My five year old had discovered that he could negotiate. He has in his little mind, a plausible reason why he should not have his nutritious dinner – but there is nothing wrong to have a far less nutritious snack. At first, it was, to say the least, cute. However, after awhile, it has become just a tad bit annoying. But hey, what to do – he is developing his cognitive skills which just shows he is developing normally.
Nutrition at Five
A recent visit to the doctor helped to allay my fears that my rambunctious little boy was developing normally physically too. The problem we faced was that he would refuse to eat. He had no interest whatsoever in eating delicious home-fried chicken, or the baked from scratch macaroni and cheese. At breakfast or dinner when the plate was placed in front of him, he could often be seen hands on head looking down at his food. It was almost as if he had a mammoth task to tackle the food and he did not know how to tackle.
He even declared a couple times that he does not like food. That was the strangest thing to my ears. My eight-year-old was a picky eater – but she would eat. My other girls had healthy appetites, no problem there. However, here was this little negotiator declaring that he had no use for food. Of course – we recognized it for what it was. He was just trying to find another way to get out of his meal.
What had the doc said?
‘That’s perfectly normal.’
When he said it, I looked at him as if he had grown another head. He repeated for emphasis and went on to explain that some children were just like my son. When he has growth spurts, we would also see a change in his appetite. He even went on to let us know that, we may eventually have to warn him about eating too much.
I am still looking for that day. However, I can say he has had times when his appetite swung in the other direction. He would have his nutritious dinner, which was flatly refused on another occasion and then asks for more or some other food that held his interest. When I first saw this, I breathed a sigh of inward relief…thanking God that there was nothing at all to worry about.
This is something that I realize that more parents have to contend with, rather than trying to ensure our children do not eat too much to protect them from becoming obese.
Here is a list of reasons why our little ones will not eat
- Some children are just picky eaters. And this nit-picking rolls in when their growth is on the rest phase. The best thing to do is to do our best to persuade or leave them alone. Those little bellies will be grumbling soon and will take the food willingly the next time around.
- Sometimes though our persuasion to getting the children to eat turns into pressure which the children resist. Nagging them into eating will actually do just the opposite. So be patient on that next growth spurt.
- Children with diet restrictions due to multiple allergies find their meals boring and are less likely to gobble down what is ‘safe’ to eat.
- Illness is another thing – but this is normal for anyone. Our appetites are generally diminished when we are sick but bounce back once the illness passes.
- Eating disorders generally show up when a child is 13 or 14 years old. Here peer pressure as well as other environmental and social, help to contribute in the way a child sees himself and what he wants to identify with.
- A tiring day of activities may mean your little one may just miss a meal. There is no worry about this, as they usually make up for what was missed in the next meal.
- Preference for only one type of food. This does not mean there is any appetite. Nevertheless, our growing bundles of joy just want that food for awhile. [My son had for a brief time, an affiliation for corn flakes which he called breakfast. ‘Breakfast’ was requested morning, noon and night.]
How to get our children to eat
- Be patient. If you recognize that your child is in between growth spurts – just wait. The appetite will naturally increase as your child grows.
- Children love routines for play, for school work, for just about everything. Routines for eating should be part of that list. Regular mealtimes will be looked on by the child as that time to recollect what had happened to them that day or share something of interest.
- The last point is related to this point. Making your mealtimes, the time for the family to sit and eat is a great motivator to do just that – eat.
- Pleasant meal times that children look forward to being the best meal dates.
- Make a list of what your child loves to eat and what he or she dislikes. Then build balanced and healthy meals around what your child loves to eat.
- Be an example to your child. If your child sees you eating a variety of foods, more than likely they will follow suit.
- Give the child healthy snacks in between meals. However, not too close to the next meal time. They will simply not be hungry.
- Give your child the appropriate serving amount for his or her age.
- Introduce new foods gradually.
“I can’t eat my dinner because…” begins my little negotiator when trying to explain why he should not be having his dinner. I’ve come to learn work my way around every little argument put forward. What’s important, more than the fact that he is not eating, is that when he is ready to eat, he will be given nutritious and delicious meals, which we bond at meal times and he knows whenever that appetite turns up – I will be there for him!
© Shernette Whyte, 2016