Toddler > Parent at Feeding Time?

Any parent of a toddler knows that mealtimes can be a minefield.

But in this week’s Scrubbing Up health column, child health specialist Su Laurent says some are attributing their offspring’s dietary foibles to an eating disorder, rather than bad behaviour.

I spend a significant amount of time seeing healthy young children whose parents are convinced that their child has an eating disorder.

Some parents think that their baby has an inability to swallow solids, others think that their child will fade away unless they are offered the few foods which they like and some parents say that their child eats nothing at all, despite the fact that they are consuming a packet of “Wotsits” in front of me!

All three situations are examples of how powerful a weapon food is and how quickly children can gain the upper hand over their parents…
…The difficulty I face is that parents often have a fixed idea that their child has a disorder and it can be very hard to convince them that, on the contrary, their child is very powerful and is getting away with eating exactly what they want!

It’s often easier for a doting parent to believe that a child has a medical problem than a behavioural one…One mother told me with pride that since the last time I saw her seven-year-old in clinic he’d tried a new food: he was now happy to eat KFC chips in addition to McDonald’s chips.

The consequences of living in a 1st world nation? I have seen so many friends fight with their kids over food nearly every night. One friend now serves dinner á la carte. It’s insane, she’ll make 4 meals each night. There’s only a couple of food items that I’ll ‘substitute’ because someone absolutely hates it, and it’s no extra work. When we have steak, I usually throw a lamb chop on for myself instead. Food should never be allowed to become a point of contention and the parent absolutely must have all the power.

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5 thoughts on “Toddler > Parent at Feeding Time?

  1. And this would be yet another reason I do not have children. My parents fixed my eating “disorder” (willful kid syndrome) by making me sit at the table until the food was gone. No ifs, no ands, and no buts about it. I have seen so many people get into discussions with their toddlers about food and the parent always loses. Why argue with a little one? There should be no argument. I am the parent, I said you need to eat, you eat. End of story.

  2. @Marrock:
    Mine would smack me beside the head, grab me by the throat and throw me in my room. I wouldn’t be able to eat for a couple days after that for a punishment.

    Same situation for not eating everything that was on my plate. If I didn’t finish it, then it would sit in the fridge, and that’s all I would be permitted to eat the next day.

    Tough luv ya’ll.

  3. Food really can’t be a point of contention between the parent and toddler, older kids are a bit different. If it was not a problem w/ a toddler, the child will learn to taste and eat whatever is put in front of them. A toddler can’t be reasoned w/, so arguing or attempting to force a toddler to eat or sneaking healthy food into them by “ambushing” is unconscionable to me. Toddlers are learning that they are their own person and can say “NO!” really loud, accompanied by lurching, flailing limbs and choking (because they’re crying so hard) and food is one more way in which they can declare their me-ness.

    Hubby or I cooked one meal each night. When the kiddies were toddlers I used a processor to turn adult food into baby food (allowing for a toddler’s digestive system) and that was their one and only option. If they didn’t eat it, they went w/out. It’s amazing how quickly they learned to eat whatever I put in front of them. I was never angry w/ them for not eating. They’re children, I’m an adult. There’s no point in getting angry over normal, if hopefully short-lived, behavior. During the rest of the day, we all graze. Fruit, yogurt, sandwiches, leftovers, whatever was in the fridge deemed suitable grazing food (which does not include cookies, chips etc…).
    Speaking of which…yogurt time. Yummmm strawberry.

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