Mommy Go Time Out!

I’ve made not secret of the fact that Ava is not a great eater. Hell, that’s a bit of an understatement. She’s a terrible eater! She literally picks at her food, eats like a little bird and is very very fussy – Que the self flagellation. At my most frustrated and lowest points, I’m convinced it’s because I MUST have done something wrong when introducing solids that has made her so super fussy today. On good days I try to remind myself that she is healthy and strong and totally amazing so I should worry so much, but seriously, it’s easier said than done! I can literally count on my one hand what she will actually eat.

If children could thrive on juice, yoghurt and fresh air I wouldn’t worry so much. But the point is I want her to enjoy a well balanced and nutritious diet, I want to give her everything her body needs to grow up healthy and strong. At the moment, I feel as if I am failing miserably in this department.

Meal times are a nightmare, I actually start feeling myself getting anxious as I begin preparing her food, which almost always is met with a:

“Yukkie” – something I’m sure she learned from her school friends

“I don’t like it, I don’t want it!”

Every meal time is spent coaxing, encouraging, bribing, begging, getting angry, trying to remain calm and worrying about how little she’s actually had to eat.

I put lots of pressure on myself in trying to make foods for her from the limited selection I know she likes , which are healthy and last night was no exception.

I raced home from work to start preparing a cottage pie because I know she’ll eat mince, I know she likes peas and who doesn’t like mash potatoes right?

After the rush to get home and the 40+ minutes it takes to prepare, do you know what she said when I presented her with the delicious, nutritious, home made, well balanced, healthy meal? “NO! I NO WANT IT!”

I spent the next hour trying to pretend that I wasn’t on the verge of tearing my own hair out. By the time Walter got home from work I’d been through every emotion and I’d attempted everything from force feeding (sshh don’t tell the Mommy Police) to begging, to encouraging, to demonstrating how delicious the meal was by eating some of it myself. I even tried bribing her with a Barney Video – Just eat ONE bite and Mommy will put Barney on for you. She was jubilant at the mention of Barney but not convinced to have that one mouthful.

By the time Walter walked in just after 6pm last night, I was reaching the end of my tether (baring in mind that we go through this exact ritual EVERY SINGLE NIGHT). He walked in the door to discover Ava crying and me with splashed cottage pie all over my glasses, dribbling down my face and the dogs licking the remains that had landed on the floor.

Before he could even comment, I told him I was putting MYSELF in time out! One minute for each year of my life, that was 40 minutes of cooling off time for me. I proceeded to sit on the patio with a glass of wine, play on Twitter and try not to laugh out loud as I heard him attempt the very same coercion on Ava that I’d spent the previous hour doing.


She won in the end, she went to bed having eaten only Vienna sausage! The lesson I seem to fail to learn, on a daily basis, is that you simply cannot force a toddler to eat! You just can’t!

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  • Reply ournextbigadventure

    my moms favorite story is how I was such a bad eater. I would eat viennas, cheese, olives and puffed wheat. She says that she had to take a little tupperware of nibbles for me whenever we went anywhere because she knew I wouldn’t eat whatever was being served. I grew up to be a very unfussy eater. I’ll eat anything, except, now that I think of it, I’m not mad about viennas or puffed wheat! Try not let it stress you out!

    March 23, 2012 at 3:10 pm
  • Reply Kim Brooks

    Sharon I was in the exact same boat with Brenton when he was Ava’s age. I was stressed, anxious and upset at that time re this very issue. Now I look back and laugh and wonder why I worried so much. The proof is in the pudding dear girl (as it was with my pudding also). Ava radiates good health. She is one clever cookie who does not look like she is fading away and is reaching all her milestones. She will not starve herself. If dinner for her means her fav healthy foods chopped up in a bowl to graze on and a glass of milk so be it. You need to trust me that this too shall pass – every situation is temporary!

    Her tastes will develop over time. Have you tried letting her choose her own dinner? It worked for me – offer her two healthy options to choose from for her dinner each night. Can she then help with the prep and cooking of her dinner? (age appropriate of course and perhaps wearing a lil childs apron) Then let her choose a plate, cup, spoon or fork from your kitchen. Allowing her to choose from a selection of pretty plastic party plates featuring her fav characters and disposable plastic spoon or fork is also another idea that often sparks the interest of a fussy eater her age. Colorful bendy/twisty straws for her milk/juice/water. Lots of praise “what a great choice you made for your dinner Ava” “You are such a good help cooking dinner Ava, I am so proud of you” etc. For determined personality types doing it this way makes them think they are in full control. Think about it for a minute, Ava can’t control much at her age however eating is one area she and others her age quickly cotton on to that if they refuse or carry on a treat then mum and or dad will eventually melt down. It’s all about choices. Let her choose and help and remember lots of OTT expressive praise!



