DD not eating at dinner time - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 17 Old 05-04-2010, 10:08 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Each night at our house, dinner is becoming an exasperating challenge. DD(age 8) will sit and pick at her food, eating just a little at a time. We are constantly telling her to "take bites". It's not so much that she doesn't like the food, she's not picky, she just talks. We all chat at the table and love the fact that we can come together and share our day, but we eat too.

I'm worried that our constant pushing for her to eat will have negative repercussions. She's already very slight and thin. She's always been a little bean pole, though healthy. She eats well at breakfast, usually at lunch, has snack at school and after, then comes dinner...

DH is scared of eating disorders enough as it is. His sister was a ballerina and had one. DD also takes ballet so he worries about that pressure. I don't think this has anything to do with body image though. She's never expressed any concern for her weight, if anything she thinks she's smaller than other girls sometimes. Although maybe our focus on eating could lead to something down the line?

Does anyone else go through this meal dilemma?

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#2 of 17 Old 05-04-2010, 10:19 AM
 
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My DS1 is 3 and likes to do the same - sit and pick at not eat. We remind him constantly to eat. his. food. Of course, his problem is he thinks if he doesn't eat dinner, he can have a cheese stick 15 minutes later. Which we did for a while. But realized thats why he wasn't eating dinner. So now he no longer gets snack more than 2 hours before or after dinner.
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#3 of 17 Old 05-04-2010, 11:12 AM
 
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My dd does this and it drives me nuts. I try not to say anything though because she will eventually eat her food, it just takes her a very long time to do so. I leave the table when I am done and allow her to sit there and eat her food until she is done. If she wants to get up from the table with me then I remind her that she can stop when she is full but she can't have unhealthy food (dessert) if she hasn't eaten her healthy food and I trust that her choice is one that is right for her.
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#4 of 17 Old 05-04-2010, 12:02 PM
 
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My dd is 8 and I can sort of relate. She is also not a picky eater, AT ALL. She'll eat anything, but she is slow as molasses when eating dinner. Same reason, talking. She is by nature a chatty Cathy... it's even gotten her in trouble at school.

We also tend to eat a lighter supper a little bit later than most Americans. By the time we sit down to eat, dd has had an afternoon "tea" and isn't usually ravenously hungry to eat at 7:00ish.

If she takes more than 30 minutes to eat and just wants us to sit there to listen to her talk, I tell her that we have to get things done (dinner clean up, lunches for tomorrow prepared, before bedtime activities) and that she can sit at the table and eat, but everyone else has to get their stuff done.

Usually, once everyone leaves the table, she finishes up quickly or decides that she's full for now and might eat more before bed, which is usually not far off by the time she's finished. I really think that 30 minutes is plenty of time to eat. It may not sound like much, but really, people often eat their meals in about 5-10 minutes, so 30 minutes is ample time.

I wouldn't worry about eating disorders. Model appropriate behavior, eat slowly, but at a reasonable pace, have good body image, eat healthfully, and when food is a topic of discussion have a healthy attitude about it. I don't think that telling her she can't take an hour to eat every night is going to negatively affect her body image (which is really what eating disorders are about). Good luck!
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#5 of 17 Old 05-04-2010, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by littletree View Post
We all chat at the table and love the fact that we can come together and share our day, but we eat too.
Have you tried having some family time before dinner where she can share her day? If dinner is the only time when all 3 of you are sitting together with no distractions maybe that's part of the problem.
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#6 of 17 Old 05-04-2010, 02:24 PM
 
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We do a countdown for dinner with our chatty-Cathy DD1. We tell her dinner will be over in 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute. Then we take her plate away and no food until breakfast. Now before anyone throws tomatoes- if she's eating from the start and continuously eating, we don't do this. This is for the chit-chat nights where she plays and talks (and would wait until we were done to start eating). It's helped tremendously, be it's her choice to eat or not in the time frame, not ours, no pressure to take bites, etc.
good luck, bc I know this is frustrating.
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#7 of 17 Old 05-04-2010, 04:04 PM
 
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My 6yo DD usually spends dinner chatting instead of talking. We don't force her to eat. If she's hungry, she'll eat. Simple as that.

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#8 of 17 Old 05-04-2010, 07:11 PM
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Originally Posted by maddymama View Post
We do a countdown for dinner with our chatty-Cathy DD1. We tell her dinner will be over in 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute. Then we take her plate away and no food until breakfast. Now before anyone throws tomatoes- if she's eating from the start and continuously eating, we don't do this. This is for the chit-chat nights where she plays and talks (and would wait until we were done to start eating). It's helped tremendously, be it's her choice to eat or not in the time frame, not ours, no pressure to take bites, etc.
good luck, bc I know this is frustrating.
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The OP is worried about eating disorders. What you've suggested sounds like a perfect way to set up a power struggle, which is exactly what eating disorders are.

