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Ruth asked...

Tags: children , diet

Hi, I am having terrible difficulty getting my 28 month old to feed himself. He's happy to feed himself things with his hands but when it comes to feeding himself with a spoon or fork he just won't do it and gets so frustrated when I even try to show him how to do it. He is now also refusing to let me feed him with a spoon/fork and it is becoming a daily battle trying to get him to eat. Would be very grateful of any tips suggestions you might have? Many thanks, Ruth

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The Answer

I do sympathise – this daily battle is one I hear about all too often from frustrated mothers in my consulting room. About 1 in 4 British toddlers throw a tantrum over food every day. The trouble is that children will pick up on your emotion, and if you’re feeling stressed they’re more likely to play up. It’s important to remember that children will eat when they’re hungry (there’s nothing in the medical literature about any toddler starving themselves to death) and it sounds as if your problem is not so much being fussy about what he eats but how he eats it. While he should be eating with a spoon by now, it may be worth taking a step back and just taking the cutlery away for a few weeks. This will allow you both to stop automatically thinking of mealtimes as a battleground. Try and time as many meals as possible so you eat together as a family. If he’s ‘left out’ because he doesn’t have cutlery and everyone else does, he may actually start to want it. If possible, get his dad or family members to take over some mealtimes so you can take a step back. If he goes to a nursery, speak to them – you may find he’s happily using a spoon and fork there. I’m really hoping you’re not bribing him with sweet treats to get him to eat his meals – a report earlier this year showed that British toddlers were more likely to be food refuter’s than any other group in Europe, and almost half of British mothers admitted to bribing them with sweets. I’m all in favour of rewarding good behaviour, but saving a much-loved game for when they behave, or starting a sticker reward system, is much more effective.

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