I'm the mom of an almost 2 1/2 year old little girl. She is a very happy, outgoing, joyful kid who has tons of energy. The reason I'm writing is because I'm having an awful lot of trouble getting her to eat at home, or I should say with her father and me. Whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner at home, or in a restaurant- she just doesn't eat much at all. She'll pick at a couple of things, or it'll take her upwards of an hour to eat the simplest things. I'm very afraid of giving her eating issues like I have, so I don't force her to sit in front of her plate till it's cleaned, nor do I make a big deal out of giving sweets or any food as rewards. However, when she spends the day at my parents house, or the homes of friends who help me out w/ babysitting from time to time, they all report that she eats non-stop! I've been told she'll eat 2-3 helpings of something that she'd never eat at home, if my parents take her to a restaurant, she eats everything AND picks at their food too. What gives? I joke that I'm just going to drop her off at different houses for meals just so she'll eat something. What am I doing wrong, or what can I do to get her to eat well when she's with us?
From: tlo, Meddford, MA
First of all, keep in mind that many toddlers are picky eaters. It's just what they are about. All you have to do is read through past questions here to see how true that is; in fact, eating (at all ages) is the single biggest topic that gets raised in this space. And while it's understandable that any parent might worry when a child seems to not be getting appropriate nourishment, I suspect you are more susceptible to this worry because of your history. I wouldn't necessarily go there.
Children this age are all about control. They want it, and they are willing to engage in all sorts of behaviors to see how they can get it. Somehow, your daughter has come to perceive mealtime and eating as an issue around which she can exert control, especially -- only? -- when you're present. That tells me that in some way, perhaps so subtly you can't recognize it, you give off some vibes that she's picking up on.
Defuse eating and mealtime as best you can by putting food in front of her and not talking about it. No chatter about food, about what she's eating, or what you're eating, or not eating. Make eating just another activity in your home. Do your best to make family meals a pleasant time. Try to become an impartial observer about your own behavior around food. What happens differently in other homes where she eats willingly? Talk to your pediatrician so you can (presumably) get reassurance that she is a healthy child who is getting the nourishment she needs; if your anxiety is assuaged, you may be more able to relax around mealtime. Lastly, get some guidance from a nutritionist. I suspect that because of your history, this is something that will be beneficial. Forgive me if I'm over-reacting to this, I know you mentioned it only in passing, but I strongly suspect it's playing a role here.
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