View Full Version : 3yr old boy won't eat!! Is this normal?

28th Dec 2008, 14:41
My 3yr old just won't eat his dinners anymore. He always just wants 'something nice' ie biscuits, cake, yoghurts, chocolate. Is this my fault?
He used to eat pretty much anything we gave him.
I would love to see him eat any sort of savoury food but for the last couple of months, no joy! He just point blank refuses to even try anything he considers 'dinner'.

Anyone else had this happen to them with their kids? Is it just bad parenting?

What can I do?


28th Dec 2008, 15:50
Only bad parenting if you don't love him! ;)

A bad habit, though - he really does have to eat "proper" food and if he's genuinely hungry, he will. It will take some pain, because he will have to get a least a bit hungry (and therefore cross) before he will take in protein and good carbs again, but don't, don't, don't let him hold you hostage in this way. Start with the thing he used to eat most easily (carrots?) in the form he most readily ate them (raw?).

A really strong recommendation is the Annabel Karmel book "Baby and Toddler Meal Planner" - lots of ideas for stuff kids really enjoy.

Another thought - try getting him involved in the preparation! Even if it's just arranging carrot and cucumber sticks on a plate in the shape of face, space rocket etc etc, it helps make a mealtime fun instead of penance.

Good luck! :ok:

28th Dec 2008, 16:07
Nothing a good thrashing won't fix!

Rwy in Sight
28th Dec 2008, 16:11
My mother banned me from eating for 24 hours (no food offered at all) when I was in first grade. I think she did put a small chocolate on my school bag just in case. It worked wonders

Rwy in Sight

28th Dec 2008, 16:45
Yes it's normal and, as others have said, if he's hungry enough, he'll eat - just be prepared to go through the tantrums!!

In my case it was bananas and breakfast cereal - didn't last long though when my mother cooked roast lamb and I was just given a banana!



28th Dec 2008, 17:03
Its normal---as long as you are helping him go pee...

Sorry---could not resist---see yesterdays thread

Beatriz Fontana
28th Dec 2008, 17:21
Starvation works a treat, as does being sent to his room.

A kinder method may be the starvation, but upon dinner time, present the biccies on a plate which he has to eat at the table with the rest of the family. He'll soon start to plead for what is on everyone else's plate after a couple of days.

28th Dec 2008, 17:24
Happened with all 3 of my kids, as has been said you just have to resist giving him the sweet things. Keep putting the normal food in front of him and he'll eat eventually when he reralises that you won't pander to his wishes.

If he has brothers or sisters, also make sure that they still get their desserts after eating their meals, that way it shows him that the reward for eating the main meal is a dessert.

28th Dec 2008, 17:40
alas, a common problem helimutt.

Medically, it probably isn't too much of an issue, if he's putting weight on correctly, (speak to your health visitor, or better still, get them to weigh him and chart the results in his "red book.")

The sugars in the junk will be falsely giving him a sensation of being full.

Unfortunately, you will have to restrict the crap.

28th Dec 2008, 18:23
Heli, short addition to the above good advice of not providing 'nice' meal-substitutes for your 3 year old.

Many parents get anxious when their children do not wish to eat hot food.
I did.
Until clever nutritionist reminded me of fact that nutrients is what it's all about, not how they are presented.
As long as a child gets the essentials inside it, it does not matter in what shape or form.

Sounds like your 3 year old is playing a power game, looking for borders.
A hungry child (who hasn't been given anything else to eat) WILL eat.

Good luck, and NO you are not a bad parent.
You're a good parent looking for advice.

west lakes
28th Dec 2008, 18:29
As an aside it is also important that both parents are on board, this prevents playing one off against the other!!

