I’ve got a toddler who despite being a very adventurous eater early on(once ate my entire dinner of herring in wine sauce and also ate entire jars of green olives) has now become ridiculously restricted. His diet consists of:
KFC fried chicken, must be spicy crispy variety.
A specific brand of penne noodles served with a specific brand of tomato sauce, other brands will be rejected at first taste.
And “goop” which is my word for milk with powdered baby cereal mixed in(I used vitamin enriched stuff because I think otherwise he would be malnourished).
Is this just something that has to be indulged and ridden out?
What’s the longest you’ve let him go without food?
We put meals in front of our fussy little one that he refused. He did this for a full day and then demolished whatever was put in front of him the next morning. We were prepared to go for 2 full days on the assumption that it wouldn’t kill him.
As long as he knew that we would offer him food at mealtimes and that fruit was always available when he wanted it and he had plenty to drink then it was hardly going to mentally scar him. When we put a plate in front of him and he refused it we shared it out between the rest of us.
He got the message soon enough that we wouldn’t pander to him but it was stressful for a day and even several years later he’s not as wide-ranging in his food tastes as his sister and may never be but he certainly knows now that he gets what we are having and either eats it or goes hungry. 4 years old is certainly old enough to learn that lesson.
Of course it may be that this behaviour is rather more deep seated in your child and may be more difficult to shift. In which case I don’t know what to suggest.
Probably half a day, he will start either bringing me or his mom the baby cereal and milk wherever we are in the house or trying to get out the pot himself to make the pasta(we’ve lost some plates to this via breakage). Ignoring all other food we’re eating or offer. He used to eat more foods like scrambled eggs or tuna salad, but stopped.
We never bring home KFC, it is only if we’re out he drags us in if he is hungry.
Like I said in another topic he is pretty tall so he obviously isn’t in poor health but it is annoying(I once bought a different brand of penne noodle and somehow he noticed the difference by taste).
A four-year-old isn’t a toddler. Is he quirky in any other ways? I’m not saying you should panic, especially if there are no other symptoms, but being that odd about food that old is typical of kids on the autism spectrum (and, weirdly enough, so is being tall for their age up through age four).
Nope; he needs to be taught that he gets to eat what’s put in front of him, within reason. Don’t like it? Fine, it’s there when you get hungry: in the mean time, the next meal is at 6 pm. Don’t make it a contest of wills, just smile and present it as a given.
I have a three year old who is eating fewer and fewer foods as she gets older. I’m crossing my fingers that in a year or two, she’ll start picking foods up again, so feel free to come back and laugh at me in a year when I’m posting the same question, but:
At that point, down to only three foods, I’d be very tempted to follow the advice of other posters and make it the kid’s decision to be hungry or not. I’d definitely sit the kid down and have a “things are going to be different now” talk about it, so he understands the game plan. Then, yeah, I’d lock cupboards or whatever I needed to do to get the message across.
I do understand the vertiginous fear about doing this kind of thing. We potty trained our daughter two months ago by deciding, on the spur of the moment, to throw all the diapers away. She had one accident and she’s been trained ever since. The day before, I’d been convinced she’d go to kindergarten in diapers. Get your spouse on board–make somebody the bad cop and somebody the good cop.
If he hasn’t eaten something after a certain length of time–two or three days–then talk to your doctor about it. I’d expect a kid to give in by then. One day isn’t long enough.
Liking things earlier on is normal. At some point after they learn to walk, things start to taste very bitter to many children. This is sorta nature’s antidote to children putting everything in their mouths, though a lousy antidote. It’s usually earlier than four that this happens though.
I’ve been through this with many children. One thing I would advise: be consistent, but empathetic. You don’t need to be mean about it! It really does taste horrible to them. If you can, also keep it as value-neutral as possible. Not too much praise for eating and certainly no anger or disapproval over not eating. Just consistency in having to eat and empathy over the situation should get them there.
It gets better.
Have you considered the autism possibility, though? Noticing the penne thing, that seems pretty… specific.
My kid isn’t eating anything that doesn’t come through the placenta yet, so this is probably fatuous advice, but I did like one book’s approach - you decide what to serve and when you’ll serve it. That’s your job. Your kid decides how much to eat and if he eats anything at all. That’s his job. You have no control over whether a kid eats - that’s definitely one thing you cannot make them do, and if you try they’ll dig in.
