Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Food Battle

For the most part, my husband and I agree on how to parent our daughter. We aren't against spanking in times of obvious defiance and we both want our daughter to have Christ-like characteristics where she cares about others and is friendly to all people. There is one area where we differ and it is when it comes to food. Of course, we want her to eat healthy, but my husband requires that she finish all her entree' before having anything else, even if it means giving her the same plate at the next meal. While I suggest that she be given the whole meal(fruit, veggie, entree') at once and she should eat most of it. I just do not see the point of forcing her to eat something she obviously doesn't like.

Now, I don't want to be disrespectful to my husband, so I try to only give my daughter what I know she likes and very small portions so she'll meet his expectations. Every once in a while, I make something new and not being sure whether she'll like it or not, I give it to her and she doesn't like it. I strongly dislike the battle between the 3 of us to get her to eat the food. He's looking at me to make her eat it, I'm feeding her like a baby (she's 2) to get her to eat it, and she's crying and upset because she doesn't want to eat it.

Does anybody have a compromise that will work in this situation?


  1. I don't have a compromise to pass on, but I do have encouragement... I am a parent like your husband - I have always believed my children should eat what is set before them. I started this when they really got going on solids (after the initial getting-used-to-solids period was passed), and sometimes I would sit for an hour making my children eat foods they didn't enjoy. But... it was SO worth it! After awhile they realised we were going to be consistent and that it wasn't worth the battle... so they started eating better... and now because we made them eat food they didn't necessarily enjoy, they have actually *learned* to enjoy almost anything and everything someone might serve up; they eat much better than any other child I know, even though during the "battle" period they appeared to eat worse than any child I knew (because other parents didn't enforce the same rules)! It was so worth the battles - they don't last forever; they will only last until they realise you are not going to change your mind or give in, and until they realise the food is not so bad after all. Sometimes I felt *terrible* about the battles, but it was just SO worth it!
    One thing I'd say (kindly) is that if your daughter figures out you are purposely giving her foods she likes in order to compromise on your husband's stance, she will use that to get her own way - I only say that (no offence intended) because I learned it the hard way and wish someone had pointed it out to me!

  2. Thanks for the advice, Clara! No offence taken. :)

  3. When Lilly was here she ate a well-balanced diet and we enjoyed the "breaking of bread" together. After all it is not just the food that provides the nourishment, but the love of those gathered.

    Going out on a limb, I would venture to say most people have foods they like and dislike. As long as one's diet is healthy, I don't understand the need to battle.

    Also, I remember growing up when, for a time, my dad would do the battle thing. No one enjoyed the time together. When Dad finally let up, we actually ate better, because the time was more focused on love than law. As I got older I began to like some foods I would gag on as a child.

    Praying you all can share loving meals without the need to do battle and bring my Sunshine to tears. Life is too precious and short!

  4. I for one don't believe that anyone should be made to eat anything they don't want. Try new foods yes. As an adult we don't eat things we dislike why should a child be made to eat something just because they are a child. If you typically serve food as a whole meal (veggie, protien etc) on the same plate then do the same for her. Ask her to try one taste of something she doesn't want to eat but I wouldn't make her. Meal times should be fun non stressfull times. When eating becomes a source of stress then humans will sometimes start to us food as weapons against those causing them stress (as in anorexia and bulimia or over eating). My heart goes out to poor Lilly. Maybe sometime when Lilly isn't present you and Mark can dicuss and come to some agreement on how to handle the situation so that mealtimes are enjoyable family occasions for all of you.

  5. I thought of something else - I never made my children eat food that made them throw up... When my daughter threw up over one food when she was between 1-2 years old, I didn't give up - I tried her on it again at a later time, and she enjoyed it.

    Regarding enjoying food (esp in response to other commentor's comments) - a short period of battling results in MORE enjoyment of food later, rather than less (sometimes you have to sacrifice something in order to get the greater gain). Today when we go out or eat with other families, other kids will not eat what their host/hostess sets before them because they have been catered to by their parents and don't know good manners (ie. eat what is set before you)!
    The time when parents stopped making their children obey and started catering to them (this is part of our ego society - make everyone feel good no matter the cost in the long term) was the time when fussiness increased horribly and manners decreased horribly.
    I get embarrassed sometimes for other parents - here are my children eating anything and everything, while the other parents are battling to find anything on the menu/provided that their child will eat at all! This is NOT kindness to a child - it is a good way to cause a fuss or cause embarrassment for other people!

