When my son Hunter, who recently turned 2, first started eating table food, I thought “wow, this is easy.” He was easy to please and ate like a horse. Now that he realizes that he does indeed have a mind of his own and has a choice in the matter, things are a bit different. I will set down his plate of food. He examines it. He wrinkles his nose. He looks at me. And then it inevitably comes … “I DON’T WANT IT!” The first four-word sentence my son learns and it just had to be that one.
My parents always told me “This isn’t an all-night diner,” meaning, if you don’t like what you’re given, you don’t get to order something else. I am desperately trying to instill this philosophy in my own home now, with great encouragement from my son’s pediatrician.
His doctor said that especially for toddlers, if they won’t eat what you give them, you simply cover it up and put it in the fridge. If they get hungry enough, they’ll eat it later. But as a parent, this is easier said than done. The last thing you want is to send a child to bed hungry or keep him up past his bedtime in hopes that he asks for the chicken nuggets you made hours before. But the other voice in your head says “if you give in once, you’ll have to give in every time.” So here we are. The nuggets in the fridge. The hungry toddler. The voice in my head. What to do?
I’ve looked at some great parenting resources and I feel good knowing I’m not alone in this struggle and I’m doing the right thing. Babycenter.com says that parents with toddlers who refuse to eat really shouldn’t worry because parents need to take into account fluids, especially milk, when looking at their child’s food intake. Also, while looking at how much a toddler eats, parents should look at it over the course of a week, not just what they consume in a particular day. As long as they are steadily gaining weight and have a good level of energy, they are getting the fuel they need.
Of course, if you have concerns about your child’s eating behavior or food intake, you should always get the advice of your child’s doctor or other professional.
And I know Hunter is gaining weight because we got his “Look at me grow!” sticker at his last checkup just 3 weeks ago.