Of course that’s easy for me to say. I also agree with the experts who say you shouldn’t make food a reward - there’s ice cream if there’s ice cream, not if he eats all his dinner.
I was just thinking about your kid yesterday, actually, and how he used to go hide somewhere and take a dump on the floor and you’d find little fossilized turds behind all the furniture. That was you, right? It’s cracking me up just thinking about it.
Thank goodness I never had that problem! The rule was,if it’s new and on the table,you gotta eat 2 bites - normal bites,it has to be seen. If you don’t like it,so be it… But it will show up on the table… They would beg Gma to make fried cabbage…Green cabbage,onion and potatoes fried in bacon grease… They love Broccli
Turnips,not so much…
A lot depends on how this is framed and when it is used. If they wolfed down the same meal last week and now flatly refuse to eat any the same thing today, the little bugger, then tough.
We made it clear that if they were not hungry enough to eat the small amount of main course we provided and we know they like then obviously they weren’t hungry enough for any dessert. No debate and stand-off, that was just the way it was.
We didn’t get totalitarian on them but they needed to know I won’t abide waste without very good reason.
I’m glad I checked, because I wouldn’t call a four-year-old a toddler.
According to my child development book, this is in smack middle of the second “terrible twos.” My kids have been different enough that I don’t see as clear patterns as what the books say, but who knows.
How long has thing been going on? If it lasts more than three years, then you have serious, serious problems. If it’s only a week, then it could be a phase. In between those extremes, you get to decide how much of a big deal it’s going to be for you.
As long as you have limits for him in some areas, then letting him eat only one food for a little while isn’t going to kill him. Get him some kiddy vitamins and ride it out. As least for a while.
After that IGNORE what happens. Eat it or don’t, that’s up to the kids. This is dinner, end of story, one meal for all of us. They won’t starve themselves. Over time they will more likely than not get all the vitamins and minerals they need and if it makes you feel better do a vitamin a day to relieve your anxiety. Do not get into a power battle - you will lose and your child will only learn that they can win battles with you (dangerous knowledge for them to have) - and they will keep saying “no” long after they would have grown out of it.
Neither the food fascist nor the short order cook be.
Now I do soft sell it to the kids some, especially as they get a bit older: “Y’know as you grow your tastebuds change. You may want to at least try a vegetable you haven’t had in a while every day just to see if today is the day that you discover that now you like it. Just say’n.”
Also a variety of healthy choices are free to snack on if they do not like dinner but they have to get it themselves, be it cereal, yogurt, pre-cut fruits and veggies with a healthy dip … so on. They choose not to? Oh well for them; their call.
The whole “he’ll eat when he gets hungry” and “it’s just a phase” works for the vast majority of children, but it will not work if the child has an eating disorder. An anorexic won’t eat just because she’s hungry, and neither will a kid with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder or something similar.
From your description of your child’s eating behavior and the specificity of what he’s willing to eat, I’d suggest you look into having him evaluated for this and autism spectrum disorders. Chances are that it really is just a phase, but it’s worth looking a little further in this case.
I have a 10-year-old picky eater and a 7-year-old who will eat just about anything. The 10-year-old has been picky since he was about 2. At least now he understands about nutrition and healthy eating and will grudgingly eat some foods just because they are a component of healthy eating. But I have come to realize that the food thing is not a power play on his part - he really does have issues with a lot of foods.
Some suggestions based on my experiences: I would indulge him as much as you can, but try to find additional foods that he will eat. Make it a habit that whatever you make, he has to try at least a bite or two. It’s hard when they reject just about everything you put in front of them, but every once in a while you will hit on something they like. My picky eater doesn’t like sour cream, but we found out he loves chicken enchiladas where the filling is chicken, sour cream and cheese. Go figure. Smoothies can be a good way to sneak in some fruits and vegetables (frozen kale works really well in a fruit smoothie).
Our son went through a stage at 3 or 4 when he would only eat yogurt, spinach, and fish sticks. Our doctor said, Why do you worry about THAT? I realize this is of no help to the OP, but anted to share – I think many kids go through this stage. Ours just choose wisely (to quote the knight in Indiana Jones).