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Toddler food refusal

Posted by Karen Faulkner on
toddler food refusal, fussy eating, toddler food, psychology of toddler eating

Challenging toddler behaviour

My job as a toddler guru often presents me with very challenging cases. Lordy lordy this one was the tin lid to beat all others. In Manchester, I was dealing with 3-year-olds that had a liking for setting their curtains on fire!

Failing to put boundaries in place without enough love and attention, in appropriate ways, fire-raising is not far away.

When I met this nearly 3-year-old, in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney, I knew I had my work cut out.

I'm going to call this little one Oliver. His real name is a secret and mum is happy for me to tell his story. We both know this story will help a lot of parents. Oliver has a younger sibling, Toby 14 months. His parents are a stay at home mum and a dad who is a professional businessman. And there is a lot of love and care in his home.

I love a challenging toddler food and behaviour problem

Once mum contacted me I had to take on this challenge and help them. Mum was at her wits' end. Nothing was working. Oliver had dug his heels in and was a scowling angry little boy.

toddler fussy eating

He was refusing to eat all foods except chocolate, milk and white bread. And refusing to sit at the table to eat meals with his family. Mum is a great cook and makes healthy meals. Watching Oliver in action and he was hardcore.

I noticed lots of "Don't", "No" and "Stop" in mum's communication with him. Stressed parents have a tendency to go into an extreme of a type in order to gain control. As a result, Oliver was backed into a corner. Because he's so young he didn't have the skills to reverse out of it. No three year old does. Tantrums were huge with meltdowns every day, all day. You get the picture!

Stop the use of negative words

I encouraged mum to change her language and stop saying negative words such as "Stop", "Don't do that" and "No". I encouraged her to use a technique with stop and start commands i.e. "Oliver stop whinging and talk in your nice quiet voice instead" or "Oliver stop playing with your food, and eat it instead". Get the idea?

We then started using house rules rather than "I want you to eat your food, Oliver". Mum was encouraged to say, "The house rules are, "we all sit at the table at meal times for 20 minutes". We weren't saying that he had to eat his food. He just had to sit at the table. If he didn't comply, the alternative was time out. Oliver soon got the message.

We put labelled praise and the child's game into action. Here are the links to my blogs on these ... 

toddler eating

The Sneaky Chef

Then I got really sneaky. Most of you know I research problems and read a lot of books. I have a degree in Psychology. I am trained and qualified to implement psychological interventions in children. So I read and read and found a great solution.

OMG, I could have kissed this lady! I found a sneaky recipe for chocolate brownies with pureed spinach and blueberries and Metamucil (psyllium fibre bulk) in it and best of all, it tastes like chocolate brownies! He was constipated so it ticked all the boxes.

So off I drove with my freshly baked brownies to see Oliver after I'd primed mum about my sneaky chef tactics on the phone!

Mum answered the door with Oliver.

"Guess what I've got for you?! I have chocolate brownies and they are all for you."

"No way, for me?" His face lit up and his eyes were huge.

"Yes, all for you."

toddler food refusal

The house rules

We introduced the house rule of sitting at the table to eat. The house rule was if he ate two pieces of raw carrot and a piece of cucumber he could eat as many pieces of chocolate brownie as he wanted. Rules but no rules. Get it? It looked like mum had capitulated. He thought he had won. Awesome!

He ate the veggies, he sat at the table and ate three pieces of brownie. He was happy. The sulky scowl angry little boy had left the building.

We also reduced his milk intake to 150 MLS (5 fl oz) in the morning after breakfast and before bed. Yes, he chucked a tanty but he got his brownies at meal times. Too much milk will affect dietary intake of food.

After two weeks he's now fed up literally with the brownies. His constipation has resolved and he's now eating healthy food and he sits at the table for meals. The whinging has settled down and timeout is used far less.

I asked mum what had made the biggest difference. She said it was the Childs Game. I agree it's the glue that holds all the other pieces of the jigsaw together and makes it work.

Happy Oliver. Happy mum. Happy home and an ecstatic toddler guru :-)

What can you do next?

Visit my Facebook page or read more on my blog for more strategies and insights on getting your toddler to eat. The links are below.

If you're still struggling, you can also ask me questions during my weekly Facebook Live broadcasts.  Here's a link to my Facebook page to see how it works: Nurture Parenting Facebook Live

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