Two is a time when many kids try to prove their independence or at least play with the idea that they are independent beings with their own ideas and free will. It is the age of tantrums, the beginning of true power struggles. In some ways, Caleb turned 2 before he was 2, with tantrums for the record books and heel digging so strong that I'm surprised he didn't leave marks. Ellie is a different child.
Ellie turned 2 on May 24. We had a lovely birthday party for her. She spent most of the party eating - grapes, berries, crackers, some cheese, and of course cake at the end. Prior to turning 2, she expressed some preferences about food - love is not a strong enough word to describe her affection for Annie's cheddar bunnies - but generally she tried nearly anything we offered her.
Ellie is 2.
Mealtimes have become rather unpleasant.
E: I want yogurt!
Parent: Strawberry or vanilla?
E: I want strawberry!!
Parent: OK, here is the strawberry yogurt.
E: NOOOOO!!! I don't want yogurt!
Parent: OK. (return yogurt to fridge)
E: I want YOOOOOOGGUUUUUUUURRRRT!!!
(repeat until ready to stab self with spoon for yogurt)
When she does allow food to be placed in front of her, the food becomes a toy or merely something to shove away. She also fixates on one food for an entire day - yesterday was cracker day. Even offering something to go with the fixation is unacceptable.
Me: Ellie, would you like cheese with your crackers?
E: No! I don't want cheese!! CRACKERS!!!!
*sigh* And how am I supposed to write about feeding my kids real food when one of them alternates between eating only one food per day and refusing all food? So I share with you this struggle because I know other parents go through this. I know parents who have kids who will not touch a vegetable. I know of kids who eat only white foods (e.g., pasta, bread, cheese of the string variety). I also share this struggle with you because I have a plan for getting Ellie to rejoin the eaters in our family.
She will eat when she is hungry. My job is to offer healthy and hopefully tasty food. Her job is to eat when she is hungry. I will not try to convince her to eat ("Come on honey, try one bite/lick/taste"). I will not force her to remain at the table until she eats. I will not feed her junk, even if that is the only thing she requests.
This morning she asked for popcorn after having 3 slices of an orange. The answer was no. She cried, begged, whined. No popcorn for breakfast. I offered her similar textures - Cheerios, Puffins. She screamed no at me. OK, but no popcorn.
At lunch I made her a PB&J, 1 strawberry, and a few cucumber slices. She happily ate the berry and the cucumber but picked at the sandwich. She asked for pasta, and Aaron refused as the lunch menu didn't include pasta. Aaron and I agree not to be short order cooks for our kids. She asked for cheese. I gave her a slice of what we call sample cheese (yucky white American cheese from the grocery deli counter. I hate American cheese.). She ate most of that and eventually took a few bites of her sandwich. She declared herself done when she still had about half of her half-sandwich left. I cleaned her up and let her down.
No battle, no tantrum. A success if not very filling for her.
Those of you with kids, do you try to persuade your non-eaters to eat? What do you try? What works? Leave me comments with ideas or questions!