The Food Fight: Getting Toddlers to Eat Without Tears

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I used to scoff at all the nannies and parents who would complain every day on social media about the children in their care who just wouldn’t eat. Up until my last nanny job, I was blessed with children who might have been picky, but sat down and ate quietly at the table with little complaint. I was a picky eater myself, so I had a bit of sympathy with kids who just didn’t like a lot of things. I engaged my mother’s rule -- three bites and you can be finished -- and found it bore fruit. So I was really confused by people who complained about their child’s eating habits. Why did food need to be a fight?

Well, then I met Glo-Worm, and I understood completely why food turns into a fight. Glo-Worm is a gorgeous 18-month-old girl I met last summer; we spent a wonderful four months together and I learned a lot about toddler behavior (a lot of which I forgot!). She went from being a happy, placid eater to a child who would not eat without a fight. At all. And it happened within the blink of an eye.

I begin to see just why people caution you not to judge others until you’ve walked in their shoes! I take back all my judgement now!

Glo-Worm loved to throw food off her tray onto the floor. It didn’t matter if she was starving or if she didn’t want to eat -- she’d throw food constantly. Two bites per meal, maybe, made it into her mouth, and they were normally hand-fed to her by me. She’d fight and twist angrily when I tried to put her into her high chair, and she’d scream and kick the chair, which was on wheels, almost across the room sometimes! She’d spit food back at me, even if she was hungry, and many mealtimes led to me staring at her despairingly while she threw a massive fit in her high chair. She wanted milk and milk only, all day, or simple carbs that did nothing for her. She refused most fruits and vegetables. She’d eat some meat, but preferred bread, rice, and cereal. In short, I started to dread mealtimes and snack times. It would be 45 minutes of a fight, and I had no idea how to stop it.

Food Struggles
Credit: mitchell3417.

Then I stumbled across a blog written by another daycare provider, NotMaryP, who writes a hilarious blog about her daycare charges. She taught me a method that I will never forget til my dying day, and the method is this: It’s not your job to ensure your child eats. It’s simply your job to ensure that the food is there for them to eat when they’re ready, and that it’s good food that will meet their nutritional needs.


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