Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Picky Eater and the Battle of the Wills, Momma vs. Toddler

A lot of parenting seems to be fairly easy.  Keep them safe.  Tell them they're loved.  Expand their world.  

Then, of course, there are the parts that aren't.

I have a bonafide picky eater.  Not only is Mo-mo picky, but she doesn't let us feed her.  She stopped at 10 months.  That's right, as soon as she started on finger food, she absolutely refused to eat anything that we give her directly.  She'll clamp her mouth shut and start to scream if we are persistent.

Up until last week, we've been doing the bad-wussy-parent thing of giving her a special meal of things we knew she'd like.  We'd give her our regular meal first, she wouldn't eat it, then we'd give her things like fruit, bread, cheese, and peanut butter:  the staples of toddler life.  

This pattern is okay for a baby but not for a toddler.  And as much as I don't want to admit it, my daughter is old enough to learn bad habits.  And she's learning that if she doesn't eat what we give her, she just has to wait ten minutes and we'll give her exactly what she wants.  

I refuse to have a child who only eats PB&J at age seven, or who always gets a special meal made for her.  It's just not happening.

So Batman and I are being hardcore meanies.  She only gets what we eat.  We're cutting down on the snacks.  If she doesn't eat, we're not going to make a big deal out of it, but we're only going to offer her what we had for dinner.  

Let me tell you this:  it's hard.

First of all, she's so damn cute when she asks for "gapes" or "fish" (grapes and goldfish).  And it's so damn hard to change a pattern.  

Second of all, I worry about her weight.  She's in the 96th percentile for height and only the 25th for weight.  The pediatrician said to offer her higher calorie options of things, like adding cheese to broccoli.  (And yes, if you're curious, I did ask the pediatrician her opinion about this.  She said that it's better to clamp down and be strict now than try and do it later, when bad habits are firmly established.  And that Mo-mo will eat if she's hungry once she figures out she doesn't get anything else.)

This is especially hard because I was a picky eater.  My parents are divorced, and my mom and my dad had two very different parenting styles.  My mom let me eat whatever I wanted, and it was invariably chicken nuggets, taquitos, and the occasional bomb pop.  My dad made me eat whatever was for dinner.  I always had to at least try the food and finish the portion on the plate.

As I was growing up, I much preferred my mom's relaxed feeding style.  But as an adult, I understand why my dad was so strict.  

Being responsible?  No fun at all.


  1. As a fellow picky eater, I feel her pain. Just to warn you, my mom used to make me sit at the dinner table until I finished what was on my plate. After I sat there for two or three hours without eating, she would give up and send me to my room. Here's to hoping Mo-mo isn't as stubborn as I am!

  2. Can I just tell you that we're dealing with this too! Yesterday Marco had a sandwich to eat, but since we had chips on the table, he only wanted to eat chips. Well, I don't mind if he has a few chips, AFTER he eats his sandwich. He screamed and cried and ended up taking a nap without having lunch. BUT, he ate ALL of his dinner and gulped down his entire bottle of milk. Yes, he was hungry, but he wasn't going to starve to death for skipping lunch. I'm in charge... not him.

  3. Lacy, I'm crossing my fingers she isn't that stubborn! Jim and I have discussed the cleaning the plate, and I think we'll just make her try some things, but not necessarily force her. Nicole, it's good to hear that other moms are dealing with it the same way we are! It's so hard to have them skip lunch at times, but I can't see another way around it.

  4. Good luck. I was not a picky eater but I grew up with one who was a year younger and I understand how frustrating it can be. My parents let it go until she was 8 or 9 and then decided they were not going to make a special meal. You definitely don't want to try to break the behavior at that age. It is never pretty.

  5. Yeah, at seven or eight it's pretty much a lost cause. It's hard to see her cry, but we're trying to keep her calm and not give in. It worked tonight, let's hope it continues to!