Fussy Eaters

If we are honest we all have those things that we said we would never do as a parent. I had a few myself and I have broken them all! One of the biggest things for me was fussy eating. I vowed that I wouldn’t have fussy eaters, that I wouldn’t bend to the will of a toddler regarding food! It’s ok, you can laugh. I find it funny too.

I was adamant with my plan first time around. Pinky was nearly 6 months old when we started weaning. Earlier that recommended I know but she was sitting up at 4 months and milk really wasn’t satisfying her anymore so I made an executive mothering decision and started weaning. Simply because she is my baby and I know best… Mostly.

We started simple with some baby porridge and Weetabix. The heath visitors hated this, they wanted her to be weaned using the Baby Led method. For those of you reading who are unfamiliar with this method the theory is that you give your baby soft finger sized food, such as a stick of steamed carrot (not boiled, that sucks all the goodness out… Heaven forbid!), and you let them gum it to death. Eventually they learn to swallow the little bits rather than spit them out. Also babies have a really strong gag reflex so they are unlikely to choke on small bits as long as they have managed it themselves and you haven’t dictated the chunk size.

This process scares the life out of me! I appreciate that to date (*touches wood and everything else superstitious) the girls have both managed this well and haven’t come to any harm however I was much happier giving them puree to start with and working up to the solid food. They soon learn to eat all foods, solid and puree and it all worked out fine. Perky was weaned using both puree and solids from day one because she had an insatiable appetite (check her baby pictures… that girls rolls had rolls!)

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Rolls on rolls! 

But back the fussiness. Both Pinky and Perky have been given a huge variety of foods from the first day I started weaning them. I haven’t worried about potential allergies because I figured the probability was pretty low and if they do have allergies I am not going to know unless they are exposed to something anyway. So I cracked on. I thought I was doing a good job. Nothing seemed to phase either child and they both eat most things. Perky is even a fan of relatively spicy food, nothing too hot but certainly full of flavour. There are some things that they genuinely dislike such as raw tomatoes, cooked peppers. I think that is fairly reasonable and to this day don’t worry about it.

Then the age of two arrived for Pinky and suddenly she wouldn’t eat anything I made her. Things she had previously eaten were refused. If it wasn’t beige and devoid of flavour she wouldn’t touch it. I started to worry, panic even, that my poor baby girl was going to starve. It’s ok… You can laugh again. I started to cook her special meals, came up with fun names for food so she would eat something of some sustenance other than plain pasta and cheese. I tried hiding vegetables, which never worked not once. I tried savoury muffins but she hated them. This went on for a long time, easily a year to eighteen months. I started weaning Perky during this process and found myself cooking three separate dinners. One for Perky at the same time as something beige for Pinky, then dinner for myself and Hubby. The girls would eat at about 5pm and we would eat once they were in bed. It was ridiculous.   Once Perky was about 16-18 months old both the girls were able to wait a little longer for their dinner so I merged theirs and ours together. I really didn’t want to have to cook two different meals and I knew that it is actually recommended to all eat the same and normalise food anyway. I would love to have done this sooner and I know people that do but I really didn’t want to eat at 5pm and equally I didn’t want two grumpy, miserable children under my feet whilst I tried to cook a dinner for 6pm that at least one of them was probably going to refuse to eat anyway.

Eating together has revolutionised our meal times and my attitude to their eating. Pinky is coming out of her fussy phase now she is nearly four. I know she isn’t really fussy as she eats everything at nursery, why do they do it to us? She eats most things with us now and she loves the social side of it, she likes telling her Daddy all about her day. The thing that has changed the most is my attitude towards it all. If she doesn’t eat it then fine. I am not making anything else just for her. If she only eats a plate of rice, then fine. She isn’t going to go hungry and she doesn’t look like she is lacking in vitamins, as she will likely have got them through other meals that day. Some days this is really hard to do, I want to feed her and make sure she isn’t hungry but then I realise she simply doesn’t always need a huge toddler sized meal. I have hungrier days and then days where I eat less. She eats when she is bored sometimes like I do, that is a far worse habit than saying no to food when you simply aren’t hungry.

