Thursday, September 17, 2009

update on Andy's eating

Long-term readers of in all honesty will remember my despairing post last December about Andrew's almost complete reluctance to eat anything healthy. I have to admit I find it hard to re-read now - I'd forgotten how tough things were for a while!

Soon afterwards, if you read the comments, you'll see that we started getting a handle on Andy's tantrums, and I stopped (mostly!) giving in to Andy's demands about food presentation, but the food refusal remained a major issue for a long time. Observant readers will have noticed that Andy at least learned to eat salmon patties during the intervening months.

So how is it going now? Much better, praise God! Here's my response to Meredith's question about how Andy's eating has been going recently.

Dear Meredith,

It's funny you should ask about this now. A month or 2 ago, Andrew started eating again - just like that! One day he was eating spag bog (spaghetti bolognaise), the next day he wasn't (8 months ago, when he was 2); one day he wasn't eating spag bog, the next day he was (a couple of months ago, soon after turning 3). Which I guess just goes to show it's good not to make too big an issue out of these things!

What did we do in the meantime? We muddled through, like most parents! We fought the battles worth fighting ("No, you can't have a lollipop!") but didn't sweat the small stuff ("Crusts off? Okay, darling."). If Andy's food refusal seemed a case of stubbornness rather than dislike of a certain food, or if he had a tantrum over food being presented the wrong way (frequently!), we put him in his cot for time-out until he was ready to settle down and eat, which was very effective. If it seemed a case of simple dislike, we allowed him not to eat. We didn't insist or fight him over food - we sat pretty easy to it most of the time, as we didn't want to increase our strong-willed child's resistance to eating. Of course, this all sounds far more calm and well thought-out than it felt at the time!

Now that he's eating and old enough to understand, we're getting a bit tougher on food choices: for example, "Eat 3 mouthfuls and a carrot stick and you can have icecream" (yes, I know the parenting books frown on that one!) or "Yes, you can have a snack, but only apple or milk". He's still not very adventurous, but he's gradually increasing the foods he'll eat. I still give him vitamins to fill in the gaps.

I hope your son starts eating well soon. I'll be honest with you, I've known children who are fussy far into their primary years! My nephew ate nothing but sausages and potatoes until he was in late primary, then suddenly started eating curries! His mum regretted forcing the issue when he was young (although I also know other mums who discipline their children for not eating with good results).

Sometimes it's a matter of not pushing it too hard, combined with some firm boundaries, and waiting patiently for the day when your child starts eating again. Not much comfort right now, I know! But kids do grow, and they do eat, and they do survive, and even thrive, on the oddest diets - or lack of them. If only we could remember this when it feels like our children are starving themselves!

Love Jean.

P.S. Of course, you could always follow James Dobson's recommendation. He says you can't force a child to eat. If they don't eat a meal, cover it with cling wrap and stick it in the fridge. Present it at the next meal. Do this until they eat it. I've never dared to try this! :)

Thanks again for your wise and thoughtful responses to Meredith's and my questions about encouraging reluctant children to eat. It's wonderful to be part of a bloggy community of women who encourage one another!


Rachael said...

I've heard of Dr Dobson's recommendation. I know of someone who sat at the table until he fell asleep on refusing to eat a particular food at dinner but who promptly ate it when presented to him at breakfast. I know of someone else who didn't eat for two whole days when the same bowl of porridge was presented meal after meal. The Aunt caved in, not the child.

Sounds like you've been very wise.

Here's another technique we've used at various times..

Vegies are prepared separately and they serve their own. They have to have some of everything but chose their own helping size. They have to eat what they serve themselves. Also, if they don't take enough to see it (!!) Mummy serves and they have to eat the whole thing.

Jean said...

I love it, Rachael, especially the different results of the great Dobson experiment (I suspect the second option is what would have happened with Andy!!) and the "if they don't take enough to see it Mummy serves"! :D

What a brilliant idea to get them to serve their own veges but something of everything. I tend to just give them amounts and choices on their own plates according to their preferences - as long as they all eat a mixture of veges (green, red, yellow ...).

We also have salad platters, which they serve themselves from, although they don't have to have everything from it - with about 8 choices, including interesting things like olives, there's a few things for everyone! Thankfully they all have favourite veges, even Andy these days (carrot and capsicum sticks)! What a miracle that still seems!!

My friend serves interesting foods like watermelon pieces on their salad platter / plates and they love it.