17 answers

Dinnertime with a 5 Year Old

My 5 year old son will not use silverware at dinner. He will hold the fork in one hand and use the other to pick up his food(including ice cream) with the other hand. We've tried, having him hold the empty hand in the air, sitting on the empty hand, threatening to take away the fork and make him use no silverware, holding the empty hand, and the rest of the threatening devices we can figure out. My 2 year old is doing really well at holding her silverware and I don't want her to see bad habits. This is after the usual begging them to eat whatever we made that they liked the last time we made it for them.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks to everyone for their great responses. We're still working through it. I have backed off a little and dinner has gotten a bit more pleasant. I do give him a fork to hold in both hands sometimes and he seems to have fun with that. I have an appointment with a developmental pediatrician to discuss this and several other issues that are probably related that also to discuss some of the great things that some of you all have mentioned.

Thanks so much!

Featured Answers

How about giving him a fork for each hand...maybe he is ambidextrous and does certain things with his left and certain things with his right.

2 moms found this helpful

Is it possible that he is attention seeking and just trying to get a reaction out of you? Even though I spend a lot of time with my 5 year old, she will sometimes choose to do babyish things. I also have a 2 year old. I say, try ignoring the behavior for awhile. Also, I think it is a good idea, as someone else wrote, to observe other things he does with his hands and see if those activities are "normal" for him. Would he maybe prefer plastic utensils to metal ones? Just a thought. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

How about giving him a fork for each hand...maybe he is ambidextrous and does certain things with his left and certain things with his right.

2 moms found this helpful

Is it possible that he is attention seeking and just trying to get a reaction out of you? Even though I spend a lot of time with my 5 year old, she will sometimes choose to do babyish things. I also have a 2 year old. I say, try ignoring the behavior for awhile. Also, I think it is a good idea, as someone else wrote, to observe other things he does with his hands and see if those activities are "normal" for him. Would he maybe prefer plastic utensils to metal ones? Just a thought. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I haven't read if you have received any other suggestions but I have a couple last resort suggestions assuming it is just a bad habit and not a symptom of another problem (using the fork in the wrong hand for him, problems holding the silverware itself, etc.).

First last resort idea... Tell him if he does not start using his silverware you are going to change his diet. Tell him if he is not using his silverware for everything not designated finger food by you by day 3 (or whatever you decide) you are going to put him on a diet where he cannot pick up the food. By this I mean, cream soups (no chunks to pick up), oatmeal, pudding, purees, etc. Then if he doesn't use the silverware try the new diet for a few days. Make sure he understands he cannot drink it from the bowl. He must use a spoon. Once he shows he can use a spoon for 1 day switch to soups with noodles and chunks of vegetables. If he can eat these for a day with silverware and not fingers, switch him back to his regular diet. I doubt very much he will like eating purees, cream soups and oatmeal while the rest of the family is enjoying regular meals.

Another last resort idea... Get a pair of gloves (preferable either rubber gloves or thin cloth gloves so he doesn't overheat). Have him put the gloves on and then duck tape the silverware to the gloves for a meal or two. The tape won't be on him, so he won't be hurt in any way but he won't be able to use his fingers to eat. The other hand without the silverware, put on a glove and tape the fingers of the glove together. This way he cannot use that hand to pick up his food.

As I said, these are both last resort ideas. However, neither would hurt your son. Both, however, would make him think about what he is using to eat with and make him want to be more diligent about eating with his silverware.

A not so last resort idea... if he keeps doing it, don't have silverware on the table for a meal. Sit down and eat with your fingers like he does. If he asks about it, tell him you are tired of washing silverware that is apparently not needed. Make sure it is an especially messy meal. Something he wouldn't want to eat with his fingers. And, of course, wear old clothes. Maybe seeing everyone else eating with their fingers will gross him out. Be sure to have food on your fingers when you pass him something he wants like a glass of milk or whatever.

