Help! My unfussy baby has become a fussy toddler!
It’s such a common problem: You had this baby who ate everything and anything. Mealtimes were positive, happy, relaxed. You felt great knowing that they were getting a wide range of nutritious foods.
Then your baby turned 17 months, 18 months, two years, and the fussiness started to creep in. Now mealtimes are more of an ordeal than a pleasure. You’re worrying that their diet is too narrow. You’re worrying about them going to bed hungry.
So why does this happen at this age? And what can you do about it?
The first thing to know: It’s not actually about the food!
To explain, let’s take a little look inside the head of a toddler.
We all know that toddlers like to assert themselves. It’s a normal developmental stage. They want some control – and it doesn’t take them long to work out that eating is the easiest area to get it! They can see that you really (REALLY!) care what and how much they eat – and that puts them in a pretty powerful position!
Come on, eat your carrots please.
So, she wants me to eat my carrots, does she? We’ll see about that!
Come on, you LIKE rice. You ate it all up last time.
Huh! She really is watching my every move! Well, I’ll show her who’s boss. LIKE SHMIKE!
The sausages are yummy! Mummy LOVES them…Look! [make ecstatic noises while munching on a sausage]
Good show! She really IS desperate! … Sorry, my lips are sealed!
You can’t have a yoghurt after dinner if you don’t eat your peas.
Mmm … I’ll take the risk. I like yoghurt, but winding her up is way more fun!
Shall mummy pick the bits of tuna out for you? Will you eat it then?
Oh yeah! Now I’m really in the driving seat. I wonder if I can get her to make me something completely different!
Yep, every plea, nag, bribe, threat, comment you make simply invites them to a power battle. It’s not that they suddenly stop liking carrots, rice, sausage, peas, tuna and all the other foods they ate as a baby. They just realize that NOT eating something puts puts them firmly in charge.
So what should you do? It’s very simple.
Give them their food and say nothing more about it. Talk about other stuff.
Take the focus completely away from the food and act as if you don’t mind whether they eat it or not. It will go against your instincts – you may have to wind parcel tape round your mouth! – but you really do have much, much more chance of them eating and enjoying what you want them to eat if there is no battle to ‘win’. Some parents say they see a difference almost immediately.
And it’s not just about getting through these tricky toddler years. How you behave around food at this stage can determine whether or not you set up a pattern of fussy eating for their whole childhood – and possibly beyond!
In a study of 100 university students, a whopping 72% of the participants said they STILL didn’t eat the foods that their parents pushed them to eat when they were little. The researchers found that it didn’t matter if they liked or disliked those foods. Now that they were free to choose what they ate, they were sub-conciously choosing to be the ‘winner’ not the ‘loser’.
Guest Post by Claire Potter, Author of Getting the Little Blighters to Eat: Change your children from fussy eaters into foodies.