Mothering Forum banner

1 - 14 of 14 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,233 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
<p>I am struggling with my 38 month old and food at the moment. He constantly wants to eat and opens the fridge and tries to help himself to stuff, constantly hassles me to 'see what's in the cupboard' even though I've given him options of what there is to eat. He will refuse a multitude of options and keep repeating, "I want something ELSE to eat. I'm hungry." He is a real 'grazer' and I accept that, but I feel like I am constantly dishing out food and then he often refuses to eat his main meal, but will ask for a snack within a couple of minutes after saying he's had enough of whatever that meal was. I'm trying to be adaptable and have started preparing different stuff to see what he likes, but h e just seems fixated on food. I've noticed when he has a friend to play he asks for food much less so I suspect it's boredom more than genuine hunger sometimes, or perhaps a way of getting me to engage with him and 'care for him', since he often asks for snacks when I am busy in the house. He'll be busy happily playing with his trains etc (he plays well on his own, often for quite long periods), and then suddenly start asking for food, and I sometimes think its b/c he's suddenly noticed I am engaged in something else like housework and wants my attention. He was an extremely frequent breastfeeder until I stopped feeding him on demand at 2 1/2 years (he now just gets a bedtime and on waking feed), so I think this is not dissimilar. It's like he associates food with comfort and attention and has replaced breastfeeding with constant snacking.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>I just don't know what's appropriate here but I feel some limits or some kind of structure is in order. Am I off the wall? I'm feeling frustrated by this. It's also triggering stuff from my own upbringing bc as a small child there was no way I'd have had access to the fridge, etc, and part of me just thinks, "WHo do you think you are, just helping yourself?" But I know that's wrong, b/c why shouldn't he be able to eat when he wants to? Sigh. FYI he is not in any way overweight, nor is he underweight, and I don't think he has worms.</p>
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
92 Posts
<p>Take this for what it's worth...I'm not a mom for another 1.5 months yet...<span><img alt="winky.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/winky.gif"></span></p>
<p> </p>
<p><span>I think you got it right when you said you think he's grazing because he's bored. The fact that he's not eating his main meals and then coming back for a snack very shortly after is kind of a giveaway too. I would never advocate forcing kids to eat. I grew up that way and I believe it really screwed me up, but I do believe that some sort of "schedule" or plan of the day is appropriate (something like 3 meals and 2 snacks) and if you don't choose to eat because you aren't hungry, that's fine, but then you wait for the next meal. He might be a little hungry while he tests this new plan, but he will figure it out shortly. It seems like a better option for good healthy eating over a lifetime than grazing because he's bored.</span></p>
<p> </p>
<p><span>The only reason I suggest this is because he's 3 yo right now. He'll likely be heading to school in just a year or two, depending on what you choose and</span> they won't have the same options for all day grazing. Why not get him used to how he'll be required to eat in the future.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>It sounds like he's a good eater for the most part, he's just got into a bad habit that is probably easily fixed. I'm going to be really interested to see what kind of food issues I get to face with my little one in the future!</p>
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
92 Posts
<p>my dd is 4,she has had her own basket of snacks and her own shelf in the fridge for a few years.she can help herself to anything at anytime and generally has 3-4 snacks on her own and meals at appropriate times. she goes to school in the mornings,Montesorie,so she serves herself there too.It really makes eating a non-issue.She is required to take try-it bites at mealtimes and use manners,since about 3.5 yrs.</p>
<p>he sounds normal and it sounds like you are doing fine too keeping the stress out of eating.</p>
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,517 Posts
<p><br>
 </p>
<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Devaya</strong> <a href="/community/forum/thread/1283241/food-issues-with-3-y-old#post_16089619"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a><br><br><p>I am struggling with my 38 month old and food at the moment. He constantly wants to eat and opens the fridge and tries to help himself to stuff, constantly hassles me to 'see what's in the cupboard' even though I've given him options of what there is to eat. He will refuse a multitude of options and keep repeating, "I want something ELSE to eat. I'm hungry." He is a real 'grazer' and I accept that, but I feel like I am constantly dishing out food and then he often refuses to eat his main meal, but will ask for a snack within a couple of minutes after saying he's had enough of whatever that meal was. ...</p>