Roger Sofarover
28th Dec 2008, 18:43
This was the biggest issue with my second child. My wife used to be in tears all the time, to the point where I just didnt want to go home from work. Loads and loads of stress. He is now a 21 year old healthy strapping lad. He refused to eat anything when two, and then went through phases of only eating bread for two weeks, or crisps, or sausage, or whatever. When he ate he would have about two bites and that was it. This lasted over two years. I found one way to get him back onto eating savoury food in variation was to let him help me do the cooking. If I lit the barbie, I'd get him to put the chicken and burgers on, help him turn them etc and hey presto he would always eat the end result, same if I made a pan of soup. It takes a lot of effort, but please do not get stressed. He will not allow himself to starve to death. The problem will be you and your partner. Do you dig your heels in for your sons sake, or will you find it easier to 'just give him a cake' when he is screaming the house down, for the sake of peace and quiet.

I found the best way through the whole thing (and it took me long enough to find out) was to not give him any attention at meal times. Make him sit with you and your partner, give him his food, and if he says no, say 'ok' and then ignore him completely and talk about other things with the other members of the family. If he starts eating, don't make a huge fuss, but just include him in the table talk. At two years old kids learn that a sure fire way of being the center of attention is to cause a scene, better still a fight between Mum and Dad, then they sit back and watch the entertainment. They are little buggers I tell you. Good Luck:ok:

edited to add, 'and what Westie said'

28th Dec 2008, 18:49
Roger S that's great advice. Have you thought about writing a childcare book?

My elder son, who is now a strapping 24 year-old, lived off just cream crackers and cucumber for about 6 weeks when he was 2. We didn't treat it as a problem and actually it was easier than cooking him specific meals! :D

west lakes
28th Dec 2008, 18:58
YWL went through a phase of only eating sausages bacon and toast - not bad you think!
But all the sausages had to be cooked and then peeled (deskinned) before he would eat them!

We drew the line at peeling grapes though!!

28th Dec 2008, 19:17
Roger S has it dead right in the last para.

Watching how Leo behaves differently with mum and dad is very instructive.

Of course - when it was us and Lexx or Lauren, we were too busy being parents to notice

28th Dec 2008, 19:32
We've had six kids and I can tell you this is completely normal. Mostly they survive it and grow out of it when they are about twenty three.

We used to let the favourite food run out. "Look, no more cookies left, sorry!" A few tantrums later they start eating what is put in front of them.

west lakes
28th Dec 2008, 19:40
Oh and grandparents, aunties and uncles are the worst for giving in!!

(sorry Frank):\

28th Dec 2008, 19:57
One year I took the Masters RBF on a canoe trip down a remote river for some ten days. I do remember one day when the evening offering was found unpalatable by the little ones; so, ate it all myself.

Only happened once:E

28th Dec 2008, 20:31
I observed an early version of this with my 20-month grandson. He joined us for the dessert-course of Christmas Dinner. His mother is French, so served a traditional chocolate yule-log.
His eyes lit-up and he gestured and demanded 'gateau!'. This went on until we removed it from his sight.

28th Dec 2008, 20:43
My two year old went through a long fussy phase where he would only eat strawberry yoghurt, almost drove his mother insane.

So he got strawberry yoghurt with meat and potatoes hidden under it on the spoon. Or strawberry yoghurt on sausage, vegetables, or anything else we were eating.

Now he eats strawberry yoghurt and meat and potatoes and sausage, vegetables, or anything else we are eating. Or not, if he gets to the fridge first. He's twenty five and six feet tall. I can tell if he's come home because the fridge is browsed almost bare.

Point is, don't worry much about it. He'll be over it by the time he's twenty five. :)

28th Dec 2008, 21:08
Another way to do it is the "one bite" rule.

Thou shalt eat (and swallow) one bite of everything on one's plate. No pressure to finish, it will be because you've tried it and genuinely don't like it.

In Italy last year, Stockette adopted this method, and ended up polishing off a plate of squid carpaccio.


PS she was seven years old at the time.

28th Dec 2008, 21:57
As ^^, please try not to fret, it's not you, it's the nipper, & he will grow through it - some think it's part of trying to gain some control over the world, in the only way they can. That may be why the participation technique works. He will grow out of it, though, what ever you do - once he's out in the world, a bit more in charge of his destiny.

Until then:ugh::ugh::ugh::mad: - I know that feeling...