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#9 of 17 Old 05-04-2010, 07:48 PM
 
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If she's hungry, she'll eat. Simple as that.
Yes. I would stop commenting on her eating habits completely.
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#10 of 17 Old 05-04-2010, 08:07 PM
 
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The OP is worried about eating disorders. What you've suggested sounds like a perfect way to set up a power struggle, which is exactly what eating disorders are.
I actually view it as removing any power struggle. If you ask your kids to "Take one more bite," or "Eat this before you get any desert." or "just try one bite of everythig" that creates a power struggle in my mind when the child refuses to take a bite or whatever.
Simply saying dinner is over in ten minutes reminds DD1 that she doesn't have all night to eat, and that in a few minutes we'll be moving on to our bedtime routine. We aren't pestering her about eating in any way, shape, or form, we're doing the opposite. My job is to put healthy food on the table, it's her job to eat it, and we're simply letting her know that dinner won't last for hours. How is that creating a power struggle? It's her choice to eat in the 30-45 minutes that we eat, not ours, and all we do is remind her that we won't tolerate her playing for 45 minutes and then deciding to eat....
Just my two cents....
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#11 of 17 Old 05-04-2010, 08:51 PM
 
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its the opposite in my dd's case. its breakfast. she does not like eating bfast. she may eat bfast once a week or less.

i dont push her. she is healthy and full of energy. she is not a morning person.

she also skips dinner sometimes.

now if your dd was getting hungry at 10 and wanting dinner then it would be a cause for concern. otherwise no. i remember in my teens i regularly skipped dinner. even today i do sometimes.

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#12 of 17 Old 05-04-2010, 10:20 PM
 
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Yes my 7 year old son is just like this. He even talks about being dismayed by being so small. :-( But he is still picky. I just make the food and serve it, it's his job to eat it or not.

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#13 of 17 Old 05-04-2010, 11:40 PM
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I actually view it as removing any power struggle.
That may work at a certain (young) age, but an older child may fight back by not eating at all.

A long, leisurely dinner that includes good food and lots of good conversation.........sounds like the perfect evening with friends. Why does it suddenly stress us out when it involves our children instead?

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#14 of 17 Old 05-05-2010, 07:57 AM
 
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Because sometimes you have stuff that your doing and need to eat quickly and clean up so you can go? Because bed time has to happen eventually, and you have stuff to do?? Nice long, leissurely dinners are OK sometimes, but often we at least have stuff that we are doing and so need to eat and be done!!
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#15 of 17 Old 05-05-2010, 09:38 AM
 
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A long, leisurely dinner that includes good food and lots of good conversation.........sounds like the perfect evening with friends. Why does it suddenly stress us out when it involves our children instead?
I don't think that anyone is saying that it's stressful when it's a special occasion and the meal is overly-long.

A long, relaxing meal is fine on a weekend, when there isn't school or work the next day and the person preparing the meal has the time to prepare a multi-course meal - that *should* be relaxed over for a period of time.

But during the week, when you've put together a healthy, but quick meal that is something simple and everyone else finishes in 10 minutes (not wolfing it down, either)... then it gets REALLY, REALLY tiresome when 30 minutes later the kiddo is still talking and not eating (and it happens every day, not "once-in-a-while").

...and it has nothing to do with being a kid. If I had an adult in my immediate family that talked the whole meal and didn't eat, then I would not feel obligated to sit and listen. I'd get up and tell them that I had to get things done before bedtime. (Guests, of course are different.)
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#16 of 17 Old 05-05-2010, 01:50 PM
 
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A couple of random thoughts

A lot of cultures eat their main meal at the midday and a much lighter meal in the evening. This is healthy (probably healthier than the main meal in the evening) and a fine way to eat. It sounds like your dd eats well at most meals, but not dinner.

Is she asking for food after dinner or just not eating much? If she's not asking for food after dinner, I don't see the problem. Some days ds (my bean pole) eats very little. He does sit long enough to talk a bit with us, and I'm OK with that.


In our family, when you're done with dinner, you can get up from the table. This applies to adults as well as children. So, in your situation, if your dd is not eating and everyone else is done, I'd clear my plate and go do something else.

My advice would be to talk to her about your concerns. Tell her you're worried she's not getting enough at dinner, but that you realize it's her decision. So, you've decided to quit telling her to take bites because you figure she's old enough to be able to figure out how to eat her dinner. Tell her that you'll chat for a bit after dinner, but you're not going to wait all evening for her to finish.

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#17 of 17 Old 05-05-2010, 07:56 PM
 
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If she's eating well during the rest of the day, and just not hungry in the evening, I'd let it be.

OTOH, if she's *snacking* a lot, filling up with empty calories, then that might explain the lack of hunger later on.

In our house the rule is that supper is the last meal of the day, and no snacks afterwards. I don't mind if my kids just aren't hungry, but if they refuse supper and try to wrangle a muffin or a cookie afterwards, no deal. We say "Hungry is for supper". Most of the time though, when they don't eat, it's just because they're not hungry.

It is hard for me as a mom. I feel like they should eat measureable amounts at each meal. I worry about them not eating enough. But that's my issue, and they are very healthy, well-fed kids. It's also interesting that if I really keep my hands off the food thing, they do balance their diet over a period of about two weeks. Yesterday my 3 year old who rarely eats much supper was suddenly ravenous for broccoli and ate about two adult-sized servings of it.
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