Battle for the First Bite

By June 13, 2011My Life, Parenting

Miles was a garbage disposal until just a few weeks ago.  This boy would eat almost anything.  He actually asked if we would cook the possums we caught a couple of months ago.  (Um…no way man) He pulled pieces of lettuce and veggies out of my salad.  He ate all kinds of condiments that I can’t even smell without gagging.  I admit, I am not a great eater.  That kid could plow through a meal in less than 10 minutes and it made me so happy.  It was just so easy.

Now, it is a battle for the first bite.  It doesn’t even matter what we are feeding him.  We all sit down and the trauma begins.

First, he says his belly hurts.

Then, he starts crying for mommy, when I am sitting right next to him.  This moan turns into a wail.

We tell Miles that if he wants to scream and cry he needs to be excused from the table.  We try to be gentle.  He dissolves and begins to near hysterics.

We send Miles to time out.  His wails for Mommy escalate and he is inconsolable.  To be honest, I keep wondering why they can’t call for Daddy when they are losing their shit.  It’s always Mommy when things are disintegrating.  Wahoo, my kid wants me when the world is falling apart but wants Daddy when the the good times come.   I’m so lucky.

Time out doesn’t work.  He never calms down.  He whimpers his way back to the table claiming he is ready to eat and when he sits down,. his ailment changes.

Now his belly doesn’t hurt, he is coldy.  It’s almost 100 degrees outside and I know this is impossible as I can smell the sweat on the rest of us.  Sounds lovely doesn’t it?

In between time outs he moves from coldy to every other malady he can think of.  He claims his eyes hurt.  I come back with explaining that perhaps that is from all the crying.  He says his nose hurts.  I remind him that due to the crying his nose is running.  Then he moves to the ridiculous.  His toes hurt.  His fingernails hurt.  His hair hurts.  His knees hurt.  His hands don’t work.  His toes are sore.

It goes on and on and then he  asks, with tears rolling down his cheeks, if he can have a treat.  I hate this moment because I want him to eat his food and I am not against bribery, but anyone who has thrown a fit like this does not deserve a treat.  Still, I try to avoid the question and focus on the food.

Everyone tries to help.  Sophia and Ross and my brother, who is staying with us, make up games. We try everything.

Everyone else is done eating and focusing on Miles while he moves his food around his plate and whines.  I love my little guy to death, but this is too much.   Finally, my brother is able to get him to eat by making a contest out of each flipping bite.    After 45 minutes of hell, the little man finally takes his first bite and we all hold our breath.

Sometimes he continues and finishes his plate as if he just sat down. Other nights, like tonight, the whining resumes and he is sent to time out.  Tonight he finally finished his dinner more than an hour after we started.  He sat on the floor of the kitchen with his Dad and ate his grilled cheese.  Who doesn’t eat grilled cheese?   There were no vegetables to be seen tonight…and still…the meal monster surfaced.

Here’s the kicker.  This is happening at breakfast (with bagels people) and lunch as well.  I am totally overwhelmed and ignoring other responsibilities and my little blog just to nourish my son.  It’s not even working!  I can’t seem to explain to my husband how terrible this all makes me feel.  He was away last week and was shocked at how bad the situation has become.

Other than meals, he remains my gorgeous, hilarious clown of a son.  He continues to light up a room and make me laugh until my sides hurt.  He is a joy with a big BUT…

I need your advice and please, share your food horror stories. Should I simply excuse him from the table to his room and not let him join us until he is calm?  Should I clear his plate when we all are finished if he sits calmly but does not touch his food?  Does anyone have any tips or ticks for me on this one?   I am at my wits end.

In good news, Violet is my new garbage disposal and is faster than I am at cleaning the floor.  She eats what she finds, but hey, at least it gets clean.  Sophia is like a little mommy, trying to help and show how good she is by eating her food and soothing her brother.  2 out of 3 ain’t bad…but it could be better.

Join the discussion 16 Comments

  • We have 3 kids with 3 different eating habits. Our DS2 (4) is a slow starter at the table, which means it takes him a good five minutes to get started eating and then he is at the table with me after everyone else has been excused. DD (also 4) has a tendency to go vegetarian on burger night, so be it. And DS1 (7) has a variety of rules about his food and will only ever drink ice water, 2 cubes.

    I remember when they stopped being super experimental babies who would eat all kinds of weird things to 3 year olds who started to eye the French toast suspiciously if it was cut on the diagonal. I dunno, we just went with it and didn’t force them to eat, kept supplying them with a variety of foods, nudging them to eat their salad and not making too much of a fuss over everything. because for us, it’s really about the enjoyment of meals together, which we think leads to good eating habits.

    So my advice is to let your little one exert some power and try out his new opinionated voice and keep supplying a variety of healthy and yummy foods. Seems to be working over here.
    Maggie da Silva recently posted… Guest Dad Vlogger- How to Tie a Movers KnotMy Profile

  • I must say, you kept strong with this one. Kudos!

    But listen to me… when your kid starts complaining about things that you KNOW are not true, your job is to not respond to them with a logical answer. They are tricking you with their smarts. They know that parents are logical creatures.

    The trick is to stay firm with WHATEVER you do. And NEVER EVER bribe with candy or chocolate. If you do that, the terrorists win. Really.

    Think about it this way, what would YOUR MOM do if you played this game with her as a kid?

    I can give you a good answer, but I think you already know what you need to do… just look into your past.
    Anthony from CharismaticKid recently posted… The Great Debate- Unconditional Parenting vs Organic ParentingMy Profile

  • Oh Brittany- I am so sorry that you are going through this… it stinks. But if I might offer a few suggestions (and feel free to toss them the hell out the window if/when they don’t help!)…..

