Monday, August 19, 2013

Meal Time: Negotiations, False Promises and Empty Threats

I used to brag about M's eating habits here on the blog, feeling sorry for those parents out there whose kids only ate peanut butter and jelly or chicken fingers. I had a 3 year old who would eat grilled pork chops, steak, all kinds of fish or curry chicken salad. Basically anything I would put in front of her she would at least try. When we would go out to restaurants with friends I wouldn't even look at the kids menu - I would order her a fancy appetizer and she would eat it while her friends would just pick at their hot dogs and french fries.

Those days are long gone.

For the past month or so M's diet has pretty much consisted of fruit, mac n' cheese and snacks. So many snacks.

I loathe meal time in our house now. I will go through a menu list with M, asking her if she wants this, or this, or this (all things she used to like) until she finally gives me a yes. Let's say that she asked for a ham and cheese sandwich. I make a half of sandwich, because I know she will only have a few bites at most and I am sick of wasting food on my children. I put the sandwich in front of her and she will poke at it and say something like "I don't want a sandwich!" I will tell her that she had other choices, and this is what she asked for, so this is what I made, and this is it. Then she will go into the "I'm not hungry..." whine, which is not true because five minutes before this she was screaming about how hungry she was...for a cookie, or some other treat.

And this is when the negotiations begin...

"If you eat your sandwich I will give you some cherries..."
"I don't want cherries."
"If you eat your sandwich I will give you a jellybean."
"Two jellybeans?"
"Fine, if you eat your sandwich I will give you two jellybeans."

M eats two bites of sandwich.

"I don't want anymore sandwich. Can I have ice cream?"
"Absolutely not. Eat your sandwich."
"I don't like this sandwich."
"Yes you do. You just ate one two days ago and loved it."

M picks apart the sandwich and sticks a finger in the mayo, smells it.

"What is this white stuff? I don't like this stuff."
"That's mayo, and yes you love it. You licked it off the spoon the other day and loved it."
"I don't like it on the sandwich."
"Eat your sandwich."
"I want a cheese sandwich."

I remove the ham. Viola! A cheese sandwich.

"I don't like cheese sandwiches."

I feel the anger bubbling up inside me. On one side of me is a stuborn three year old, and on the other is a 12 month old screaming at the top of her lungs because I just told her for the 100th time not to feed the pooch. Said 12 month old is now sticking her fingers down her throat, trying to gag herself - a new fun meal time activity that she thinks is hilarious.

"If you eat your sandwich, maybe we can go to Whole Foods for ice cream tomorrow."
"Can I get vanilla ice cream?"
"Yes if you eat your sandwich."

M takes one bite.

"Can I have ice cream now?"
"No, eat your sandwich."

M fakes taking a bite of her sandwich and thinks it is hysterical. Anger bubbling...

"M, you need to at least eat this part of your sandwich (I rip already tiny sandwich in half) or we aren't going to see Grandma tomorrow." This of course is an empty threat as we are already packed and ready to head to Rhode Island...
"I want to see Grandma!"
"Then eat your sandwich!"

"I have to go potty!"

Ah, the potty ploy. Whenever M doesn't want to eat her food she will tell me she has to go potty. She will go into the bathroom, settle herself atop the porcelain throne and read whatever magazine I have in there - for at least 5 minutes.

"Did you go potty?"
"Not yet mom!"

Another 5 minutes go by and she comes out of the bathroom, but races by the table into the playroom.

"OH HECK NO! Back to the table..."

Queue the meltdown.

If Daddy is home, this is when he will follow M around the house, with sandwich in hand and force feed her bites in between her laps around the house. I am not a big fan of this method, as I too am stubborn and think she should be sitting down at a table when eating. But, at least she is eating something. There is something about Daddy being home that gets the girls to eat their food.

But, because she isn't eating much at actual meal times, she is now snacking like crazy. I would rather just give her a bowl of grapes than not feed her between meals because I don't want to hear the whining constantly that she is hungry. I think the only way I could actually get her to eat what I make for her at every meal would be to sit a bowl of ice cream in front of her as incentive to finish her food. That is one way to win parent of the year.

Now her sister...she is another story...for another post.


  1. Lexi is getting like that too at dinner time. One thing that works a bit is that I tell her, OK, I am going to give your XYZ to Andy and Emmy. She'll usually take some more bites. Or I tell her if she gets up that's it for the night and I let her throw a tantrum if she begs for a banana or whatever. Of course, I have the luxury of just turning my hearing aids off- makes it a lot easier to tolerate and ignore screams! :-)

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