Right on Cue

23 months

My SIL often praised Nessness for how well she ate. But she warned, “They can start out as good eaters but then they become toddlers and meals become battle grounds.” I wasn’t sure if it has to be that way, but she does have four kids proving her correct. “Guess we’ll see,” I said.

And well…to the day Nessness turned 23 months, she now does the following:

  • refuse to say grace
  • pick out veggies or spit it out
  • refuse to feed herself even though she can
  • sit, refusing to eat, refusing to open mouth if being fed
  • throw utensils
  • scoop a spoon of food and pour it on the ground

This kind of defiance and disorder not okay in my books. Yes I do expect better from a nearly two year old. So initially we try “punishment”. But her usual punishment of being made to sit by herself and face the wall is almost met with a look of happy satisfaction on her face instead of the tears and pleading she previously reacted with. Clearly it’s no longer a punishment. In talking to other moms, I was advised to not use so much punishment at dinner because you don’t want them to associate meals with unpleasant punishments. Maybe for throwing utensils, but not for refusing to eat. Instead, it was suggested we try setting a timer in front of her and telling her if she beats the timer, then she gets to play (or some other fun activity). If she doesn’t finish then all the food goes away because it’s clean up time and she doesn’t get to eat anymore. She can eat it again at the next meal. (Of course, no snacking in between. Or if it’s a scheduled snack, the leftover meal comes out instead.) The hardest part about this for parents is getting over the fact they’ll probably be hungry for a few days. And that’s true.

I remind myself why we’re doing this:

I don’t want to nag through meals…or be a nag in general
I want meals to be done reasonably quick so there’s more time for meaningful stuff together
I want her to be feeding herself by the time BB2 comes
I want her to learn that delayed obedience is still disobedience

So…I need to be more stubborn than her. Must win the early battles.
Any other food war advice out there? Please share!

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