    Try to talk to Miles about this sometime other than a mealtime. Explain the problem and what you expect him to do…. and then tell him what the consequence will be if he doesn’t follow through. “Miles, things are getting so hard for all us when you won’t eat your breakfast/lunch/dinner……. So here is what we are going to do from now on….. I will put out your plate with all of the yummy food that I know you love. We will eat our meal for 20 (or 30 or 10) minutes….. and when it’s done, the plate goes away and you need to wait for the next meal. There will be no snacks if you choose not to eat. And if something hurts- then Mommy can help you with that after meal time is all over.”

    Now here’s the key- you’ve laid out the plan, and the consequence….. the trick is doing EXACTLY what you said…. and ignoring everything else. The more he complains and you react, the more you are giving him the power. If he starts to complain that his tummy hurts, you can give him a little hug and say “I’m sorry your tummy hurts- we can talk about it after dinner. But we only have X minutes left, so you might want to take a bite before I have to take your plate away.” And then ignore the issue. Even if he wails and has a fit and disturbs everyone else….. the more you pay attention to it- the more power you give it.

    Be calm
    Be consistent
    Keep it simple

    And then just put the earplugs in and hang on. I truly believe that if you stick to exactly what you say you are going to do- he’ll come around. And ask your pediatrician- no kid will allow himself to starve…… a missed meal or two and he’ll decide to eat during the meal time that you allow.

    Good luck- and HUGS!!!
    Sharon recently posted… Cooking with the Kids… Ice Cream in a Bag!My Profile

    • Brittany says:

      Sticking to what I say is hard but I am doing it. Than you so much for your advice. As a mother of 6 clearly you know what you are talking about! We did not do the timer but we will start that too. THANK YOU!

  • Sara MK says:

    Good advice!
    Also, one thing to remember – he will eat. Hard to believe and as stubborn as my 4 year old can be – I know that no matter what he will eat. Let him miss a meal, don’t let him fill up on juice or milk and when the next meal rolls around do the time thing (I am SO trying that!) and I betcha he will be eating again. If the drama starts – let him wait.
    But, Sharon is right -calm, consistent, simple!
    Sara MK recently posted… Character of FortuneMy Profile

    • Brittany says:

      We waited today and stayed calm. Lunch was terrible but he did eat some dinner. Slow and steady is how we are moving on this one. Thanks so much!

  • jacqui says:

    My sister went through this with my nephew. He would alternate between eating everything not nailed down and eating nothing. The doctor said he was totally healthy and that some children don’t eat much when they are not going through a growth spurt. Just when we would get used to him not eating, he’d start again.
    jacqui recently posted… I Wish I Could Bottle This…My Profile

  • Becki says:

    If I could copy and paste EVERYTHING that Sharon said and call it my own, I would. That was freakin’ AWESOME advice…and it’s exactly what I would do.

    By the way, my middle child is a meal fighter as well. Does the clammer for attention start already?!?!?

  • Amy Stout says:

    I just stumbled on your post and am anxious to read other things you have written.

    My daughter experiences autism and has terrible feeding issues. Before you discipline your child for this, please read the book “Just take a bite”… it helped our family immensly.

    There is usually a psychological or sensory issue associated with a food issue. Your son may experience reflux, an allergy or other pain. Kids are really intuitive, if they felt pain when drinking a glass of milk, they will refuse it next time.

    I do agree with some of the folks who commented that you need to talk to your son, but do it in a nuturing environment.. not in the middle of a meltdown. When he has this trouble- give him a safe place to go – maybe his room to read books. When things settle down, try to talk to him and find out exactly where he hurts, ask him if there are certain foods that cause the pain, how does his mouth feel… what foods would make him feel better. (none of this would work with my daughter as she has communication issues, but we have learned things using pictures and sign language)

    Also, the old wives tale that he will eat when he gets hungry is not true. My daughter doesn’t feel hunger and therefore would NEVER eat if I followed that rule.

    Have you tried having him pick the meal, then making him the “Chef” and having him prepare the meal? That might be an idea… kids are more likely to eat things they helped to prepare or make.

    You could also talk with him about strong/healthy choices and allow him to eat those that both of you agree on. Once he feels safe at mealtime again (less anxiety) he will probably gradually become more adventurous.

    PLEASE don’t assume he is being naughty or having behavior/rebellion issues until you check these things out….
    Amy Stout recently posted… The Booger We Will Never ForgetMy Profile

    • Brittany says:

      Thank you so much for your advice. We did talk today and while lunch was still a nightmare dinner went somewhat better. It’s interesting because Miles had a GI issue a year ago and we tried every dietary suggestion and change and test and the boy has no food allergies they could find. I think some of this may be related his sudden dislike for going poop. He relates that to food and so we will experiment with changes in his diet again. We do talk about being strong and healthy and I am hoping that things will improve. Again, thank you!

  • Michelle Avitable says:

    Oh Brittany – I hope that Miles eats for you soon! I know how frustrating it is to have a child that refuses food. On the other hand, it is hilarious that he thinks of all the maladies and things that could hurt. Sofia does the same: My favorite one from her is “my eyebrows hurt”.
    Good luck!

  • MamaFuss says:

    We serve dinner and my 3 yr old can eat it or not, but it is saved for her and she is given it for breakfast. If she doesn’t eat it for breakfast, she is given it any time she tells me she is hungry. When she is hungry enough, she will eat it. If it goes 24-hours (only happened once) we do offer her another dinner – whatever WE are eating that night, of course – but she will eat when she is hungry.

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