Ideas for a 2-year-old who won't eat dinner?

Ideas for a 2-year-old who won't eat dinner?

Answered by: Loraine Stern, M.D.

Question:My 2-year-old son is refusing to eat dinner at night. I give him a choice, within reason, as to what he can eat at lunchtime, but at dinnertime I don'tmake anything extra. My husband and I are having many disagreements as to what we should do about this. My husband thinks that he should be forced to sitat the table with us until he eats, or at least until we finish dinner. My son just screams when this is done, and I don't feel that we're gettinganywhere. I feel that if he isn't going to eat it, I'm not going to force the issue, but I don't reward this by giving him treats. What is the right way tohandle this? Should I be offering him his dinner continuously throughout the evening if he gets hungry or offering him anything at all nutritious that hewill eat?

Answer:Dinner is usually the only time in the day that families sit together and talk. Making it a time of conflict and unpleasantness destroys this preciousopportunity. At the same time, a toddler's whims should not dictate what food isoffered just in the interest of preserving peace. Studies show that the more intensely mothers are involved with controlling every mouthful of food, theless appropriate the child's food choices ultimately become. Many American parents think that if their child misses a meal, something terrible is sure tofollow. The only thing that happens is that your child will be hungrier for the next meal. You should offer a healthful selection of food and then backoff, letting the child decide how much of what food he will take, if any. Make dinnertime congenial and interesting, so that your 2-year-old will want toshare in the conversation. Allow him a small toy if necessary, but let him know that you want him to participate. If he chooses not to eat anything, takehis plate away without comment. If he is hungry later, offer him either his leftover food or some other healthful snack before bedtime.

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