Posted by Arthi, a participant of Parenting Matters sharing about her struggles with her daughters attitude to food.
What happens when a child hates to eat?
My daughter is four and half years old and just weights around 12 kilos. She is dainty. Food has been always a big issue and meal time a major power struggle. Otherwise she is sweet child, pretty active and very healthy. We as parents felt she was a poor eater. We have used all the so called tricks in the book starting from bribing, reward system, scolding and even T.V, but of course nothing worked, she only ate what she wanted and how much ever she wanted. As a mother I was clueless as to what she liked in terms of food, it felt like she did not like food at all, anything that goes inside the mouth is no for her.
Change in our approach - Do we link love to their eating?
In the last six months time she has gained about 2 kilos, she eats food by herself and all of sudden she also seems to have lot of preference about food. Nothing has changed on the food front; the only thing we changed was our attitude towards her eating. We as parent have this wrong notion that the most important way to nurture a child is by feeding. I personally know love is the most important thing a child requires but did not realized that in my attempt to make her eat I have completely taken love out of the picture. No doubt a child who felt love and understanding in all the other areas of her life except food ended up not liking food at all. We as a parent who have all along accepted her uniqueness in every way had not realized that she is unique even in the relationship she has with food.
Putting her in charge
This realization dawned on us due to “Parenting matters”. So six months ago we made certain changes. First and fore most was we told her she can serve her own food and she can eat as much as she wants. We also told her it is okay if she wastes food in the beginning. And we told her we love her a lot and we really don’t mind if she does not eat anything at all also. The first few days she really thought that it was some new trick we have discovered to make her eat so she would try to finish everything. But after few days when she realized that it was no trick she sort of went on a spin and she started eating much less than what she was eating. This was the most difficult period for me personally as a mother, during this time I used to keep some healthy snack for her on the dinning table and told her she can take that whenever she was hungry. Off course she did not touched it for some time but slowly she started taking those snacks which were mainly dried fruits.
It takes time and patience
She continued eating lesser quantity of food, but during this same time one more thing was happening she started enjoying her food and meal time was getting pleasurable. But the biggest surprise of all came when we took her to the doctor; she had gained close to a kilo. We told the doctor what we were doing at home her immediate response was “no doubt when the child stops seeing food as torture session they start being healthier”.
She actually enjoys food!
Now she has started eating much better, off course she serves and eats by herself. Many times she comes and asks me “what’s for dinner?” which has never happened before. She also wants to try new foods.
Our daughter is still very small and petite and eats small quantity of food, but that’s who she is and we love her for that.