Sigh.... I guess that every parent knows this feeling. A four year old that has decided on one aspect of life to stake a their challenge to parents... for us, it has been the eating of dinners. It's now a long running habit for the little one to refuse to eat anything, and I'm starting to think that it is a habit that she can't shake... despite it ending up most nights with her in tears and hysterics for about an hour before wolfing down the meal because she is hungry.
I't not a game that I look forward to especially as it isn't really the nicest way to finish a day, but it is where we are at the moment. Her older sister was always a much easier child... the younger one has different challenges that we didn't see in her sister at this age (that being the critical modifier, as we might see some other things pop up as she gets older).
Anyway, at this age, I generally try to look for some sort of leverage to "win" the game. However, nothing at the moment is working... she has to eat the dinner if she doesn't finish it on the next evening. In those cases, we make sure to cook something that she really likes, so she has to watch everyone else eat it, and is only allowed it when she has finished the old dinner. Mixed results...
After an hour or so, I leave the room and let her just sit there... my wife is less keen on this, but I am more of the impression that drama requires an audience. Removing the audience sometimes makes the drama go away... and then she eats fast. Seems to get better results... but on the other hand, she is probably hungry after an hour of screaming and crying....
Smaller portions. I had the thought that perhaps I was just giving her too much food. I'm not a big eater, so, I do understand if she just couldn't eat that much... nope, crankiness is size-independent.
We have taken away games/TV on the next day/week... she misses those things, but it doesn't seem to make a change. I tend to make the punishments gradually, but my wife can jump forward quickly and take a whole week away in one go. I personally think that we lose the advantage of gradual leverage if we burn it too quickly. Still, it doesn't seem to make that much difference...
We have had her help choose and make the dinners, hoping that the ownership of the dinner would encourage her to eat. Nope... no difference.
Recently, we have taken out the nuclear option. Our girls don't have much in the way of sweets and chocolate. But they tend to have a small stash each, that they might take from once or twice a week... generally these are from parties and things like that. So, it is a real treat when they do that, and the little one LOVES sweet stuff! So, the other night, we put the first of her sweets on the road to the bin... each crank, complaint, whine or refusal to eat resulting in the sweet moving closer to the bin.
Well... I don't think I've seen her so hysterical before. But she still lost the sweet, as she still refused to eat... despite the fact that she understood that it was moving towards the bin in reaction to her refusal to eat. The second night was also still a fail for the sweet.... in this case it was one of her beloved Kit-Kats. There was a crazy amount of hysterics, and my wife had to take her out to try and calm her down...
Last night, there was another sweet on the march to landfill... and surprisingly enough, there was some grumbling... but dinner was eaten with less drama than usual. I hope we are turning a corner, I'm not keen on using punishment as leverage, but we haven't been able to make inroads on the problem with gentler forms of persuasion this time. It was driving my wife and I around the bend as it has been going on for quite some time... a good chunk of a year before, before a period of quietness and has popped up again with a vengeance in the last month.
Anyway, here is hoping to having broken that initial resistance... from here, I'm hoping we can resort to less drastic measures to encourage dinner eating.
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