<p> </p>
<p>I just don't know what's appropriate here but I feel some limits or some kind of structure is in order. Am I off the wall? I'm feeling frustrated by this. It's also triggering stuff from my own upbringing bc as a small child there was no way I'd have had access to the fridge, etc, and part of me just thinks, "WHo do you think you are, just helping yourself?" But I know that's wrong, b/c why shouldn't he be able to eat when he wants to? Sigh. FYI he is not in any way overweight, nor is he underweight, and I don't think he has worms.</p>
</div>
</div>
<p><br>
I have some of the same issues in that my mother was extremely controlling about food in many ways.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>My son went through a stage like that - I can't remember the age exactly, but around then.  How we approached it was that there were three choices for snack, and one choice for an "instead of dinner" option. Then if he refused those, the answer was no. It did take a few times standing our ground about it to work through it:</p>
<p> </p>
<p>"I want a snack"</p>
<p>"You can have crackers, cheese, or fruit."</p>
<p>"I don't want those..."</p>
<p>"Your choices are crackers, cheese, or fruit..." repeat ad nauseum.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>With meals it was:</p>
<p> </p>
<p>"I'm disappointed you didn't eat your dinner and now you're hungry." [Secret of Parenting technique where you neither 'rescue' the child from your vaguely negative opinion of his behaviour, nor impose a consequence. You just let them hear it and trust that over time they will modify their behaviour.]  "However, you may have a slice of bread with almond butter."</p>
<p>"But I want..."</p>
<p>"Nope, if you don't eat dinner then your option is a slice of bread with almond butter."</p>
<p> </p>
<p>(repeat ad nauseum)</p>
<p> </p>
<p>We kept the choices consistent and somewhat boring (not the fruit depending on the season but...).  The deal sort of was that we wouldn't let him go hungry, but it wasn't going to be especially <em>interesting</em> either.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>I felt that going in this direction was a reasonable middle ground for our family. Although it's not probably for everyone, we felt it gave our son enough space to learn & practice around his own body's signals without driving us crazy.  He is 5 now and generally I'd have to say he's pretty good about eating meals at mealtime, snacking more based on hunger than not, and he has a pretty good grasp of what's a healthy food. He seems to listen to his body signals pretty well.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>The other thing we have tried to do is always distinguish between a snack (food eaten between meals due to hunger) and a treat (a less-healthy or special food you eat for fun/social reasons/because you're out near the ice cream shop/etc.)  Using that language has helped with things like "I'm hungry, I need a cookie!" ("Well you've had a treat...if you're hungry you can have..." OR "is this your Sunday treat? Because we also have ice cream for after dinner.")  It doesn't mean my son doesn't test the boundaries and want treats, but we have a reasonable basis for discussion.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>I also read in <em>Mindless Eating</em> that prior to 3 years old, the vast majority of kids will not overeat much. But between 3 and 5 years old, they begin to exhibit the same social & environmental eating patterns that we have as adults (eating more the more people are at the table, eating based on what's visible around us, gauging portion sizes partly based on plate size, etc.)  In schools, for example, they start to align more with what and how much their peers are eating.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>So it's really normal that he's starting to play around with those kinds of things.</p>
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,450 Posts
<br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>GuildJenn</strong> <a href="/community/forum/thread/1283241/food-issues-with-3-y-old#post_16089798"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a><br><br><p><br>
 </p>
<div class="quote-container"> </div>
<p><br>
I have some of the same issues in that my mother was extremely controlling about food in many ways.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>My son went through a stage like that - I can't remember the age exactly, but around then.  How we approached it was that there were three choices for snack, and one choice for an "instead of dinner" option. Then if he refused those, the answer was no. It did take a few times standing our ground about it to work through it:</p>
<p> </p>
<p>"I want a snack"</p>
<p>"You can have crackers, cheese, or fruit."</p>
<p>"I don't want those..."</p>
<p>"Your choices are crackers, cheese, or fruit..." repeat ad nauseum.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>With meals it was:</p>
<p> </p>