28th Dec 2008, 22:28
Excellent advice above.

One of my grandchildren went through the "I'm a veggie, cook special stuff for me!" phase a couple of years ago. Her mum humoured her. When they came to us for Christmas dinner, she got what we got - minus the turkey, sausages, stuffing, etc.
Minor tantrum was instantly quelled by (schoolteacher) grandma.

She'd given up being a veggie by Boxing Day. Eats like a horse now.

28th Dec 2008, 22:38
So still a veggie then?;)

28th Dec 2008, 22:45
I grew up starting in 1951 in England (first). This was just post-war Britain of course. You ate everything on your plate with no excuses. Puddings were an occasional looooxury. Kids these days. We might have a bit of austerity ahead of us.

28th Dec 2008, 23:26
Here's a clue
Don't buy biscuits,cakes,crap that the kid wants!
We would just present last nights uneaten dinner
until they ate it

28th Dec 2008, 23:37
I don't get it.
How can this be a hard question ? :ouch:

But I don't have any kids .. I think.

28th Dec 2008, 23:49
I was somewhat surprised to find that my grandson (aged 20 months) had not encountered Smarties before so he removed and rejected them from the gingerbread men that I bought him (yet he loves chocolate!).
Seems he doesn't get 'sweets' as part of his normal diet (I don't disagree with this BTW).

29th Dec 2008, 07:21
The only thing I'd be worried about is the fact Rwy in Sight said his/her mother was a 'he'.


29th Dec 2008, 10:03
G-CPTN, Why should any kids get sweets as a normal
part of their diet?
Surely sweets should be an occasional treat, and not
as a "normal part of their diet"?

Apart from the feeding frenzy of the Yuletide festival
of FOOD, we very rarely get sweets for the granddaughter.
And she doesn't expect us to.

Had a friend in Holland who's son went through a period
of refusing to eat anything but meatballs.( Bal Gehakt ).
This went on for months, but eventually he grew out of it.

29th Dec 2008, 10:09
My 4 year old niece has been a nightmare for food since she was born and will only eat a few things which really are not a healthy option. So concerned with her poor diet her parents even took her to a medical nutritionist who just turned around and said stop worrying she is growing at a normal rate she is eating and at some point, most probably school, she will start eating more.

They have tried all the tricks including having her involved in the making of food which she loves but it is amazing just how determined a little child can be if they choose.

edited to add I find if children are Banned from having something like sweets they will find a way of getting hold of them, better to control the type of sweets and how often they have them than to ban them, saying that some kids I knew were only allowed sweets on a Saturday when we were growing up but the amount they ate on that Saturday was ridiculous compared to those of us allowed a little each day.

29th Dec 2008, 10:31
Talking of sweets we now have a cupboard full, so if anyone wants to pop round and help eat them, you're all welcome.

I make meladdo try a mouthful of food on his plate. It does work. His current favourite food is pasta and no sauce, just a bit of cheese and olive oil to stop it sticking together. Try ordering that in French. The look I got was priceless!

I am well aware that he tries to play me and Daddy off. He'll often whine for "Daddeeeeeeeeeee", sorry but he's at work, so there you are.

Just try and offer a balanced diet and leave a fruit bowl out and within your child's reach. It works wonders for your child and you.

29th Dec 2008, 10:49
Why should any kids get sweets as a normal part of their diet?
Surely sweets should be an occasional treat, and not as a "normal part of their diet"?
Perhaps my words were garbled. I consider Smarties to be an 'acceptable' treat for youngsters, so I was mildly surprised to learn that he didn't get sweets. (I didn't get sweets either, being a child of the War.)
He gets fruit for dessert and raisins for nibbles.
Smarties being hard he considered them as 'not edible' (even when chopped in two). He has occasional pieces of chocolate but of course the flavour is attainable immediately. The gateau 'knowledge' comes from get-togethers with other French mothers and children. He isn't talking yet though he does have a handful of words - gateau being one of them . . .

