With a Toddler, Everything’s a Saga.

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Near-daily, I try to convince myself that my daughter is not a tyrant, she is just a toddler. I’ve never parented a toddler before, so I have difficulty in knowing whether this is true or not. But as we wade through the challenges I have to think it’s normal and not that I should be preparing for 17 more years of extreme strong will and tantrums.

One of the biggest issues we have is food. When Libbie was starting solids, she would eat just about anything—green beans, peaches, cantaloupe, watermelon, apricots, mango, sweet potatoes—no fruit or vegetable was safe from her eager mouth. Then, as we tried to start some other foods, Libbie began showing preference–also known as, she would not open her stubborn little mouth for anything she didn’t want.

Gradually, Libbie began to detest all foods, until she would pretty much only eat bread, bananas, applesauce, and cheese. Fun, huh? I felt like I needed to buy stock in Chiquita and Kraft.

Every once in awhile, we’d have a break-through. She’d eat tortellini and chicken sausage with gusto, and I’d feel hopeful that soon she’d eat anything! Everything! Brussels sprouts! Caprese salad! I get a little carried away.

I am of the firm opinion that we shouldn’t have to cook different meals for our kids. So I keep trying. I put in front of her whatever we’re eating for dinner. Some days she won’t even try it. (That’s what infuriates me. I would be OK if she didn’t like it, but not trying it…grrrr.) Some days she’ll eat off a plate or only with a spoon. Some days she’ll eat from her daddy’s plate but not from mine.


I don’t mind not being scheduled or orderly, but this going back-and-forth, no predictable eating pattern whatsoever drives me MAD!!

A couple weeks ago I thought we were making good progress. She was sampling much of what we ate and liking it! And then, a week ago, it seemed like we were back to square one. Only with no bananas.

Please tell me, is this normal? And do you have any suggestions for making sure she eats something nutritious every once in awhile?
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19 thoughts on “With a Toddler, Everything’s a Saga.

  1. If I give Johnny something new, he usually doesn't even try it. So, I put some on his spoon, bring it toward his mouth, and make some touch his lips anyway. Once he gets a tiny taste, he usually wants more.

    I've been on a "green smoothie" kick lately. I put some in his sippy cup and he wolfed it down. I think if she'll go for smoothies, you can add a few mild-tasting vegetables (try Romaine) in them (they can be really hidden!).

  2. I could have written this post. I have the pickiest eater on the planet. He will only eat carbs, carrots, and asparagus.

    We're now entering the world of toddler tyranny. What happened to my sweet, obedient darling child?

  3. My very wise mother-in-law told me to never give in. She will learn to eat because she's hungry. Offer her small tastes of whatever you are cooking. And a few days of bananas won't kill her as long as she also has some whole wheat bread to keep her "regular." Trust me, this too shall pass and you'll be sorry when she wants to order the most adventurous and expensive thing on the menu.

  4. Yes normal. My advice, keep trying. I dint with my 6 yo who is now ridiculoulsy picky. Never gave in with the 3 yo and she is a way better eater. Still picky at times, but much more willing to try new things. Now I make them both at least try. It is an uphill battle, but I want to believe I am winning

  5. Here's what Jo (SupperNanny) advises: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/supernanny/articles/ask-supernanny-eating-different-foods

    I used similar methods with my kids years ago and it worked for us. Don't introduce processed foods (they're high in fat & sugar which is hard to get kids off once they're one as well as MSG and other flavor enhancers to make them crave them). Keep choices natural.

    Good luck. I promise it won't last long. You'll turn around one day and realize they're adults like I did 🙁 Mine are 22 & 24 now and I remember them in their high chairs like it was yesterday.

  6. Aaron does the same thing! The little booger is so picky that I started sneaking some foods into his diet. I made pancakes and french toast with vegetable puree's in them. And that is just the beginning. I have tried some Sneaky Chef and the Sienfeld women's book and there are some good things in there. I still give him a veggie on his plate every day but if he doesn't eat it, I don't feel so bad because he is still getting some of the nutrients.

  7. I still have this problem with Lilli, except all she wants is bread, chicken nuggets, and french fries. It's such a pain! I just keep giving her what we are eating. If she is really hungry she will eventually eat something.

  8. This is so normal. My son started doing the same thing about 18 months. At 2 years now, he's getting a little better, but it really depends on the day. I feel like it was a successful day if he at least tries something new that I put in front of him. Often he's surprised and likes it.

    I usually make the kiddo a separate meal, something that I know he will eat. But I only make him one, I won't make more options if he doesn't eat the first one. As he gets older and his tastes change, I'll start feeding him the same food that hubby and I eat.

    It's a never ending learning process. Once you think you have them figured out, they go and change on you. You just have to go with the flow most days.

