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Hi everyone,

I need advice. My 18 month old DD is extremely picky and if she doesn't like/want something she throws or flings the item. This is quite embarrassing in a restaurant, as you can imagine she's come close to hitting other customers.

My husband and I aren't comfortable using physical force as a discipline. However, telling her, "No! We do not throw food!" over and over again is not working. I've also tried giving her a two minute timeout in her play pen in the corner of the room. Even though I remove all of the toys she still ends up having a good time. That is definitely not the response I was hoping for. Deciding whether or not to end the meals promptly has been hard for me because she's hardly gaining weight, and the pediatrician is concerned. This is another straining issue for me. The doc insists that Aria--who started out in the 90th percentile for weight and has gradually dropped to the 10th--needs to gain weight or her brain might not develop properly. I'm trying not to get too caught up in the whole "chart" matter, because she is meeting her milestones.

Anyway, I'll wrap this before I get too far off topic. Thanks in advance for the advice.


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If it were us, I would
a) do everything in my power to avoid making eating a power struggle
b) stop going out to eat until dd is able to eat a meal without flinging food everywhere
c) investigate causes for the weight loss and not eating--reflux, food allergies (they can be VERY hard to recognize in little ones)--etc
d) accept that throwing food is a developmentally appropriate task and wait that part out

RE a), using any kind of punishment or bribes allows mealtimes to become a power struggle, taking the emphasis off of eating and placing it onto the power struggle (ie she wants to throw food and you don't want her to). Especially because you have a weight issue, avoid allowing mealtimes to be an issue of power. Let your daughter eat, on her terms, without placing limits or fighting with her about it. If she wants to eat while standing, running around, throwing food on the floor, let her do it. Worry about the manners later, when she's in a developmentally appropriate place for her to learn them.

I have a good friend who, unwittingly, has turned many things into power struggles with her kids, who are 3.5. She uses time outs for punishment, makes her kids look at her when she's redirecting them, places limits on lots of things . . . all of this seems very reasonable, gentle, and "by the book" but her kids have so little power over their lives, that they look to control anything they can. For them this is eating (they don't, really) and pottying (they don't do much of that, either). Don't let this happen to you guys. Find ways to give your dd power over her body and decisions, hopefully that might help.

And food allergies, they are SNEAKY. My dd has a gluten intolerance that had no symptoms for a long time, and then a very faint rash and a little darkness under her eyes--both of which her ped dismissed as her complexion. My mommy instinct told me different, and I'm glad I listened. Wheat and dairy are very common culprits.

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i agree with the pp...

you definitely want to find a creative way around making this a power struggle. our DS is also pretty picky and gets to throwing his food when he slows down on eating, but at least we have the comfort that he's quite large for his age.

our general plan is we tell him not to throw food twice, then if he persists we take away the food he was throwing, ask him if he's still hungry, and if he is, we try to find out what food he would rather eat and help him with that. if he's not hungry, we tell him he can just tell us he's "all done" - no need to throw food.

sounds like the timeout is doing nothing for either of you, so i'd put that aside for now.

other things we've done...
-let him eat off a plate on the floor (not ok in restaurants, though!)
-if going to a restaurant we go early before it's too crowded and noisy, and we bring food we know he likes
-we play with napkins at restaurants if he wants to throw something - they don't go far, they don't hurt when they hit you, and they're mighty fun to play peek-a-boo with, too

-redirect him to transferring food from a plate to a bowl or between two plates rather than throwing. it makes a mess, but often now he'll drown his food in his waterglass instead of throwing it when he's done with it.
-recognized that throwing food can be a sign of annoyance at lack of attention, a sign of tiredness, a sign of almost fullness, and strangely enough - a sign of needing to go potty! we often end up addressing the root cause instead of just trying to bend his behavior to conform to our ettiquette about not throwing food!
-accepted that as long as DH and i keep modelling for DS how to eat politely, he will eventually pick up on it! he mimics so many of our habits... and mostly this one, too... just with his own variations...

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All 5 of mykids threw food at that age. I think it's probably normal. When the twins wer that age, they ate over a shower curtain,sop I could clean up easier.

It's not a good age for eating out, unless you can feed her something she won't throw. Also, 'dinner time' is probably too boring for her. She'll only want to sit aas long as she's interested in eating. A few minutes, 6 or 7 times a day, more like a nursing schedule, than an adult meatime.

Also, my ds was very thin. Trying feeding very calorie rich foods. Healthy, but dense. Lots of healthy snacks. And dont get involved in a struggle, it ust gives the kids the idea that there is power to be had.

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43,104 Posts
First- time outs are NOT appropriate at this age- for anything.

Next- don't make food a fight- give her good food and let her choose. Don't give enough to make a big mess.

Is she still nursing? Hopefully so, and if so I'd focus on getting plenty of that.

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