29th Dec 2008, 12:57
Son presented this type of eating problem until we started to call his meat dinosaur! That fixed it and he would only eat that either chicken, lamb or beef flavoured.

29th Dec 2008, 13:48
Currently have a twenty two month old boy. So similar experiences to others. We don't give him sweets much but he gets lots of bananas, raisins and grapes. They're his treats. But he does get very demanding. 'nana, nana, nana. God help us if we're out of bananas. He's pretty good at eating his 'dinna' so far. But it can take hours, so patience is a virtue. Loves pasta. He does get the odd sweet, everytime we go to the local shop, it's pop, pop as soon as we're in the door.

One thing he does do is play up for his Mother and be nice as pie for me. I can spend hours with him with no issue but as soon as she appears there's a big show. It could be something to do with the his two month old brother who has stolen his thunder somewhat.

I imagine he will stop eating at some stage, much to the distress of his soft hearted Mother. I'm sure he'll survive though. :ok:

29th Dec 2008, 14:58
Just looking at what Corsair has said, I think that the important thing is not to hurry the child in eating, our grand daughter was also finicky but we always ate together and often either let her chat away or we played the game "My cat is an able cat" next person active cat etc etc until running out of a's then going to b and so on. This made the meal relaxed and enjoyable and at her pace so that she would eat and be willing to try other items - not all the time - but enough to introduce new things. Her vocabulary improved at the same time:ok:

29th Dec 2008, 15:29
I second the suggestion of the Annabel Karmel book "Baby and Toddler Meal Planner". We cooked up many meals from it for Phnufflet with pretty much 100% acceptance although I must say, the only time she pushed back on food was when Madame Phnuff stopped her crisp ration.

We have friends with a couple of kids with eating issues. The girl (9) is just a nightmare to feed in that she is a veggie who keeps changing what she will eat. The boy (5) on the other hand will pretty much only eat veggie chicken nuggets and bread. Looking at the parents - the mother has been anorexic and the father works long hours and barely manages any quality time with any of them. Mother spends long periods of time alone with them trying to get some kind of normal diet inside them (which with her background is hard) and dad when he does see the kids just rolls over and gives in to their wishes. So kids just refuse food until he is around. On the bright side, father has spent a lot more time with them over the last week and it seems no longer gives in.

29th Dec 2008, 16:21
Phnuff has hit on a big issue. The kids often take on the bad habits of the parents. Know someone who was anorexic probably bulimic. Thin as a rake, exercises excessively, has a poor body image, will only eat chicken nuggets and other rubbish, even when out in a decent restaurant. Her daughter is similar, 14 skinny, underdeveloped for her age, exercises too much. Probably doesn't eat enough either. You can pretty much predict the future.:sad:

Mrs Corsair and I are being very careful not to pass on any of our bad habits to mini corsair Mk1. We will fail of course. But you can but try:(

He's copied one thing already, I'm here because I was sent to the 'bold corner' for taking one of his sweets. He doesn't get many so protects like a Tiger with it's prey. It took me a minute to realise what he was on about as he pointed out the door and shouted something like 'mole cornyer'. Of course Mrs Corsair and her sister thinks this is hilarious. I just used the opportunity to escape. :ok:

29th Dec 2008, 17:09
Never had kids but we always owned plenty dogs. Only one of them, a Border Terrier, was fussy about food and she soon learned that her next meal was the one that was still in her bowl, regardless of how long she tried to ignore it.

29th Dec 2008, 17:51
Our rescued terrier soon learned that if he pauses for much more than a single breath whilst eating, his bigger "sister" will quickly ensure there is no next chance at that meal..... :}

This principle works on kids, too.

29th Dec 2008, 18:01
I don't have kids, and will remain quiet because I have found the quickest way to get into the doghouse with a parent is to 'advise' them on how to raise their kid. :ugh:

Jimmy Macintosh
29th Dec 2008, 20:13
Seems that there is plenty of useful advice here so thought I would just add the remedy my dad had to the same problem...