    Training sometimes isn't pleasant, but the long term results are MUCH more pleasant! :) Believe me, my kids went through very few years of not enjoying some things on their plate compared with the period of time through their life when a huge array of foods will be enjoyable!! Besides, kids are usually healthier for having been made to eat foods - you don't usually find a child turn up their nose at junky/less healthy food... so if we cater to them, often we are not helping their health at all! :)

    I hope you don't mind me commenting again, Emily... This is a subject that I feel passionately about! I was one of those children who gagged over food (eg. peas, pumpkin, some soups and many many other foods), and I do NOT have any bad feelings about it... I eat better because of it! :)

  6. OKay been through this (twice) and gotta say its a doozy!! Lilly is at the stage where her palette is developing and she may want to eat the same thing for a week and then move on to another. Her body knows what she needs and do not freak out if she only eats cheese for like a meal. Now when it comes to parenting, I think education is the key. It wasn't until Dock came to a doctors appointment and the Doctor explained it, that he understood. Have you tried getting the Doctor to explain to Mark about Toddlers and eating? When we were young, we remember having to eat everything on our plate before we got up type deal. There were times when I heard the "well there are little children in Africa who are starving and would love to have that meal.." speech given to a 2 year old! Nooo way dude!! Of course this comes with age. Kenny is going to be 5 and he understands now the concept of having to eat your whole meal type deal.
    What works for us is as long as they try each thing on their plate and then do not truly like it, then we move on to food we know they will eat. Sometimes kids are more willing to eat off our plate then one of their own :-)
    Good Luck!!

  7. 10. How many times should I ask my child to try a food that he "hates" before I finally give up on that food?

    Researchers have found that it can take 10 to 20 exposures to the same food before a child finally decides he likes it. Of course, you don't want to serve that food the same way 15 nights in a row if your child gives it a thumbs down the first night.

    Serve it in slightly different way every couple of weeks. For example, serve sweet potatoes grilled on the barbecue, mashed like regular mashed potatoes or sliced into julienne fries. Sometimes it can take a whole lot of trial and error to crack the code of your child's food likes. Your parent detective skills really pay off at a time like this.

    This is a quote from Amy Douglas author of Mealtime Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Pre-Schooler.

  8. Thank you all for your advice. Mark and I are reading these and working on a compromise that works for us. I do want you to know that Lilly is usually a very good eater and this battle we have doesn't occur often, but just enough to where I know we (Mark and I) need to be on the same page when it comes up.

  9. The only advice our doctor gave us about our kids at that age is that they are naturally "grazers". That sitting down to eat 3 full meals a day at that age is not something they were programmed to do. It was more healthy for them to eat a little throughout the entire day.

    We don't make our kids finish their plates. We do make them try everything on their plate. They have both gone through phases where they will eat just about anything, to where they are a little more picky (but still eat a large variety - especially compared to most kids).

    We have a good friend who is a dietitian/ nutritionist. She currently works at FSU. She is also on the board for dietitians over FL. She does private counseling sessions for people for eating disorders. At one time she even worked in a clinic in AZ for celebrities. She also has a 2 1/2 yo. She doesn't believe in forcing kids to eat foods they don't like. She said that's where almost all eating disorders stem from (both extremes). She also said you should never stop exposing your child to healthy food. She always puts a veggie her daughter doesn't like on her plate, knowing one day she'll try it and like it.

  10. I would slow introduce new foods to my sons (one at a time) so they weren't overwhelmed and any new food was only given in very small amounts and gradually increased. However there were some foods they won't eat now that they are adults, but generally they aren't too fussy.

    Another way to introduce food is saying it is for adults and they can't have any unless they are grown up enough - this will make most children really want some!! My eldest son loves to try new things due to this method.

    Just one thing to note - as a child I had to eat everything on my plate no matter how long I took - however I will forever remember being forced to eat food that I strongly disliked (rock melon is one item) and wanting to throw up - forcing a child to eat something they have quite clearly said they don't like, isn't fair - especially when they are old enough to make that decision. I think it turned me off some fruits completely due to this. It is a balancing act.