Going into battle…..with a toddler.

So, given one of my recent posts (Mr Happy), was about how one of my lads is an exceedingly happy little boy, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this post is about my other son. He however, is still quite some way from having solids. So please forgive my if I sound as though I am contradicting myself, but I assure you, if you spent a couple of days with Boy-Boy, you’d understand that we do all have our off moments.

The trouble is, he is an exceedingly fussy eater, and getting fussier by the day. When he first started solids there was nothing that wouldn’t pass his lips. He was at his most content with a jerky stick  in his hand and all over his face, but those days are long gone. These days he will eat; baked beans, tinned spaghetti, spaghetti bolognaise (provided it is fresh), macaroni cheese (again no left overs), biscuits, kiwi fruit (only golden ones),  strawberry or berry yoghurts, some biscuits, popcorn, two types of breakfast cereal  with milk, and a particular type of chocolate bar. We routinely try to trick him into eating something which is not on this list, but we have to be careful as if he notices, there is a very real danger that the food we have hidden the “surprise” in, will be knocked off the “approved substances list”.  I have offered him food; which to my eyes at least appears almost identical. Perhaps I need to visit the opticians again though, as he seems to notice even the most subtle difference.

What follows, if we aren’t careful, can rapidly become a war of wills, and if you have ever tried to argue with a two year old you will know that you are completely wasting your breath, energy and time. They just don’t have the capacity to fully understand what you are trying to convey to them, and so stick firmly to their guns. After Mrs L. and I have decided who is going to feed him and we actually get him to the table, he can sometimes be persuaded to eat his food. Much of the time though, he simply refuses. Voices get raised, the word “No” gets used frequently, and the naughty corner is visited. The wall gets banged and feet are stomped, the carpet gets laid on, and lots of crying takes place. And our little lad doesn’t behave all that well either.

Really though, at dinner time his favourite word is No! If it is repeated several times that is even better, and the more he says it, the crosser he gets. We try as hard as we can in the most simple language we can manage, to explain that it is “yummy” or “it will do you good”, but this is where we come up against a major obstacle. You see, Boy-Boy is deaf. Well, perhaps I am being overly dramatic as he  significant hearing loss (moderate/severe) and has to wear hearing aids to hear properly. As a result his level of comprehension is a considerable way behind his peers. I think that he is also aware of lack of understanding and he finds this incredibly frustrating.

In the end we will usually relent, and he is allowed to leave the dinner table. Later in the evening, we will give him some cereal, a yoghurt and a kiwi, and give him a look, which is supposed to let him know who is boss. In return he gives us a look, which can only really be interpreted as victorious.

It has been suggested to us, that if he doesn’t eat he should just go hungry, and I agree. In principle this is a wonderful idea. Except that the people who offer this advice, are not the same people who will be getting out of bed at two o’clock in the morning to give him some cereal because he has been woken up by an empty tummy. That would be me and Mrs L. Added to which, I think that for this to be effective, he has to work out what the consequences of his actions are, and currently I don’t think he understands cause and effect just yet.

Whilst at times this can be unbelievably frustrating, I always remind myself that he is only two, and he doesn’t know any better. I can raise my voice, or punish him for not eating, but this can only really lead to an aversion to meal times. Hopefully this is just a phase that he is going through, and in time, a few more selected items will be allowed back onto the menu. For the time being though, it just means that I get a second helping of seconds!

8 thoughts on “Going into battle…..with a toddler.

  1. Ha! I’m in the same boat over here. The 3 yr old turned from human garbage disposal to picky eater, almost over night. I’m all for tough love but my softer side isn’t sure it should apply to nutrition. We want to instill good habits…eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re not. But so much more comes into play during the dinner table battles. It’s hard to shake the do as I say, mentality. I can’t wait to read about when this gets better for you. I’ll be taking notes.

    • Its not a great place to be really is it? I’ll be happy to pass on any tips I have to you, if my boy “comes right” first if you do the same for me?
      Thanks for reading.

