J.B. asks from Mesa, AZ on September 15, 2009
My 11-Year-old Boy Is a Very Picky Eater
I have an 11 year old boy who is a very picky eater. I will make meatloaf, pork chops, lasagna, sloppy joes, steak or other things for dinner and he won't eat. He only likes just a few things for dinner and he will only eat just enough to guarantee himself a snack about an hour after dinner. I can't offer him special meals because that isn't fair for our 4 year old boy plus I just don't think that is right. I make one good dinner and everybody should eat it. I was picky when I was little (not this bad however) and I had to eat what was on my plate. You just learn to do it.
Well after all the food drama and he decides he doesn't like dinner and isn't going to eat we hear from him that he is so hungry he is going to get sick. He hasn't eaten since lunch and I start to feel bad. We have had to cut out the after school snack because I know he will eat a lot so he won't be hungry for the dinner he isn't going to like. Around 7:30pm I finally decide, because I know he needs something in him, to offer either a banana, grapes or an apple. He then decides to turn those things down because I didn't offer something sweet like caramel for the apple or something like that.
All this drama continues at his dad's house as well. They actually have decided that if he doesn't eat dinner he will lose his computer time for that evening. They used to give him Spaghetti O's or Ravioli's as a second choice but has since stopped that and started the computer time rule.
My question to all of you is what should I do? There has to be a way that I can get him to eat. He is so hungry but it is all in his head. If he doesn't like the look of it or the texture in his mouth he freaks out and won't eat. Do any of you have any suggestions for us at all? We hate dinner because of all the "food drama" at our house every night. Has this happened to any of you? If so what worked for you?
Thank you very much for any help you can give us.
S.R. answers from Phoenix on September 15, 2009
Just make foods that are kid friendly. Tell him he has to eat as many bites as his age, so 11. Once he does that then he can get up. I would stick with it.
S.W. answers from Tucson on September 16, 2009
When our son tried a similar thing where all of a sudden all of the foods he used to like, he no longer liked, I started making him choose the menu for the week with the understanding that he had to have a variety and it had to be things everyone liked. So far he has been doing it well and I no longer have the complaining!
K.H. answers from Phoenix on September 16, 2009
You are right not to make separate meals for him...that will just help him remain a picky eater. Our kids are picky too, so what we have done lately is when I make meat, to provide some sort of dip. I usually put out barbeque sauce to dip chicken or pork. For vegetables sometimes we add a sweet sauce from the asian section of the grocery store or ranch dressing for veggies. Sometimes, I make two vegetables, for example squash for my husband and I and since I know the kids like carrots, I will also make that. If it is a dish they don't like, we have a rule to eat 5 bites and then they don't have to eat anymore. I make a note that they don't like it and omit it or prepare it differently. From articles that I have read , sometimes it takes serving a particular food 8 times before a child likes it, so it is a good idea to keep trying. I have also read and heard from children's food experts, not to associate negativity or rewards for food. For example : not punishing for not eating and not offering dessert if they eat their dinner (it's psychological and may teach bad habits. We used to offer icecream for bribery all of the time! Now I don't and just have that rule of eating 5 bites. Also you can try and enlist their helping in cooking. My daughter doesn't like pizza, but if she helps make it (she is 6) by spreading past sauce on an English muffin and adding the toppings and sprinkling the cheese, she actually eats it! There are some good kids books out there for that. I hope this helps because I know it can be frustrating!
C.C. answers from Flagstaff on September 16, 2009
It sounds like he enjoys the attention he gets from the drama he is causing. You are doing the right thing by sticking to your guns. It sounds like you are insisting on healthy food choices. Good for you! He will not let himself starve, and teaching him healthy eating habits now will affect his eating habits for a lifetime.
Have you tried letting him help to plan the menu and cook dinner? He is more likely to eat it if he helped to make it. He is old enough for some responsibility in this area, and he may even find that he enjoys it. You may also find that he may help plan it, then claim he doesn't like it. If so, you will know it's not about food.
