Friday, November 12, 2010

I don't like that!

My daughter is quickly approaching three years old, and she's what I would call a picky eater. My question today is more concerned with the principle of the matter, however, rather than the nutrition.

I base our lunch menus around what I know my daughter will eat. She gets plenty of nutrition from breakfast and lunch. Dinner is another story. My husband and I prefer a more varied diet than a toddler, surprise surprise. It is not uncommon for us to serve up dinner, only to promptly hear "I don't like that. I'm not going to eat it," as the plate is pushed back across the table.

My questions:

How do I teach my daughter that she needs to eat what is served, even if it isn't her favorite? I don't want her growing up thinking that she gets a specially prepared meal just for her every night!

What do I do twenty minutes after the table is cleared when she comes to me and says she's hungry? Probably because she didn't eat anything for dinner...

Where do you draw the line between putting your foot down about eating what is served and making sure your child isn't going to bed hungry?

Thanks for your suggestions!



The Pearce People said...

I haven't had this problem in my own home since Emmett is only 3 weeks old and he eats what he is given ;) but when I worked at a daycare we always told the kids they needed to take one bite of everything and then if they didn't want it after that, then that was fine. We always did this if they wanted seconds of something that way they still got some food in there bellies, but they tried the other food. Usually after a couple of times of having to eat one bite of the food they didn't want they decided they actually liked it. Not sure if this helped but it worked pretty good at the daycare. good luck!!

Heather said...

We also do a "no-thank you" bite to make sure my kids try everything.

Also, there are NO snacks after dinner if the dinner isn't eaten. (We had some serious tantrums a couple of times when my daughter was "starving" but she learned.) Now, she doesn't usually love what's on her plate, but she still eats it. And if she doesn't, she gets no snacks later. I have kept her plate in the fridge if she refused to eat and if/when she came back and claimed starvation, I happily gave her the choice of warming up her plate and eating what was originally on the table.

Good luck.

Delia said...

It is really really hard to put them to bed hungry especially when they are skinny as my kids but...they won't starve. They may wake up a little earlier feeling a little hungrier the next morning but the lesson will stick. It has with my kids - well with one so far anyway :). Sometimes they would rather go hungry and my two year old is amazingly stubborn. My oldest though has caught onto the rewards of eating his food. We don't threaten him with the prospect of "losing" a treat but he knows that the favorable consequence of eating his dinner is getting some kind of treat. Over years of sticking to our guns, he has become a great eater - and is still skinny but that is another story probably genetically related. He will sometimes voice his unfavorable opinion about the meal. I just make sure he will like at least one of the items so he doesn't feel totally discouraged. I also take into consideration his preferences for future meals. If he really hates a certain thing I tell him he has to eat five bites of it because he is five years old. If I am feeling really compassionate I might lower the bite amount but I am careful to not let my "compassion" be sparked by excessive whining and crying. If anything that makes me stick to the higher bite amount.

If my child is crying because he is sorry he made the mistake of not eating when he should have and he is sincerely hungry we pull leftovers out and let him eat those. If there aren't leftovers I feed him basics like bread and vegetables.

Good luck! As with anything you have to find what works for her specifically. As I mentioned before, my two year old is giving us a run for our money so we are having to adjust things a bit for him...still haven't figured it all out quite yet.

Megan said...

Like has been mentioned, L has to take at least one bite before he can complain about not liking it. If he at least tries one bite and still says he doesn't like it, then we don't force him to eat that particular thing but he has to eat everything else otherwise no treats after dinner.

Britta said...

I heard from what I think to be a good source that a kid won't starve himself. If they are truely hungry, they'll choose to eat whatever option is given to them. If they aren't actually hungry, you'll see them willingly walk away from a healthy meal and not go crying about it.

I serve one dinner- and my daughter rarely ever eats it. But if she doesn't eat it then she gets to wait until breakfast to have another go at food. I do offer leftovers if she repeatedly comes back saying she's hungry. Eventually she'll eat and if not, there's always breakfast.

If nutrition is not an issue, don't worry about her eating or not.

Tannie Datwyler said...

I have a BIT of an issue with forcing a child to eat what they don't like. My reasoning is that when I was young I remember sitting at the table for hours trying to CHOKE (literally, it made me gag) down food my mother said I had to eat. I'd cleaned my plate otherwise, and just hadn't eaten the one dish I didn't like. I honestly, don't think that's fair. She KNEW I didn't like that particular food, and I HAD given it a try.

As adults, do we take things we honestly abhor? Not usually!!

But... with kids it is SO TRICKY. How do you teach them to like a variety of things and be willing to give foods a good go??? Without feeling like a mean parent shoving down food they hate. It's so frustrating.

We have the same rule that others have talked about before. We require our 4 year old to take a bite of each thing I'm serving for dinner. If she HONESTLY doesn't like it, I don't force her to eat it. Sometimes she'll try it and like it, and sometimes she won't. Usually she likes it after serveral tries with it (at different meals) and she is an excellent eater. That's just her personality though.

For us, I think it is hard to do much before the age of 2 1/2 or 3. The child just simply isn't old enough to reason with. My son is tricky - he's not like my daughter. He is BARELY getting to the stage where we are reinforcing making good eating choices. He is the PICKIEST eater. I never cook him up a separate meal, but like Heather said, I always make sure there is something he'll eat with dinner (ie, usually bread of some type). Sometimes, he eats everything we eat. Sometimes he eats only the bread course, but I ALWAYS put a little bit of each type of food on his plate. Over time, he has started to try new foods. It's a battle, but he is getting better.

We don't have snacks after dinner so they have to wait until breakfast to eat (I think that's reasonable, we eat at 6:00 and bedtime is 8:00). So, if he doesn't eat enough dinner, he's just hungry. He's perfectly healthy though so I'm not worried.

We are the same with treats - "only children who eat their dinner get treats." And usually it is something small like a dum dum after dinner. But it still helps.

I'm glad for the tips!! It sounds like we all are doing about the same things. I'll just HOLD my breath and hope my son becomes a good eater like my daughter.

Anonymous said...

I haven't commented in awhile, but here goes.
I've told my children that kids have WAY more taste buds than adults (you might have to explain taste buds) and so kids don't usually like the same foods as adults. In order to help your body learn to like different foods, it takes 10 (I actually did read this somewhere) times of trying a food before you can actually decide if you like it or not. Granted, my 5 & 7 yr old are ok with this. My 2 yr old isn't quite there.
My husband & I have made it (I guess procedure is the right word here) that they must try at least 1 bite of each item on their plate. If they don't like it AFTER they have tasted it, we're willing to get them something else. Usually though, they either like it or will pick out what they do like and eat that.
If they won't even try anything my husband has been known to let them sit at the table until they're ready to try what's on their plate (we've had a few long sessions). If they still decide they aren't going to eat I just leave their plate out (or wrap it in plastic & put it in the fridge). When dinner is cleaned up and I hear "I'm hungry!" I just whip out their dinner plate. It's usually a test of wills but they'll cave when they get hungry - I promise!

Anonymous said...

I've also read that sometimes you have to introduce something 10 times before they decide they like it!