<p>"I'm disappointed you didn't eat your dinner and now you're hungry." [Secret of Parenting technique where you neither 'rescue' the child from your vaguely negative opinion of his behaviour, nor impose a consequence. You just let them hear it and trust that over time they will modify their behaviour.]  "However, you may have a slice of bread with almond butter."</p>
<p>"But I want..."</p>
<p>"Nope, if you don't eat dinner then your option is a slice of bread with almond butter."</p>
<p> </p>
<p>(repeat ad nauseum)</p>
<p> </p>
<p>We kept the choices consistent and somewhat boring (not the fruit depending on the season but...).  The deal sort of was that we wouldn't let him go hungry, but it wasn't going to be especially <em>interesting</em> either.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>I felt that going in this direction was a reasonable middle ground for our family. Although it's not probably for everyone, we felt it gave our son enough space to learn & practice around his own body's signals without driving us crazy.  He is 5 now and generally I'd have to say he's pretty good about eating meals at mealtime, snacking more based on hunger than not, and he has a pretty good grasp of what's a healthy food. He seems to listen to his body signals pretty well.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>The other thing we have tried to do is always distinguish between a snack (food eaten between meals due to hunger) and a treat (a less-healthy or special food you eat for fun/social reasons/because you're out near the ice cream shop/etc.)  Using that language has helped with things like "I'm hungry, I need a cookie!" ("Well you've had a treat...if you're hungry you can have..." OR "is this your Sunday treat? Because we also have ice cream for after dinner.")  It doesn't mean my son doesn't test the boundaries and want treats, but we have a reasonable basis for discussion.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>I also read in <em>Mindless Eating</em> that prior to 3 years old, the vast majority of kids will not overeat much. But between 3 and 5 years old, they begin to exhibit the same social & environmental eating patterns that we have as adults (eating more the more people are at the table, eating based on what's visible around us, gauging portion sizes partly based on plate size, etc.)  In schools, for example, they start to align more with what and how much their peers are eating.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>So it's really normal that he's starting to play around with those kinds of things.</p>
</div>
</div>
<p><br>
I was thinking all of this, but it wouldn't have sounded this good.  So, I'm just quoting it.  </p>
<p> </p>
<p> </p>
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,450 Posts
<br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">
<p> and I don't think he has worms.</p>
</div>
</div>
<br><br><p>That cracked me up!  </p>
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
9,388 Posts
Have you seen Ellyn Satter's work? I would highly recommend it. We have some rules and structure in our house, regarding food, and they've made such a difference for us.<br><br>
<a href="http://www.ellynsatter.com/" target="_blank">http://www.ellynsatter.com/</a><br><br>
Here's how we feed:<br>
I serve meals and snacks at the table. I serve three meals a day, and three snacks, at roughly two-hour intervals. Between times, we've recently started leaving a plate of raw veggies, a healthy dip, and fruit, on the bottom shelf of the fridge, to which they can help themselves at any time. Water is always available. When I serve food, I offer a reasonable variety of foods within the meal. Anybody who cares to eat is welcome to help themselves. Anybody who doesn't want to eat can say no politely and go on their way. But other than the vegetable platter, there will be no food available until the next meal or snack. I don't provide alternative meals if the meal I've planned is rejected-- but I plan meals carefully to make sure there are things I know everybody likes available.<br><br>
When they nag for food outside of this structure, I've learned to say no, and stick to my guns.<br><br>
Of course this structure bends as necessary for sick kids or kids with special needs, or for days when things don't work out exactly according to plan.<br><br>
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
542 Posts
<p>This is almost exactly what I do with my 4.75 year old boy. The only difference is that the food choice is always banana at our house because it's not his favorite food but he'll eat it if he's hungry. He knows that if he doesn't eat dinner and is hungry when he goes to bed, he may have a banana and a bit of milk. If he doesn't want a banana, then I know he really isn't hungry but is just stalling. He is very good about self-regulating his input and listens to his body.</p>
<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">"I'm disappointed you didn't eat your dinner and now you're hungry." [Secret of Parenting technique where you neither 'rescue' the child from your vaguely negative opinion of his behaviour, nor impose a consequence. You just let them hear it and trust that over time they will modify their behaviour.]  "However, you may have a slice of bread with almond butter."