J.H. answers from Flagstaff on September 16, 2009
As somebody else suggested here, have you looked into sensory issues with eating? Some children have sensory issues that prevent them from being able to eat a variety of foods. My daughter has Autism and has issues with foods. She only eats about 3 or 4 diffrent things for lunch and dinner and one a few for breakfast too. I have heard of kids dry heaving over not wanting to eat but my daughter has actually gagged from the look of certain textured foods. She can look at it and tell if she will be able to accept the texture in her mouth. Not only that, she will go without eating if we dont' give her foods we know she likes. Maybe your son has some sensory issues with foods and this is why he will only eat certain things. If your son does have sensory issues then the punishment of taking away priveledges for not eating is not appropriate. Talk with your doctor about this, they should be able to reccommend somebody for you to see to evaluate this.
P.K. answers from Phoenix on September 16, 2009
If you've ruled out anything like a sensory issue (my son has that with some foods) then he's just being maniupulative. Do what your parents did - he eats what is put in front of him. Period. In my house if you give up your dinner, you give up all snacks for the rest of the night. My kids eat all their dinner because they don't have any other choice. Your son has too many choices. Don't give in to the manipulation of him feeling sick - it's his choice not to eat, he has to deal with the feeling of being hungry. Once he sees you're not giving in, he'll start eating. You are the adult and you are the one who has to make healthy food choices. Give him two choices for snacks, if he doesn't pick either one, he doesn't get a snack. It's not up for debate. Time to get tough!
K.H. answers from Tucson on September 16, 2009
I sure can sympathize with your problem but I don't think it is about food at all. I sounds more like a control issue between you and your son and it makes things miserable for everyone.
I had a son that was also a picky eater and here are some things we did. First, don't make eating a big deal. If he doesn't want to eat don't make him. If he asks for a snack later offer him a healthy choice. You can't control whether or not he is hungry or if he is willing to eat, or not. I don't think food should be used as a reward or a punishment. Kids usually are hungry after school. I wouldn't take away the snacks, but I would offer healthy choices with maybe a treat once or twice a week. I agree that dinner should be whatever you fix and what everyone else is eating and I did not make a separate meal for my son either. If he chooses not to eat dinner, don't make him. If he ate a snack of fruit or a peanut butter sandwich as a snack then so what if he doesn't eat dinner. The same thing with an after dinner snack. If it is healthy he is getting the nutrition he needs. If he chooses not to eat at all, then an 11 year old will not starve if he misses a meal. Don't let him make you feel guilty because he wants a treat. You just want to take the fight out of it so you all enjoy dinner-time more. When he sees that it is no longer going to cause a fight, he will probably start to eat with you and it will no longer be a problem. You are not giving in to him, you are just offering choices that you can live with and eliminating the dinner time fight.
M.A. answers from Phoenix on September 16, 2009
Have you tried saving his meal and serving it to him again the next night? We are currently going through this with my daughter, and went through it with my son before her- he now eats everything on his plate. Every kid is different though- I had to reheat and serve her meal a few times in a row before she got the point, and didn't give her anything to eat after dinner was over. If she chose not to eat what was in front of her, then we dismissed her from the table and let her go play if she wanted. The first two nights she went to play, and then came back asking for a snack later. I told her she could have her dinner(which was wrapped in the fridge), and of course she threw a fit, but I didn't give in. The next night the same thing happened. The third night she reluctantly ate her dinner- but she did eat it! I feel bad because I think a lot of her behavior was indulged by myself early on to avoid tantrums and because I felt sorry for her. If I had to do it over I would have probably not given her snacks after dinner time and when she threw a tantrum as a two or three year old gotten her down from the table to train her what was acceptable and what was not. But hey, at least i am learning in hindsight what works for us! Hope this helps.b
G.A. answers from Phoenix on September 16, 2009
I think it sounds like he is definitely manipulating you.
I have never heard of someone getting a snack after dinner.
Since my kids were in Head Start I have used their one bite rule. No matter what. (I have one that acts like she will vomit((throws dry heaves)) if she eats veggies but she still has to have that one bite and swallow)
I have allowed my kids the after school snack up until 1 1/2 hours before dinner will be served. They are to eat what is made for dinner and are not allowed anything else. They have until 1 1/2 hours before bed to eat their dinner or they go to bed without.
It may seem mean to have these rules but they have to know that the rules are the same for all.
I think his dad has the right idea of stopping the drama... he is getting at an age that this needs to stop at school he does not get to rule what is for breakfast or lunch why should he get that privilege at home.