Anyhow, I hope other moms have better ideas... Maybe someone has an incentive program that will work for you... I just know that with bad habits, it sometimes takes constant reminding because sometimes the kids aren't even aware they are doing it. My daughter started making these noises from her throat in Kindergarten. She started doing it on purpose because she liked the noise and then after awhile, couldn't stop. She would do it while she was concentrating on something else or just thinking. It took over 6 months to get her to stop. She would do it and not even realize she was doing it to the point that she would argue with us telling us she hadn't done it. With the noises, we constantly reminded her to stop. After a while, when she would do it, we would get her attention and do it back to her quietly as a reminder. After the first few times, she would smile and say okay. The more we made her aware of it, the more she was able to recognize the behavior herself and correct it.

Anyhow, I hope someone has a better idea for you. One that requires less work, time and/or mess. Good luck and I hope you find some help in my message.

1 mom found this helpful

K.,
I was wondering, has your son used utensils before and now stopped, or has he never really used them?
Have you asked him why he won't or can't use them?
It could be as simple, as the others gals mentioned, that he is just doing so for attention, possibly because his sister is more active now.
Maybe have him pick out a new set of child sized silverware. I've seen them with cartoon and movie characters.

Let us know what worked.

Hi K.,

When you set down for dinner, are you all sitting down as a family. A lot of times our little ones learn from others and maybe if your son sees you eating with the silverware, he may want to do the same. Acknowledge how well his sister eats with her silverware like such a 'big' girl. Ask him if he can show his sister how well he eats with silverware. Positive reinforcement. And as difficult as it may be, try not to focus so much on the fact that he is not using his silverware correctly. Maybe if you give it a little less attention, he'll change. Hope this helps. Take care and God Bless!!!

~T.~

At this point, you shouldn't think of this as a fork and eating issue, it's a straight up discipline issue. You're totally right that you don't want your 2 year old to form the same habit. Enforce discipline about the rules regarding how and what to eat. At 5 years old he understands completely. It will be tough at first since the habit is so deeply ingrained, and he's used to winning the battle, but usually 3 days of strong enforcement will break most habits (may be longer at 5 years old). Once he sees that this will never be tolerated, and an unpleasant event (quicker and shorter the better, applied calmly-don't lose your cool, nothing long and drawn out with him seeing you get ruffled) happens every single time he doesn't eat properly, he'll begin to do it the right way. Hang tough, the only alternative is to let him control you and outgrow this eventually on his own terms.
Same with begging them to eat at dinner-Take charge! I don't offer any alternative foods, if my daughter didn't eat, she only got water until the next meal. If she threw any tantrums, played with her food, or said anything disrespectful etc, she was disciplined for that. (she wouldn't do that now, but when she was just learning) After several meal times, she got it, and now at 2 and 1/2, she knows that what we're having is what she's eating.
Any child will test you, don't worry, be strong. You can get your meal times under control and move on to enjoying time together at home or in restaurants. The other day I heard her telling our 7 month old, "Now you eat that yummy bottle, mommy made it."

wow - we are living parallel lives! My boys are also 5 and 2...and it is my 5 yr. old who tends to be more of a handful at mealtime (complaining about what was made, won't use utensils consistently). It is funny your question hit mamasource this morning...b/c we had a huge talk with my son last night (not only about mealtimes...but the bigger picture - listening to mommy and being respectful). Anyway...I am breaking out his responsibility chart and we will use it again religiously (kind of stopped using it at the start of summer...bad idea). It did work before - kids can see their progress...and they like to show it off! Mine is a Melissa & Doug chart (from Learning Express Toys). But - you can customize your own with poster board, markers and stickers.

I wish you the best!!!!

I don't have experience with this, but I would think to simply put silverware in both hands. Let him figure it out. Maybe he is more comfortable using the hand that he eats out of his hands with. I'm assuming you put his silverware in his right hand like most parents do, if you don't want to give him silverware in both hands, attempt to let him use his left hand with silverware since he's used to using that hand to eat. Keep us posted as to what works. I'd be interested to hear.

1 / 3
Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.