I blogged about Squiblet testing boundaries at meal times a while ago and some wise owl suggested that in their house they offer toast or fruit as an alternative if their kids really don't like something. We've been going with that, only I usually only offer a banana...that's it! No kid is going to live off bananas if they have a choice so I figure if she totally refuses a meal, she's either proving some kind of massive point, or she really doesn't like it. But Mama and I have both done a lot of reading and talking about eating issues, both before we adopted and now, and this is the plan we are following.
- We never praise her for eating something. We praise her for trying something new, or for eating nicely or using her fork but never for actually eating. The idea behind this is that eating can never become a power struggle. If she doesn't eat, we say "fairy nuff" and then surreptitiously give her a bigger or more protein based snack than she would usually have. She eats pretty much every two hours so she's never going to be starving hungry!
- We all eat together so that we can show her good table manners (sort of!) and use dinner time as a time to talk about things as a family.
- If she refuses to eat something and asks for something else, I give her the new something on the same plate and 9 times out of 10 she will go back to it later. I've heard that kids like to mix sweet and savoury foods so I think "why shouldn't she?".
- We feed her from a spoon when she's tired but we don't coerce or cajole her into eating, she's in charge of what she eats and how quickly she eats it.
- We let her keep going (with healthy stuff) until she's not hungry any more. Sometimes this means (especially lately) that she eats a bowl of cereal, a yogurt, 2 satsumas and a banana for breakfast.
It really seems to be working, but is a little tricky if someone else has done the cooking. My mother in law kindly made lunch for us yesterday and Squiblet flat out refused to eat anything. It's quite rare that she won't try anything at all and I was trying to unpick why she had done it. I asked her but that was too complex a question for her to understand at the age of not quite two! I did ask her if she was just flexing her toddler muscles and showing us what a strong, independent woman she is and she said "yes" but I'm not sure that's hugely reliable. I wondered if it was because she was unsettled by having more people in the house, or maybe that she just felt that there was too much pressure because she had been told to like it because Granny made it. Earlier that morning she had refused to eat her rice crispies in favour of toast; usually I would give her toast and leave the crispies and she would come back to them but on this occasion Granny chipped in and was very vocal about Squiblet eating them for Granny and being a good girl for Granny and wasn't she a good girl for eating them up...and I wondered if that had put Squiblet off eating her lunch as eating to please others is quite an alien concept in our house. Curious beasts, toddlers. So we ended up with an offended mother in law (she even refused to eat it from Granny's fork) and Squiblet wolfing down two bananas. It's tricky though. Because short of giving everyone a massive lecture on the whys and wherefores of your parenting techniques, which would make us both boring, pedantic and neurotic; you just have to hope that people will let you get on with things, especially in this early stage where we are still showing Squiblet the boundaries and building attachments. I understand 100% that people have different parenting styles, and that is absolutely fine with me! Mama and I do like to chat about them (as all good hyper-analytical, well read, adoptive parents should) but there are millions of different ways to successfully parent well rounded, well adjusted children and I do try not to criticise other people's parenting styles but we have chosen to parent in the way that we do partly by our natural personalities, but partly by really talking and thinking about what we are doing. Clearly this doesn't work all the time e.g. when we are absolutely knackered (I said nob today...oops...luckily the air conditioning was on full in the car so I don't think she heard me) but we have to try! I understand that people want to be close to her and warm with her, but it's just hard...really, really hard!
Does that make sense?! I'm not sure if it's a bit of a ramble. I've spent the day in the sunshine at the country park. I think that makes me sound so American! Squiblet was charging about on the play equipment, feeling the fluffy moss and loving eating her lunch outside (we strapped her down in her booster seat again...does that make us bad mummies or just practical ones?! It doesn't feel very earth mothery!). A cute thing she was doing to day was shrieking "lucky Mama" and then running to give Mama a cuddle and then "lucky Mummy" and coming to cuddle me! It's so wonderful being outdoors with her running around, balancing on logs and peeping round trees. It makes me feel very happy indeed.
We are all heading off on an aeroplane on Wednesday. Squiblet's first trip! I will let you know how it goes. She's very excited and shouts "airmlane" every time she sees one in the sky!
Hope you are all enjoying the sunshine.