  2. Fantastic blog Ross, Our little two year old can be quite funny with his food sometimes and this tactic worked for us but by no means am I saying that this is the answer to all fussy eating two year olds. We simply put the food in front of him and then ignore him completely in regards to his food, he can sit there for a good ten minutes and not touch a thing but without any attention he eventually starts to chow down. I think the more we encouraged him to eat the more he dug his heels in and fussed. Have you tried the parents favourite, reverse psychology, excluding him from foods that the rest of you eat, and then hamming it up “Oh my god !!! this is the best thing I’ve ever tasted” ” This is magic food !!! “. Anyway, as I said before its not the answer for everyone and I am certainly not the authority on two year olds and their eating habits, so keep bashing your head and eventually something will work. Good luck mate!!

    • Hi James,
      How are you? Thanks for taking the time to read the blog, and thanks for your suggestions. We have tried telling him how lovely the food is etc, but the fact that his communication is so delayed presents a bit of a problem. We’l have to try ignoring him, but I think that a lot of his (or our) problem, is that he doesn’t like new things! We will keep on persevering though.
      Take care.

  3. Hi guys, I wouldn’t usually comment on things like this as I think parenting is so individual, and you’ve much more experience than me! But as you’ve asked for comments I’ll share my thoughts…
    I can totally understand your frustration with Micah’s fussy eating, but being fussy at this age is quite normal and from what you’ve shared I think you’ve got some bigger issues to deal with here. I always try to look at parenting from a long-term perspective and I would therefore suggest you shift your focus onto eliminating two things that I think will cause bigger problems down the road:
    1. Him shouting “no” at you over anything is unacceptable and would be reason for discipline in my book.
    2. The late evening snacking will likely cause more problems in his relationship with food in the future.
    It’s not clear from your post exactly why you see his fussiness as such a problem… is it that you want him to develop his tastes with a view to not being a fussy eater as he grows up, or do you feel that he’s in danger of malnutrition? I agree with you that he likely doesn’t understand why you want him to eat a range of foods, or the principles of cause and effect, or even about hunger itself. Because of this I think it’s fine to give him the foods he likes so long as you believe he’s getting a reasonably balanced diet and eats at the proper time. Making him go hungry won’t work until he’s older. As you know, I have a 2-year-old son myself and will happily admit that I stick to the foods he likes – he eats baked beans at least 4/5 times a week, we stick to the fruit he likes and things like cheese and crisps! As long as he’s healthy I wouldn’t worry too much at this age. My parents used to think I was a fussy eater and my tastes didn’t really broaden until I left home at 19! All the discipline I received as a child hasn’t really changed my tastes as I still don’t like the same foods now!
    I’d try to stop making meal times a battle as he’ll be learning that it’s ok to fight with you and this could spread to other things. I think that maybe the best way for you to win is to let him think he is winning: give him the foods he likes, but continue to hide healthier foods inside them as much as you can, but keep the amounts so small that he can’t detect any change in taste; then increase them very gradually. Other things that work with my Sam are basic bribery (he gets what he wants when he’s done what I want him to do), and giving him food from our plates – he’s always interested in what we’re eating.
    I hope this helps a little, but of course you’re welcome to disagree!
    Hope you’re all keeping well, lots of love xxx

    • Hi Becky,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read the post and for going to the trouble of writing a response. I think our main concern is that his diet wouldn’t be providing him with all the necessary sustenance, but also that his attitude toward food isn’t the best. We’re hopeful that he’ll grow out of it, but we’ve still got quit a way to go yet.
      I hope that as the big day draws ever closer, you are keeping well, and that all is good with you all.
      Thanks again.

  4. He will grow out of it! our 5 year old was like that at 2 and now she is very good, maybe by 3 she already improved!!!
    Really enjoyed reading this, feel like I’ve been there before and felt, done the same.
    You are doing your best in everything trying here and there and you have someone HIM!that’s helps you in every situation!

  5. Pingback: An Octagonal peg in a round hole | The Daddysphere

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