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I have a lively 11 month old who lately has been throwing fits at
dinnertime. She refuses to sit in her high chair, only eats-or I
should say- plays and throws food while sitting on my lap facing the
high chair. Eventually she gets upset and then cries for the breast.
I give it to her and she is fine afterwards....but honestly I am
getting tired of going through every dinner covered in food,-sometimes
drenched-. By the end of the day I am often fried and I just want to
eat in peace, feel human again!!! If I try to put her in her chair
she freaks, arches back, and stiffens her legs- and often I get
impatient, frustrated and tense. Sometimes I give her food to play
with on the floor but I know this is not good for creating good eating
habits-and still a big drag for me to clean up-I just need a break...
anyone out there with good suggestions on how to integrate this one
into dinner and help cultivate the family meal?
cranky food fashion lady
It sounds to me like your daughter either isn't hungry or she is
battling wills with you over where she eats. If you want her to
eat in her high chair (and not in your lap or on the floor), then
only feed her in her high chair. If she refuses to get in, put
her on the floor (without food) to play or cry or do whatever,
and try again in 5 or 10 or 20 minutes. If you manage to get her
in the chair but she still throws food or a fit, assume she just
isn't hungry, and get her out. After a week (or with luck a few
days), she'll figure it out. You might need to give up on the
family mealtime idea in order to teach your daughter the basics
of eating in her own chair when she is hungry for it.
I had this battle with my son right around the same age. With
absolute consistency, it did get better. We are now away on
holiday, and after two weeks of eating off a hotel floor or in
our laps in restaurants with no high chairs, I know we'll have to
start all over again!
If you dig through the archives, you'll get some great advice
about this, too.
My kids are past this age, and I recall similar situations.
Even at 11 mos, your daughter is able to make choices. Here's
how we did it. Give her two options, sit and eat in your high
chair, or do her own thing out of the high chair (insert your
choice of alternatives here). Give her an incentive to want to
sit and eat by offering her favorite snack....in the high
chair. If she throws it, then she's out of the high chair.
It's a combination of giving her the choice to sit and eat and
also having rules about when it's time to eat. She may cry adn
tantrum, but just explain the rules in a gentle voice. The
breast feeding is either an option or not at that time, but
that's for you to decide how available it is to her....on
demand, or at certain times, or after eating, etc. Good luck.
reading that post made me concerned that you are giving in to
''tantrums.'' when your child acts out with crying for the breast
(or anything else) you are enforcing that behavior by giving in
to them. i am not saying shove your child in the seat or not give
them food if they scream for it, but even with a young child, you
need to start teaching effective communication. get a stokke seat
or something different for seating at the table, teach your child
that throwing food is inappropriate social skills (take the food
away and feed them by mouth?). you need to find acceptable
alternatives. most children go through phases of hating
highchairs, forms of restraint while eating, work through it!
don't give in and let them have bad behavior. it won't suddenly
change when they are older if you don't teach good behavior to
begin with. they are never too young to have some structure - it
is early discipline that helps them be functional adults in society.
Have you tried putting lots of toys and stuff on the high chair
tray for her to play with? I do this and then feed the baby. My
baby (the same age)also does the rotation between milk and food.
Starting recently, my 15 month old melts down as I am making dinner,
and I don't know how to resolve the problem. Generally, I'm at home
alone during dinner-prep and feeding. She wants to be held while I'm in
preparation mode. While I sometimes will hold her up to see what I'm
doing, usually it's impractical to keep holding her because it's
dangerous (I'm chopping something, stirring something hot, etc.).
Sometimes, the tupperware cabinet keeps her happy, but other times it
doesn't and then she just sits on the floor screaming. I talk to her or sing
to her, or pat her on the back, but that alone doesn't calm her down. She
has tantrums at other times too, but this one concerns me because when
she gets so upset she doesn't eat much. Does anyone have any
advice? I'm not making elaborate meals for her, the ''cooking'' time takes
15-30 minutes tops, and I'd like it to be time we can enjoy together. BTW,
I know that she's not overly tired, because her behavior does not vary
based on nap duration or timing.
Do you suppose your child could need to eat earlier? I found that my
son, when he was about 18 months, would fall apart completely if his
meal was even 15 minutes late. At most other times of day he was
extremely pleasant and even-tempered. I usually fed him at 6:00, but
occasionally he would start to get cranky by 5:15, and I learned pretty
quickly to feed him the instant any sign of crankiness appeared --
because if I waited until 6:00 in that case, he was way too upset to eat
anything, and the rest of the evening was pretty unpleasant. This meant
microwaving frozen food for him, and eating with my husband later, but it
worked. Once he'd had his dinner, he was quite happy to play with the
pots and pans in the kitchen while I cooked.
Even now that he's 4, the one thing that will most likely make him
grouchy is for him to be hungry.
That's pretty common for a toddler that age... They start to want
to be involved in the cooking process. My son always wanted to
be up where the action is. Until he got too heavy (around 2.5) I
would put him in the babysling, move him around to my back so he
was out of the way, and just cook like that - explaining what I
was doing, and letting him have tastes. Just be sure you know
where her hands are when you are using a knife (mine liked to
have his hands tucked into the sling - he would happily say
''cozy!'' - so that wasn't so much of a problem) and when you're at
the stove, position yourself between the stove and the baby.
Now that my son is 3, he has his own step stool, which he stands
on to help me cook - measures stuff out, peels garlic, stirs, etc.
First, your dinner time just might be a little too late for her.
Maybe you need to up the time by 15-30 minutes. Experiment to
see when this is. Is she trying to grab for food around this
time? That means she's overhungry.
Second, if it's just about attention, then perhaps you are over-
managing her tantrums. Giving her some comfort and attention is
good, but she also needs to learn how to self-manage, to a
degree, even if it means screaming it out. If she knows that
screaming frazzles you (and of course it would) and that you'll
fix everything if she keeps it up, then why should she learn any
I'm sure this is not what you want to hear, but I think it is a
passing phase if you address it appopriately. Yes, continue with
the tupperware cabinet. Allow other toys on the floor too so she
can be near you. Lift her and show her what you're doing once or
twice, then be firm about her needing to stay on the floor.
Once you know she is safe and you've told her that mommy needs
to cook and she needs to play, RESOLVE TO IGNORE THE SCREAMS.
This will be several days of hell for you where she may not eat
much during dinner, but she will quickly realize that screaming
doesn't give her anything during mealprep time and if she gets
no negative or positive reward for it, why would she keep it up?
Two things that have worked for me and other parents I know:
(1) Wear your daughter on your back (in a soft pack, wrap or mei
tai). If all she wants is to be held, this should satisfy her;
you'll have your arms free and she'll be far enough away from
knives and hot things. You'll still have to be cautious about
splashes and little hands grabbing things from upper cabinets,
but it's a LOT safer than trying to hold her on your hip.
(2) Let your daughter stand on a chair or stool at the counter
and help you. It may make a mess, but cleaning up is a lot less
stressful than listening to her scream while you rush through
the job. You chop and measure, let her pour and stir. If she's
not very verbal yet this technique may have to wait until she's
a little older, but when she's ready it will work like a charm.
Added bonus: she may be more willing to eat her vegetables if
SHE helped cook them!
this page was last updated: Jul 9, 2007
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