Any meal refused would be the next meal you got, after two showings you did a face plant in it and was then offered the same food again (a little bit messier though) for the next meal. Basically it turned into 24 hours without food, an embarrising show in front of the rest of the family and isolation in your bedroom.

Don't know what happened then, after the face plant a tearful eating of the cold messy meal usually followed.

29th Dec 2008, 20:28
I suspect Helimutt will post another blog in 13 more years, i.e.....

"My 16 Year-old Boy Won't Stop Eating - Is This Normal?"

29th Dec 2008, 20:31
.....and in the interim...please refrain from this:

"My 46 Year-old Wife Won't Stop Eating - Is This Normal?"

29th Dec 2008, 20:34
More like "My Wife Won't Stop Eating Chocolate and ruining her dinner - Is This Normal?"

Atlas Shrugged
29th Dec 2008, 22:02
Any meal refused would be the next meal you got, after two showings you did a face plant in it and was then offered the same food again (a little bit messier though) for the next meal. Basically it turned into 24 hours without food, an embarrising show in front of the rest of the family and isolation in your bedroom.

Yep, same thing used to happen to me. If I didn't like what I was given I had a choice of not eating it. If I didn't eat it, it was duly presented again the next day, and the next, and the next until I ate it. Sooner or later I realised that if I didn't eat what was cooked for me, I wouldn't eat at all.

Worked a treat for my kids too. Now they eat anything (except Squash) but I can't blame them for that......they taste like shit!

29th Dec 2008, 22:18
"My Wife Won't Stop Eating Chocolate and ruining her dinner - Is This Normal?"

Ah, that time of the month again, I see...

All three of us siblings were never humoured - you will be served your dinner at the table along with the rest of the family. You will eat everything on the plate and if you did not like it, you were free to not ask for seconds. Special requests were just that - special and requests. Not for daily cooking and not necessarily pandered to. Ensured that we grew up eating almost everything (whether it moves or does not!).

Though mum was rather cunning - it took us AGES to catch on that certain dishes appeared on the table only when dad was out of the city overnight... "What?! Dad doesn't eat carrots?!"

30th Dec 2008, 03:56
Three year-olds really want to have control over something and what they eat is the number one control issue. Assuming that your child is healthy, and has been growing well, you have to trust that his body will tell him when he needs to eat, and be assured that he will not starve.
If the child is not interested in what is being offered, don't get into a fight, don't try and force him to eat. Just end the meal at the appropriate point and take the food away. Do not offer him something else an hour later or give him an extra bedtime snack just because he missed the previous meal. If you do, that just tells him that he can continue to refuse to eat and eat whenever he wants. When my oldest daughter was 2 1/2 all she wanted to eat was sliced cheese, no bread or crackers just the cheese. When she turned 3 all she wanted were potatoes, boiled, mashed, fried, etc... She is now a healthy 18 year old, so just be patient, grit your teeth and smile it gets better.
Good luck

Roger Sofarover
30th Dec 2008, 04:10
Keef said

Excellent advice above.

One of my grandchildren went through the "I'm a veggie, cook special stuff for me!" phase a couple of years ago. Her mum humoured her. When they came to us for Christmas dinner, she got what we got - minus the turkey, sausages, stuffing, etc.
Minor tantrum was instantly quelled by (schoolteacher) grandma.

She'd given up being a veggie by Boxing Day. Eats like a horse now.

k3k3 said

So still a veggie then?;)

Now thats funny:D:}

30th Dec 2008, 13:57
We're going through this at the moment with our 2.75yr old. Hints that we were given, and seem to work are;

1) if they ask for Milk only give it to them after eating; milk is an appetite suppressor
2) Let them help you cook - stirring the beans, cutting cheese etc
3) Make SMALL (and I mean small) plates of food so they get a sense of achievement when they finish a meal
4) Only give sweets / dessert as a treat for finishing a meal
5) Make yoghurt a standard part of the meal - not a "treat" dessert

Best of luck...


Atlas Shrugged
30th Dec 2008, 21:10
...then wait until they turn 17 and all they eat is McDonald's, Pizza and KFC :ugh: