Tuesday, July 31, 2007

the food wars

Sunday afternoon I had reached my limits of maternal patience when it came to my picky eaters. Will won't even eat grape jelly on his pb&js anymore and Charlie has suddenly turned his nose up at them entirely. Mary is the only one who eats meat in any form, but only chicken and hotdogs. In any normal household she would be considered an incredibly picky eater. It requires a united front and an iron will to overcome the battle of wills that can change this stubborness, so it has always failed. Tim is easily swayed with emotion when it comes to the children and gives in before anything has been resolved. The last time I tried this method, so simply described in parenting books, Will started throwing up after eating nothing for 3 days. I gave up in defeat. But, I can't stand it any longer. The children need to learn to eat normal food and I need to give up life as a short-order cook.

So... after no dinner was served Sunday evening we began the next morning. A meal was served and if they refused there was nothing until the next meal except water. Only 1/4 cup of milk was served with food, unless they finished what was on their plate.

Breakfast: scrambled eggs
Will: ate nothing
Maggie: ate nothing
Charlie: ate nothing
Mary: ate 3 helpings

Lunch: ham sandwiches
Will: ate 1/4 of a sandwich
Maggie: ate nothing
Charlie: picked at the bread
Mary: ate her 1/2 sandwich and then ate an entire pb&j

Dinner: stewed chicken and rice
Will: ate nothing
Maggie: ate 5 grains of rice
Charlie: ate 2 spoonfuls of rice
Mary: ate nothing

Last night I was up every hour with a child throwing up (except for Mary) and a crying baby, who was woken up twice. In between I had nightmarish visions of starving Irish children during the Potato Famine, feeling a kinship with the mothers who had nothing to feed their children and watching them die of hunger one after another.

I blame myself that I didn't know what I was doing in teaching my children to eat a variety of foods when they were babies. With late coming teeth and no guidance from anyone except those blasted books, I have led them to this moment. Hopefully they will eat the oatmeal I put before them for breakfast and whatever we decide for lunch and dinner. I want this torture to be over as much as they do, so please eat children, please.


Michelle said...

We started with simply tolerating the food on their plates. That used to be a huge issue. Included with that was training in polite acceptance of "yucky" things being served and how it wasn't nice to make faces or say bad things about what was on the table.

I've always tried to serve something that the kids would like, even if it was plain rice. But at least they did like that. Also, canned green beans are a staple here, and are the default vegetable for several of my kids. We make them eat some of everything served and then they can fill up on the rest. I also only fight over dinner, so they get nutrition at their other meals and aren't starving. And I'll separate things, for example, a stir-fry would be served stirred to me, but in separate piles and with no sauce to them. And once I find a meal they like, I make it often - once a week or every other week. But I'm the softy, and my husband is the iron will on this. He'd prefer your style...but I remember nearly throwing up as a child over brussel sprouts and liver.

And your kids really are very selective. You have a long way to go. Good luck with Timmy. I can tell you that watching my 2 year old eat is such a pleasure compared to the others at that age. He doesn't eat everything, but he'll try most things and always finds something that he wants to gobble up and have seconds and thirds.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I had one child who was a really good eater. The only things she refused were chocolate and tomatoes, and how could I fight about those? Although, I have to admit, I was wondering if she was switched at birth, given that she wouldn't eat chocolate! :)

But my son, who has Asperger Syndrome, has been different. He was a "white diet" kid from toddlerhood, although we gave him a variety of foods in babyhood. I always made sure to have something he could eat. And he was allowed to get his own food if he wouldn't eat anything I served. However, he had to either make the sandwich, or get the cheese or whatever. And clean up his own mess. That was a battle!

Now that he is a teenager, he has branched out nicely and makes his own salads and eats pretty much anything we serve.

Maybe you could teach the kids to make a few simple things for themselves if they refuse what you cook? They'll get tired of cheese and crackers soon enough, and start eating the food you make, but in the meantime they won't be waking the baby by throwing up in the night.

Best of luck with this!

Milehimama said...

Have you tried giving them an "out"?
One or two foods that they simply DO NOT have to eat, no matter what? (mine is fish sticks and lima beans LOL). You can let them change their 'yucky' food as often as you like (once a month, once a week, etc.) but by limiting it to one or two foods that they don't have to eat it leaves the other by default.

I've also found it helpful to let them cook and/or help in the kitchen as much as possible. Start by letting them help cook fun stuff (pancakes, cookies) and move towards the everyday stuff. Even my 2 yo can dump a cup of flour in a bowl and stir with a spoon! YOur older children could be in charge of one meal per week - even if they can't COOK everything themselves, they are the "kitchen manager". If you make a menu (perhaps together if you have that much energy, LOL)they can pick which meal they will be in charge of.

Something else you might try, is making a rule that they can't refuse to eat something and say "ohh it's gross". They have to offer some kind of constructive criticism - "this would be good if it had cheese", or "I would eat it if it didn't have beans in it".

kat said...

The only things 3 of the children will eat are breads, fruit, and cheese, and milk. Breakfast is cereal, biscuits, or toast. Lunch is pb&j, mac and cheese, or grilled cheese. Dinner is cheese quesidillas or pasta (no meat). I have tried the making them a sandwich or offering a different choice for 6 years now- it hasn't worked. These kids have very small appitites and won't try anything new.
I can't go out to restaurants because they won't eat the food. I can't go to friend's for lunch, they embarrass me by refusing to touch anything, Thanksgiving is a nightmare of having my grandmother stare disapprovingly at them eating pb&j while the grownups eat turkey.
I'm not trying to make them eat yucky stuff- just normal foods. They can't go through life only eating 9 foods plus junk food like cake and ice cream.

scmom said...

I would suggest giving them a tiny portion of something they will eat(like white rice, mashed potatoes, plain noodles), so that they don't make themselves sick over it. Just keep serving all the other stuff in hope that one nibble will turn into two, and three. Have you spoken to a nutritionist? I did that once when my kids were younger and she did assure me that it wasn't as bad as it looked.

FosterAbba said...

I would suggest a different (and more heartless) approach.

Meals are what you decide will be served. If a kid doesn't like it, you can respond with sympathy, but instruct them that meals are what they are.

"If you don't like dinner," you can say nicely, "perhaps you'll like what is served for breakfast better.

After a while, the kids will get hungry enough that they will eat what is placed in front of them, with a minimum of complaint.

You are not a short-order cook