  9. My kids go through phases now… sometimes they eat everything, sometimes they don't want to try things. But, I don't fix alternatives. I try to make sure there's at least one "neutral" food that I know they'll eat (rice, rolls, broccoli, anything with cheese, pears, fried eggs), and they just need to try a bite of everything else. I swore I would never use dessert as a reward, but we don't have dessert if the kids didn't eat much dinner – instead I just leave their plates on the table and if they get hungry later they can go finish their dinner. (we usually do dessert as a bedtime snack – fruit, ice cream, homemade healthier cookies, or something else along those lines)

    It sounds like you are still actively feeding Libbie – how come? We did kind of an alternative food-introduction with Ellie and never "fed" her – just let her feed herself. Our pediatrician reccomended against any purees or baby foods after about 9 months, saying kids needed to use their fingers and teeth by that age. So, I just put some of everything on the kids plates, and don't dish out seconds of anything till they've tried some of everything.

    I don't ever make alternative dinners – I'm still irked that my parents would fix a pbj for Erin but would usually insist I eat the regular dinner to set a good example! I think it encouraged Erin's pickiness. To this day I'm a much more adventurous eater.

  10. Hi Jessie,

    My heart goes out to you in many of your posts, but especially this one. The wisdom of this world teaches us that our children have to go through rebellious toddler years, the terrible two's, and rebellious teenage years. Many people say it is inevitable. However, let me offer you some encouragement. Children, even your child and more importantly you, don't have to go through this stage. Many, many families have completely avoided these "stages of life" and have very happy children and parents. It is all in what you teach your child.

    So far Libbie has learned that if she closes her mouth mommy and daddy will give her something else to eat. She has also learned that she is in control of her eating, because she can make mommy give her the food she wants if the food she is served looks "distasteful" to her toddler mind. Because you have aloud her to behave this way and tried to please her with something else to eat, Libbie knows she is in control and not mommy and daddy in this situation.

    Don't worry! We all make mistakes, and we are always striving to be better mothers. My advice to you, which was illustrated to me when I was a little girl and shared with me repeatedly growing up and now as a mother, is don't give in. The parent is in control of the child, not the child in control of the parent. Require Libbie to eat what you serve her. If she doesn't eat it, she must find out that there are consequences for not obeying mommy. This could be no other food till she eats what she is served. I remember having to eat dinner for breakfast, because I didn't eat it the night before. Another consequence is remaining in the highchair until she eats her food, or you could discipline her. These are just some ideas. 🙂 If you let Libbie get away with little things (not eating her food), she is only going to learn to try to get away with more things as she gets older. This is really an issue of obedience and not food. If she doesn't learn to obey you with food, will she obey you if you tell her not to cross the street (a life and death situation)?

    In reality, training our children to be obedient is really training us (the parents) to be consistent and require obedience even during all those times when we think the easy way out is letting our children to disobey our instruction. I hope this is helpful. I only want to be an encouragement to you and your family. Every day is a new day, a day to start afresh.

  11. Totally normal. And totally frustrating! Right?

    I call Annalyn an "every-other" eater. Because she eats well about every other meal, although sometimes it's closer to every other day. Her doctor has told me two things. One, just keep trying. Keep offering her a variety of healthy foods, no matter how many times she acts, AHEM, difficult. And two, as long as she's getting a decent diet over the course of a week, she's fine.

  12. I have an 18 month old boy and your story sounds a lot like mine. I told my husband tonight. I don't want him to get fat when he's older becase all he eats is bread! (there are so many obese children around here in West Tennesee, it makes me so sad) And that seems like it's almost all he's eating. Well, he does eat a lot of fruit and we are trying to feed him healthy foods but he won't even try veggies most of the time. He spits out eveything IF I can get it to his mouth.

    One things that does work occationally is me or me and his daddy will eat something and just over dramatize it and say how good it is and he'll often try it and often like it. We did this with pineapple the other day when he wouldn't even try it. It drives me crazy that he isn't eating veggies. I really don't know what to do. I have stoped chaging the menu for him. Some nights he's gone to bed without eating and been fine. But I guess it is normal.

  13. @Becky–We don't offer anything different if she doesn't eat dinner. If she acts hungry, we re-offer the dinner food. At lunch today, it was the same deal. She SCREAMED about what I offered her, but eventually I just left her in the high chair with it and she ate it.

    I was surprised that tonight she scarfed down salmon patties and strawberries! Woohoo!

  14. We do this every. Single. Meal.

    Our dietitian put it this way. "Kids won't let themselves go hungry. You put the food out there, and they can eat it. Or not. The important thing is to not make it a battle". So we offer up food (nothing too exotic – if we're having Indian food, I keep a bit of plain meat, veg, rice out for the kids), and they can eat it or not. If they don't, then they have to wait for the next opportunity to eat. We have morning and afternoon tea here, so it's never more than a couple of hours away. I also try to watch how much water/milk they're having. Other than that, I give them a vitamin, and feel pretty good that they're probably just eating like every other kid in the world. And I'm okay with that.

  15. Oh thank you Jessie and everyone for your comments…the food thing with my daughter is one of my biggest issues and it drives me insane…I will definitely try some of the suggestions since I think I have been caving in too easily!

  16. This is very normal. H-man only eats dinner like every other night. It's so incredibly random that it drives me batty, too! It has NOTHING to do with the food (although I imagine he would eat brownies every night) and more to do with what he wants to do other than eat at the moment.
    And his brother was completely different and will still eat anything on his plate. Now I really know what the "norm" is. 🙂

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