[Parentsgroup-list] Toddler Eating Problem

Sebastian Velez svelez at oeb.harvard.edu
Mon Feb 8 19:57:30 EST 2010

Hi Meeta:

I've got two kids, one 18, one 6.

These are normal phases for kids. Yeah, if you had a whole day to wait
around them it would be one thing, but it's infuriating when you want
them to eat right away because you have to go to class or take them to
school or whatever. You know that if they don't eat now, they'll be
crying later because they are hungry.

My first advice is to drop the guilt. A 2-year old can't know about
resentment. Kids are also very flexible and I'm going to bet the moves
have nothing to do with it. With my own kids, when their mother was
not around, I would take the food away after the first 'no', and then
not offer any more until the next scheduled meal. It's hard because
they will try to get food or candy from the fridge or other places
where you might have easy calories around the house, so you have to be
vigilant. Yes, they cry and go hungry, but they learn quickly that you
ain't kidding when you say "eat now or you're not eating for another 2

I also think that kids suffer a lot when they get to make too many
decisions. For kids, you are a magical figure that can produce good
stuff and reduce their discomfort at will. You can fix things, like
dirty diapers, that for them are impossible. The problem is that they
don't know which things you are doing at will (yes or no toys at the
store, this vs that food, feeding time, bed time, etc.) and which
things are just laws of nature. I remember my daughter crying to the
top of her lungs because I would not make it snow. And when I made
that happen -- yes, I'm that good -- she wanted me to stop the snow,
of course. So you have to make it clear which things are flexible, and
thus they have a choice in it, and which things are just the way they
are. In other words, you don't ask "are you hungry"? You feed them.
And you don't ask for their opinion when you know what's best for

This doesn't mean that you don't let them make any decisions.
Actually, I let my kids make more decisions on their own than most
other parents. It's just that when I let them decide, I am true to
them and I accept their choice. When I say "today we'll do anything
you want", sometimes I get to go to the park with them (what I really
wanted), and sometimes I get stuck inside playing girly games over
pizza and soda (what they wanted). I don't play manipulative games
asking them "what do you think about eating now?" when I really mean
"eat now". And when I don't want them to have a choice I don't give it
to them.

Hope that helps. Hang in there!


On Mon, Feb 8, 2010 at 7:15 PM, Meeta Sharma Gupta
<meeta at eecs.harvard.edu> wrote:
> Hi All,
> My son, who is 2 years now, is quite picky with food. He has been subjected to quite a lot of changes in the last few months, first  a new daycare, then travel to India for almost 2 months and now back to his daycare. He used to be quite good with food, even try to eat on his own before all these changes started. Now, he will eat with a lot of fuss, and everything is a 'no' 'no'. there are some good days when he eats happily. I try to keep myself as calm about this but I am looking for any possible advice regarding this. Is this a phase which will pass? How should i get him interested in food?
> Also, how should i deal with his saying 'no' to everything problem? His first reply to anything, any activity is a 'no'. Is this a sign of his resentment to all the change he has gone through? He is in general a very happy kid and very sociable. This new changes in his behavior make me feel guilty about all these changes we put him through.
> Looking forward to some advice,
> Best,
> Meeta
> (Mother of Aarush, 2)
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