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I thought I was winning with Perky; she eats even more things than her sister did at her age. She is approaching two and again we have the fussy signs starting. She is starting to turn away non-beige food. She likes full flavoured foods less and less. She is having some hungry days and some days where she barely eats anything. It is about to start all over again but this time I know it is nothing I have done wrong. I have never made her an alternative meal until I find something she will eat. I have never tried to make her eat more than what she wants. I have exposed her to ridiculously huge variety of foods and flavours. But still the phase is starting. All I can hope is she will get over it quicker than her sister did as we have some really good eating habits firmly in place this time.   But if it lasts a few years then fine, I don’t feel guilty and I don’t worry she is hungry like I did with her sister. I have learnt from past mistakes and I think as a mother sometimes that is all we can do. I have definitely not caused the fussy eating this time and yet I have fussy eaters. Like I vowed I wouldn’t… So naïve!

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Am I a Strict Mother?

We all parent differently, perhaps in part to our own up bringing, our own life experiences and our own children.  My parenting is similar with both the girls but I know they have different needs in certain situations.

Pinky likes to stick to the rules.  She doesn’t like being told off, she won’t willingly break the rules.  Nursery has helped reinforce some of the rules, such as don’t speak with your mouth full, put your knife and fork together when you are finished a meal, pleases and thank you’s.   It has helped her see that it isn’t just me telling her she is doing something wrong or should do it differently and that these are actual simple manners and rules to follow.  Perky has never been to nursery but she copies her big sister in every way so these rules are mostly being followed anyway.  Perky is more prepared to break the rules but generally she knows what is expected of her.

But there is my point…. I have just used the phrase ‘what is expected of her’ whilst talking about a 20 month old.  So am I a strict Mother?

Do they follow the rules because I expect it and won’t accept it when they don’t?  Do I expect too much from them?

I expect them to ask nicely for things.  Not to moan at me unnecessarily and whinge to get their own way.  It simply wont wash with me.  I call them on it and tell them they can only have what they have asked for when they change their attitude.  This isn’t just limited to the house either.  If we are out and about I expect the same level of behaviour and I will (and have) walk out of somewhere if they can’t do what I expect of them.

They should always remember to say please and thank you.  They should sit and wait for everyone to finish their meals before getting down from the table, and then they should ask nicely if they can.   So, I know Perky can’t ask this yet so I ask her nicely instead.  ‘Everyone is finished now, would you like to get down from the table?’  this is always followed with a fervent nod.

They should not hit or bite anyone or anything under any circumstances.  This may seem like a silly one but I have seen some parents justify it as a ‘stage’ and take the incident no further.  No talking to the child explaining why that isn’t acceptable, nothing.  Each to their own, it is indeed a stage, some say it’s a childs way of testing boundaries and finding out what the rules really are.  So if this is the case, and it is boundary testing then it needs to be acknowledged more than ‘it’s just a phase’.  Surely it is better to try and understand why your child bites, is it curiosity? Is it anger?  Ignoring it will not make it go away.  I am a great believer in discipline or at least boundary setting and education from the start.  I think all adverse behaviour should be acknowledged and dealt with at all ages, not just when you deem your child to be old enough to understand the consequences of their actions.  Perhaps there is an underlying cause to their behaviour I hadn’t noticed.  Perhaps their molar teeth coming through that I haven’t seen.  Perhaps they are too cold or too hot and don’t know how to tell me.  Perhaps something has made them nervous and it was a simple expression of anxiety.

I also believe not all children can be taught about consequences the same way.  With my two different situations can require different types of education.  Pinky requires to simply be told that something will hurt her or someone else.  Perky is more of a ‘learn by observing’ sort of child so this can come with its own challenges.  Sometimes getting a little angry gets my point across (although rarely), sometimes pulling the disappointed card works, mostly a simple, calm conversation about why that behaviour isn’t acceptable is sufficient.  Whatever my approach is I will not ignore it.  I may well be very wrong but I think if you ignore something until you feel it is a more appropriate time to ‘cross that bridge’ the moment has probably passed and you are not providing a consistent expectation.  How can it be ok to bite Mummy one day but not the next?

When I became a Mother I had no idea what I was doing.  I still don’t.  I often wonder if I’m doing it right or wrong.  I am far from perfect, I simply do the best I can.  For me my best is to teach them how to be nice, good, polite little girls from the earliest opportunity.  So far that is exactly what they are.

If my methods make me a strict Mum then so be it.  What I do works for me at the moment.  I am happy to adapt as we go along and I appreciate that others are very likely going to take a different approach to it all together.  Every child is different after all.

Do you think you are strict? Or are you much more relaxed about things than me.  If so how do you do it? I need some tips.

This Mum's Life
Dear Bear and Beany