<p>"But I want..."</p>
<p>"Nope, if you don't eat dinner then your option is a slice of bread with almond butter."</p>
<p> </p>
<p>(repeat ad nauseum)</p>
<p> </p>
<p>We kept the choices consistent and somewhat boring (not the fruit depending on the season but...).  The deal sort of was that we wouldn't let him go hungry, but it wasn't going to be especially <em>interesting</em> either.</p>
</div>
</div>
<br>
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14,840 Posts
<p><span style="color:rgb(178,34,34);">It sounds like a combination of things are happening, and I suspect that you're right about the boredom/ wanting some attention thing in part. As obnoxious as it can feel, it is pretty normal. Especially if he's a grazer naturally. You're not off the wall for doing some head scratching about it, and it's good that you are trying to keep any stress and triggery issues out it.</span></p>
<p> </p>
<p><span style="color:rgb(178,34,34);"> We were casual about food, and for many years didn't even have a kitchen table we ate at. We had one loosely planned evening meal but no other real scheduled meal times. We ate when we were hungry. I guided the kids along the way according to their personalities and needs.</span></p>
<p> </p>
<p><span style="color:rgb(178,34,34);"> I really think it might help if he has his own tiny cupboard or shelf in the cabinet or fridge that he can always access. He can help you shop for and stock it so he knows what is in there. Perhaps if he knows that it's there and that <em>he</em> can access it alone he might do just that. :)</span></p>
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,233 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
<p>Thank you so much everyone. There is loads for me to think about here. I really like the suggestion to have a shelf or cupboard just for him, I think he'd love that b/c he's really at the stage of wanting to do everything himself and help me with everything in the kitchen etc. I think I will try the having limited amounts of options that require me preparing him stuff, and then a 'free for all' of what he CAN have in one area to help himself to. The prob is, I think its fine for him to have, say a sweetened yogurt once a day (we only do soya and its impossible to get non sweetened child-size tubs), but anything he likes, like yogurt and fruit bars, he will ask for repeatedly throughout the day, which necessitates me having to repeat myself and be the 'bad mama' saying no. It's also about money... I'm a single mother not currently working so the food we have for the week is the food we have for the week...I cant afford to go out and replace stuff if he has eaten say all the fruit bars in two days...that's it for the rest of the week, and I feel bad about that - I dont want him to grow up feeling a lack of abundance, but it is reality.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>I think I might try having 'snack times' and being pre-emptive and proactive, ie the every two hours suggested by Llyra (i will check out that writer you recommended too, thanks), rather than getting irritated by being constantly asked for food. I imagine he will still ask inbetween times though as he honestly does eat more frequently and more amount wise than other boys his age that he knows. Today I spent a lot of time just playing with him and doing arts and crafts with him, as we didn't have anywhere we had to go or anything other than grocery shopping to do (he 'helps' me write the groceries list and also often with the shopping too, so he's very involved), and I noticed the snacks requests while still numerous were more reasonable.</p>
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
9,388 Posts
<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">I imagine he will still ask inbetween times though</div>
</div>
What I found, with DD1, when I implemented this system-- she stopped asking. After a week or two of hearing me say, "We eat at 12, and at 2, and at 5, and then again at 7," she figured out that asking wasn't going to cause anything to happen. So she stopped asking. Now, when she asks, it's unusual, and I usually let her have something, because I know she must be unusually hungry. What I did find, too, was that they ate their meals with more enjoyment, once I started having set snacktimes. It can be tough to start a new way of doing things, with a child accustomed to the old way, but if you're consistent, it doesn't take them long to start to understand the new routine.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
542 Posts
<p>You mentioned yogurt and fruit bars but snacks could be anything. Also a single mom, I find those to be pretty expensive. My son loves hard-boiled eggs, apples, and carrots; all of which are relatively cheap. I also steam broccoli and leave it in a bowl in the fridge; he prefers it steamed, otherwise I'd just leave it raw. So anyway, the snacks can be anything. :)</p>
<p> </p>
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,609 Posts
<p>I used to keep a box in the fridge with snacks which DD could get herself. Each morning we would restock it, and then that was it till the next morning. She was able to choose when she ate her yougurt or whatever and it didn't take her long to get the idea that these were all the snacks on offer today.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>It all fell apart for us when DS learned to open the fridge and empty out the contents. We fitted a fridge lock and moved to more fixed snack times.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>Something else which has worked for us to reduce the pestering for treats is building them into our week. So for example we have crisps with lunch on Fridays. It's especially good now they are taking packed lunches and what what the other kids are having. Of course I do have to make sure we have the treat in stock on right day or else.....</p>
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,233 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·
<p>Well, it has been working REALLY well - I've been only serving - as in, something I have to prepare or dish out - snacks at 2 hour intervals and the rest of the time DS can help himself to one shelf of the fridge and the bottom part of a cupboard. The f irst two days were really hard but now - the asking for snacks has practically ceased and he is hardly even helping himself to stuff either! So i'm convinced it was mostly just habit/boredom/attention and not always genuine hunger, plus it could  be just liking the taste of things and the experience of eating. I feel really pleased, thanks so much everyone, I was really stuck for ideas - amazing how you can get in a rut and not see the simplest ways to change things. It reminds me so much of when i stopped BF on demand and thought it'd be a nightmare, but after 2 days it was totally fine, and he just found other ways of getting his needs met that didn't invade my personal space so much.</p>
 
1 - 14 of 14 Posts
Top