Daughter's eating habits are disruptive

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  October 11, 2011 06:00 AM

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My daughter is 4 yrs old. She has never tried a veggie and has only tried bananna and apple (which she did not like). She does not drink anything but water and choc. milk. She has never tried a hot dog, hamburger meat, chicken (other than chicken nuggets) She will not eat pasta. Her meals consist of; cherrios, powdered mini donuts, goldfish, cheese-its, cheddar cheese, wheat bread, cream cheese, sometimes pancakes, fish sticks, doritos, crackers with allouette spread. She rarely will eat ice cream or yogurt. I know it seems that although doesn't eat fruits, veggies or meat, that she does eat SOME things that give her nutrition. But she doesn't eat these things daily and there are days that she just won't eat at all. I try to put things in front of her in small bites and small amounts as to not overwhelm her but she is so stubborn, if she doesn't want it, there is no convincing her otherwise even if she has had nothing else that day. Sometimes she goes to bed and tells me her belly hurts. I try to explain to her that it is her belly growling and telling her it is hungry but she won't hear it.

I am very concerned. I want her to be healthy, her 7 yr old sister eats everything and also tries to ger her to eat. She is petite in size. I am thinking of having her see a nutritionist but am not sure if that is the right direction. Her Dr. says as long as she has growth on the chart yearly, then she is fine. It just doesn't seem like she is fine. She is very active and happy. She is socially adjusted and is doing well in school. But is there something wrong?
I would appreciate any guidance you can give me?
Thank you,

From: Gina, Massapequa Park, NY

Dear Gina,

She's 4 and this has been her pattern for how long? And your doctor says she's fine? His yardstick is most likely a medical one, meaning that her weight or rate of weight gain is within normal range. If it wasn't, I expect you'd have heard the phrase "failure to thrive" from your doctor and that he would be looking for explanations and remedies.

So OK, let's assume there is no medical concern here. That doesn't mean there isn't a behavioral one. Are you and she in a constant power struggle over food? Are there discussions and conversations, tears and recriminations at every meal? Have her eating habits turned into a family dynamic that puts everyone on edge, including the older sib? Have her eating habits become, a source of attention that she depends on? Have her eating habits altered the way you behave or react to her?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you need professional help that will enable you to modify your behaviors and hers, possibly a nutritionist or a psychologist who specializes in eating issues.

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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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