Monday, June 10, 2013

Nuffin'. No Food. Never Not Ever.

Three times a day I have this conversation:

A: Henrik, what would you like to eat for (insert meal here)?
H: Nuffin'
A: You have to eat something.
H: No food. Never not ever.

In case you weren't sure, it's annoying. It makes me want to slam my face onto the table. It's getting old and it's beyond exhausting. I want to shake him and wipe that smirk of sass right off his face. I feel like I've tried everything: letting him pick his meal, giving him two choices, just putting food in front of him, letting him go hungry, no snacks, no milk, no juice, no dessert, making him sit there until the food is gone, letting him walk around to eat, bribes with anything, taking things away... the list goes on. I've read about a billion articles on what to do with a picky eater, but it's beyond picky. This kid is flat out stubborn, and the scary part is I'm not actually sure I can out stubborn him.

Different doctors and child psychologists all give different solutions for this problem and I have honestly tried every one of them. We can sometimes get him to eat if we feed him, but he's three freeking years old. I've put a bib on him and put him in a high chair and I've let him use adult silverware, including knives to cut with (don't worry, butter knives work just fine on hotdogs). I've let him serve himself and have given him smaller portions so it seems like a less daunghting task. But none the less, we have a meal with tears, loud voices and a child who closes his eyes at you, raises his chin and crosses his arms saying, "I'm not hungry".

If you ever come to my house you'll see that my three year old still has a bottle. I give him about 20+ ounces of whole milk a day. Guess what? The only way he will drink milk is if it's in a bottle, warmed. Not too warm, but kind of warm. There is one other way he will drink it: If it's been sitting in a cereal bowl of Froot Loops or Rasin Bran and it's not cold anymore, but that's on a rare occasion. I've tried milkshakes, protein shakes, chocolate milk and fake milk, coffee mugs, cups with fun straws and even cups he gets to pick out but nothing else works, he will turn it away unless it's in a bottle. The way I see it, the kid is demanding the calcium and protein from the milk but won't eat anything so at least if I cave and give him a bottle he's getting SOME calories. He knows it's a baby thing, but doesn't care. One day he'll grow out of it, right?

So after weeks (who am I kidding) years of this nonsense, I finally got smart this past week. I changed the language from Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner to Snack. Apparently Snack is much less intimidating and casual. I let him bring a toy or two to the table but they have to be placed far enough away from him so that I can move them closer as he eats. Yes, eating has become an olympic sport for me, but I have to beat him at this game. The boys still have to sit on their bottom when snack is at the table, and they still have to place their napkins on their laps, but for some reason, it's more fun.
Octodogs, Sailboat apples, Sea Urchines on a cheese kelp forest,
And Coral Reef veggie sticks with urchines (rasperries)
Since it's Summer, I've been able to encourgae (Eh? See that? Not bribe?) Henrik to eat by letting him play outside after dinner to go fishing or to play with friends. During the day, I give him healthy (they were always pretty healthy) snacks in bowls in the living room, coffee table, picnic table or playhouse, and we play while we eat.
Eating inside on a rainy day
One time, I let them raid the pantry and fridge and had the boys put food that they wanted into little grocery baskets. They had to pay me in coins for their food. They thought it was fantastic!

Cashing out at the Mommy Store
Theo counted his coins!
 Another time I made a parking lot and numbered each spot. I put one grape, two crackers, three pieces of cheese, etc. in the parking spaces. On the numbered spots that he has trouble with I put gummy alligators and skittles so he had to count them. It worked!
Turn salami into a Zero!

Counting, eating and talking with my big boy!
I've spaced lunch and dinner farther apart and made sure there was a lot of physical activity in between those hours so that he had to work up an appetite. I feel like I've won the lotto! The kid is WAY less annoying and sassy and I'm getting some food into his system!

I've let the boys help me cook and I talk about what is in each food (protein, calcium, vitamin B etc.) and it's created an awareness with the boys to eat healthy foods that they can be proud of. I've had Henrik help set and clear the table and I let Theo help me wash the dishes. It's been a pretty good way to get them involved in the whole activity of meal time.
Making Pizza with Mimi
So all this is good for Hank right, is it good for you? In a way yes, he's eating! And it's fun to do things differently. But it's SO MUCH MORE WORK. I feel like I'm loosing weight just by all of the calories and positive energy I have to burn to make meals fun. It's not 100% effective ; we still have our crabby, sassy days, but this is taking things to a whole new and better level. If we can get through two meals a day that are "enjoyable" (See footnote), them I'm calling that a win. To me, meal time is a time for families to gather around the table and talk about life. It's a chance for kids to engage in adult conversation and for parents to be involved in their kids' lives. Studies show that kids who have family meals together do better in school and are more confident. When I was growing up, no matter how hectic our lives were with soccer practice, debate practice, after work meetings or homework, we had a family meal together every night. I know the benefits from this simple activity so I had to do something to make the family dining experience better for all of us (that and I couldn't take the three year old attitude any more). 

Have any fun food ideas? Any tips on eating with picky, stubborn toddlers and preschoolers? Comment here! I'm always in need of new ideas!

Footnote: I have airplanes and monster trucks at my dining table, my one year old uses his fork as a hockey stick and his cup as a puck, both boys feed the dog from their seats, and I'm afraid of getting a new table because my boys are sure to scratch it while banging their silverware into the table as they drum and dance at dinner, but if there are no tears it is enjoyable.

1 comment:

  1. Zion refuses to eat. We're afraid we're teaching him horrible eating habits, because most days he'll only eat if we let him eat and run... literally. He'll run around the house, and then make a pit stop to eat... and the run…and then stop and eat. But even then he'll only eat a little, and then he'll be done, going on to whatever next challenge he feels he must conquer. The only way he adds calories is because he drinks VIT D whole milk... I'm worried that he'll keep these habits perpetually...