independence.


4)  Would you consider replacing food, once it's been thrown, with a soft, light ball?  (I don't love the idea of mixing food and toys, but balls are the only things I allow to be thrown in my house.)  You'll need several handy near your seat at the table, and plan a convenient place to put his/her plate  He/She can throw them with little consequence.  Maybe you won't get too annoyed, and you can have more peaceful meals again.  Of course, you may get the occasional ball in the face and drink!  I'm rethinking this one!!


5)  Although I doubt it, is it possible your LO is just enchanted by something that happens when dropping objects from the height of the highchair?  I have heard of that.  Does he/she throw other things from there?  have other opportunities to be up high?


Okay, out of ideas that haven't been said.  Good luck!  And if nothing works, just remember, this too shall pass!               

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#21 of 21 Old 09-09-2013, 03:57 PM
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It's just a long time to sit for a one-year-old, that's all! Perhaps make it more age-appropriate. He could maybe sit with you for a few minutes and have some bites of food, some himself, some assisted by you. Then, when he starts to get fidgety, you can let him down and he can play on the floor with some toys while you and your husband finish your dinners. Then, perhaps your son might like to sit on your lap and have a few more bites, then play again.


Gradually, his tolerance for sitting at the table and following your conversation will increase.

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