Sounds like you and your son have been in one power struggle after another over eating. I suggest you stop trying to make him eat. You can’t make kids eat: I don’t know where parents came up with the idea that they could, but I think it comes from the fear that if a child does not eat, he will get sick. Young children often do not eat much, and often get into food fads—I have seen children want nothing but bologna, cheese, Spaghettios, or cereal for weeks. Fortunately, children eventually get hungry and this hunger will motivate them to eat. Your job right now is to make sure your son is not eating tons of snacks because you want him to come to the dinner table hungry. I think you will find these tips helpful in making mealtime a peaceful time in your family:
- Set a kitchen timer to go off in about 15 minutes. Inform your son that when the bell goes off, dinner time will be over for him and he can go and play. When mealtime is over, you are not to set another dish for him if he returns. If he eats, that’s great; but if he doesn’t eat, the consequence of hunger will begin to set in. This will help him to learn to eat during mealtimes.
- Later in the evening, your son may be hungry. Again, do not make up a new dinner or meal. He can have a small snack, but nothing more. You want him to learn from his hunger that mealtime is for eating.
- Provide your child with the kind of foods he likes, but at times introduce a sample of a new food in a very tiny cup. More than likely, the small cup will not make him feel overwhelmed with the thought of having to eat a lot of something new. You might even make a game out of taking a taste of the new food with a special spoon (pick up some plastic spoons that come in different colours).
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.