Friday, July 15, 2011

Ask the Host Q1: Feeding a toddler

Hi! I don't know if we have anything in common other than us both having toddlers. I'm having a hard time getting mine to eat anything. He seems to go a whole day on a cup of milk and some fish crackers. My husband gets so mad and starts yelling and then none of us enjoys dinner time. I don't want to start making two dinners but I don't know what else to do. Does the parasite eat well? Got any tips?

I promise not to turn this into a preachy thing because the last thing we need is someone else to say "UR DOIN IT WRONG" when it comes to parenting. Moms, AMIRITE or am I right? But from the time she started solid foods, it has been homemade all the way for The Parasite. Mostly it's because I'm cheap. It's like 89 cents each for the jarred shit here in the Great White North and I just couldn't bring myself to pay that much for a quarter of a sweet potato because they saved me the trouble of running it through the blender for a few seconds. Now she gets what we're eating and that's what she gets. The rule is that she doesn't have to like it, she doesn't have to eat it, but she does have to try it. A single bite will do.

I beg of you, do not start with the separate meals. There be dragons. I'm reminded of the time we had extended family over for dinner and the mom of one of my cousins (2nd? 3rd? Whatever!) asked if she could make her son a peanut butter sandwich because he didn't like his dinner. The kid was 10 or 12 - in other words, well beyond the age when he should have known to STFU and pick at what was in front of him until they got home.

Unless becoming a social pariah sounds sexy to you, I highly recommend you avoid paving the path to hell so early. I really liked Ellyn Satter's "How to Get Your Kid to Eat: But Not Too Much" for really practical advice on getting your kid to, well, eat. Her mantra gets repeated all over the internet because it just makes so much sense: It is your job to provide a variety of healthy foods for your child to eat, it is your child's job to decide what, if and how much to eat - if at all. I know it's hard to watch a kid pick at their food before turning up their nose in disgust but it has been a long time since the last time a little person starved themselves to death because they didn't like their dinner.

As for the yelling husband, WTF is he hoping to accomplish? Scaring the child into culinary acceptance? Put the kid to bed, crack open a beer for you (he can get his own) and suggest that he ask himself if he's good with setting up an indefinite battleground at the dinner table. Ask him to give you one month with no yelling about what your child eats, just a 30 day trial. Put what's for dinner on the table at the appropriate time and other than correcting outright nasty behaviour gently (We don't throw our food!) leave your child alone with their meal. If they don't eat a bite that's OK. Put the plate on the kitchen counter when everyone else is done. If he/she says "I'm hungry" an hour later, offer them back the dinner plate and NOTHING else.

Be consistent for 30 days and see what happens. It will break your heart if you put them to bed without dinner a couple of times, but they WILL make up for it at breakfast, lunch and snacks the next day! At this age they're not analytical enough to figure out "I didn't eat my dinner yesterday and therefore I got an extra few tablespoons of yogurt at breakfast today." Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

This post is part of a planned weekly series, Ask the Host, that allows you to ask any question you want as long as you're prepared for completely honest answers. Got a question? Send me an email with "I have a question" in the subject line.


Stacey said...

Following you from the Canadian Blog Hop - Hi!! :)

Glad to find you, loving your posts!

The Host said...

Thanks for stopping by. I love your "Get to know Canada" theme.