    March 23, 2012 at 3:50 pm
  • Reply Sue Stuart

    Katy is just the same! She’ll push her bowl away with the back of her hand and say “don’t want it”. Her staples seem to be yoghurt and cheese! Although it doesn’t make it any easier, I’m glad to know I’m not the only one in the same boat! We also have about 3 meals that she will actually eat (on the days she feels like it!). Good luck tonight 🙂

    March 23, 2012 at 4:18 pm
  • Reply Pandora

    I agree with the above advice, some good tips there. I also think it is about their limited ability to control their surroundings, and here they have the perfect situation, as you say you can’t force them to eat. Also, the more you stress, the more she will pick up that you are stressed, the more she will stress you. I read a fun description somewhere about what could be going on in a childs head, somwhere along the lines of ‘Wow look at Mommy perform, I must try this again, its such fun!’ I catch myself ‘performing’ sometimes, and she has this little smile on her face, enjoying my reaction. At 3. So try not to react. If she says no, say ok and leave it at that. She looks so healthy and is so energetic and bright, she is fine. This will pass.

    March 23, 2012 at 7:55 pm
  • Reply Lea White

    It will get better! I promise!

    Maybe she doesn’t like her food all mixed together?

    One thing that worked for us quite well at that age was doing a picnic on the floor. It would mostly consist of finger food and put on different plates and all of us would then sit on a blanket choosing whatever and putting it on our plates and then we’d eat that. I’d have some sausages, some fruit and other bits and pieces to try and make a fun picnic. That worked well.

    When they get to my kids’ ages you can introduce the “eat it or starve” technique ;-).

    March 23, 2012 at 9:01 pm
  • Reply Kristin

    It does get better. My niece was like that and now she eats anything.

    BTW, whomever named that wine was brilliant!

    March 23, 2012 at 11:49 pm
  • Reply Laura-kim Allmayer

    Pick your battles my friend! Ask her what she wants and then she must eat that – if she still refuses, take the plate away and carry on with the evening routine.

    Those battles of wills are not good for anyone – she will eat, she will keep thriving and you will all be happier.

    March 24, 2012 at 10:39 am
  • Reply TJ

    It can be frustrating. Xavier was never a fussy eater – now I’m also lucky if he takes 2 bites of his food. We do however keep him well fed during the day, he nibbles a lot. As long as he has breakfast and lunch(cooked) then supper time I don’t stress too much. I know that he shouldn’t nibble much before dinner time – but by goodness my child loves grapes and ‘kukuks’ (cookies) so he tends to nibble on those quite a lot before dinner time.

    I read somewhere that what we should expect of our children is a big breakfast a medium lunch and a small supper and that as long as they are snacking inbetween then supper shouldn’t matter too much.

    I also don’t try and force food on Xavier – but even if it’s one bite I’m also happy. I’ve kinda given up on dinner time with the toddler. I still cook and dish for him what we’re eating and if he eats it – great. If he doesn’t – then he goes to bed with just his milk in his tummy. Doesn’t phase me much anymore.

    Great on the time out! I must certainly try that on the ‘testing’ days.

    March 24, 2012 at 2:51 pm
  • Reply Gwen

    Luke is mostly a good eater, but he is WAY too fond of fruit and very adept at getting one from Daddy or Grandpa if Mommy says no. There are days where he’ll end up having 5-6 portions of fruit (that would be adult-sized portions). And then of course hardly eats anything else. And the nappies the next day are a joy.

    March 24, 2012 at 7:00 pm
  • Reply To Love Bella

    From Isabella being a GREAT eater, we are heading into this zone too. I actually put a platter in front of her and she picks at what she feels like – there are usually up to 6 different things. And what does she almost always choose? Vienna’s and yoghurt… I recently discovered that she likes 2-minute noodles too (shock horror), but in support of all this other cr@p that she seems to prefer, she does devour baby italian tomatoes (only, not any other!) and strawberries. Funny how she isn’t interest in her healthy food, but put a few flings in front of her ….
    I have the reassurance from my GP and my Paed that as long as she is eating relatively healthily, she’s okay. And I know that she eats REALLY well at school too, which could be why she doesn’t want too much at supper time.

    March 26, 2012 at 1:59 pm
  • Reply blackhuff

    I’m also in the boat that you find yourself in. My daughter, age 4, seems to struggle to eat. Every meal is so hard on us, as on her. She just don’t want to eat. You get her to eat a small portion of the food and that’s it. But come it to things like a cooldrink or a chocolate (any sweet thing for that matter) and she will eat everything 🙁

    March 26, 2012 at 2:59 pm
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