20-Month-Old Girl Wants Personal Chef

Question

My 20 month old daughter says “ew no” to almost any meal put in front of her. I rarely introduce a food she likes or will eat (other than snacks such as cheese, fruit, etc.). When our son finishes his meal, he gets a healthy snack. When my daughter see this, she has a meltdown. I tell her she can’t have a snack until she has some dinner. I’m worried she is too young to understand WHY brother gets the snack. Is she too young to understand why he gets one and she doesn’t?

Answer

Thanks for the question! First, tell your son ahead of the meal that you'll be giving him his after-dinner snack later. Put a very small amount (like, two bites) of the food you want your daughter to eat on her plate. You're going to silently remove her plate when she complains, and excuse her from the table. When she comes to you later, asking for food, give her the same plate, saying "This is what we're eating today!" in a pleasant voice. Don't threaten, don't say "You'd better eat or you're going to be hungry later," etc. Don't beg her to eat, or nag, just remove the plate when she refuses to eat, and go on about your business. Use the tantrum room as needed.

If you have a set snack time, give her the plate instead of the snack. Be firm and gentle, but not frustrated or angry--she may endure until the next meal. Don't give in.

At the next meal, offer her the same thing as everyone else--again, a small portion, and again the same routine. She will learn, eventually, that if she wants to eat, she will eat what you have prepared for everyone.

Don't be afraid of her missing a meal or two (depending on how stubborn she is)--she will be fine, just hungry. Eventually she will eat what you give her. Once she eats the very small portion of what she has refused, give her something nourishing and healthy that she does like but that is also already on the menu for that meal--don't fix something just for her.

The key is to remain dispassionately pleasant, and don't give in.

You can do this! I used this strategy with my own children; all learned to gratefully eat what was served, and all are healthy, happy adults!

To your success!

Kaye Wilson
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach
kwilsonok@gmail.com
kayewilsonparenting.com

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