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Finishing dinner and snacks later

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  • Finishing dinner and snacks later

    My husband and I go round and round about this topic and I'm looking for ways to meet everyone's needs. My 3 year old daughter rarely finishes her dinner (we serve it on her plate for her) and at times as we are lying down to go to sleep she will say, "I'm hungry." When she does want something to eat at bedtime, we have been offernig her either the rest of her dinner or apples with peanut butter and a glass of water. She will eat some then go to bed. My husband thinks that she should eat her dinner when it is available or at the very least sit quietly at the table while we finish our dinner. She frequently gets up and down from the table, or asks to sit on one of our laps. I don't know how he plans on "making" her finish or sit down until we are done. I stuggled with eating disorders as a young adult and don't want to make food a power struggle. He feels like he is being controlled and that she is capable of sitting queitly at the table when she is just 3 years old. Has anyone gone through this? What do you suggest we do? Thank you!
    p.s. It is also interesting to note that she asks for food most often when he is home for the night. When he is at work (he is a firefighter and works 24 horus shifts) she RARELY asks for food at bedtime.
    Last edited by annat18; 03-25-2009, 02:34 PM.

  • #2
    First, yes, this is common behavior. My daughter does the same thing. Sometimes she eats when we do and sometimes she doesn't. I believe this is developmentally appropriate.

    Second, I wonder if you notice more when your husband is home because it's an issue.

    I strongly believe that kids should have nutritious food available and allowed to eat it when they want it and in the quantity they want. She is the only person in the world who can know if she is hungry, and she should be able to control it. You could certainly have certain snacks available in a location where she can get them herself, so that you or your husband don't have to do it.

    Really, ask yourself (and your husband) what your goals are for your child. Drop society's illusions about what is right and look at what she needs and how those needs can be met. It sounds like you're right on track with this. Good for you for sticking up for your daughter and helping your husband see things from a different, more child-friendly, perspective.


    • #3
      My vote is for common behavior as well. I have two children, 7 and 5. Sitting through a meal is just now starting to happen with my 7 year old. Both do the "I'm hungry" before bedtime as well. I think that part of it is that neither of them want to stop their play to eat when they truly are hungry (aside from the actual mealtime) and once bedtime comes, they realize that they are hungry.

      If one of the kids didn't finish eating dinner, we'll put it in the refrigerator and have that as an option. We also offer other fresh fruit or veggies, yogurt or even just a small glass of milk.

      Like AwakenedMama said, drop society's illusions of what are right. You definitely sound like you're on track - your 3 year-old will one day be a 13 year-old not wanting to sit through dinner for a different set of reasons, they grow up fast.

      Best wishes!


      • #4
        Common behavior! My four year old is/ has been very similar.

        We attempt to get him to stay at the table longer by putting out grapes (his favorite) and trying to talk about things that involve him. This works sometimes, but mostly he is too excited and full of energy to sit for 5-10 more minutes after he eats. We offer a long carrot recently as a bedtime snack, he likes that. I know I enjoy a snack before I go to bed!

        What is your husbands comparison? Another 3 year old?


        • #5
          my advice would be to determine what your long-term goals are, then look for ways that you can implement baby steps towards that goal. for instance, i would like to SOMEDAY have a family meal time where we all cook, eat, and clean together. so, my 3 year old helps put the napkins on the table and sometimes will sit w/us and sometimes take off, but he's participating in the process, and that is taking us closer to the goal.


          • #6
            It is also important to me to have family meals , supper time is family time. However while my children are small I will start a meal with them and encourage them to stay and eat but once they're done I just let them go. As they get larger and their patience grows and so do their appetities I imagine the part where we all sit together will last longer.
            The other secret I've figured out is to make sure they're good and hungry. I try to time snacks so they're not starving ( like I wouldn't make them go from lunch till supper without anything) but I give a snack at say , 2:30 p.m. so by 5:30 when we're eating supper they are actually hungry again - rather then a 4:00 snack and then having full and disinterested kids come meal time. I do this especially if we're going out to eat at a restaurant .
            We offer a bedtime snack as part of our bedtime routine , its the very last thing we do before teeth , story , bed - so if we hear 'hungry' it's pretty obvious that it's stalling technique. I can verify for certain wether it's a stalling technique by saying ' we'll have a big breakfast in the morning' and if that satisfies her and she lays down then it's not actual hunger but a desire to stay up!
            Your daughter may be doing this when dad's around because she's already figured out that food is a power struggle with dad, so she's testing and trying to see how it turns out ?


            • #7
              Make her eat along with some other children and everything will be fine.


              • #8
                Our 3 yr. old is on and off with sitting at the table for an entire meal. It is a process we are working on. Part of what helps us is that when he gets up, we put him back and coach him through saying, "can I be excused" When he says that, he may get up, but before he leaves he has to clean off his plate (with help) and place it in the sink. So, running off so he can go play, well, it isn't really an option for him. But as Paxmommy said, choose the ultimate goal and work towards it.

                And late night snacking in our house is a no-no. We found, for our kids, that if they knew a snack was coming later, they would eat less off their dinner plate and wait for the sweets. We are particular, mainly because all of the kids have issues with iron, they are all on the low side of normal. So we have to monitor their diets closely. So for OUR family, that is a no go. If we didn't have to monitor their diet so closely, I don't think it would be an issue for a small snack before bed.


                • #9
                  My 3yo son has been on a slow but steady downhill trend in his eating habits. There are precious few foods that he will eat these days:
                  pizza - at home I make it and sneak in whole wheat, carrots, and beans for protein
                  cookies/muffins - again, I make these at home and sneak veggies and protein, lower the sugar content and use whole wheat
                  popsicles - you guessed it, I make 'em healthy


                  • #10
                    I wanted to share a link to these thoughts on food and mealtimes from one of my favorite web sites, Joyfully Rejoycing.


                    • #11
                      Maybe it would help to encourage your husband to read Ellyn Satter's book Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense (or her other book, How to Get Your Kid to Eat, but not too much). I wouldn't say Satter is 100 percent AP, but her philosophy of the parents' responsibilities when it comes to kids' eating might be very helpful for him to understand. She talks about the common things parents do that can lead to lifelong eating disorders and issues.


                      • #12
                        Thank you for this post, I know all the things that were said, but lately we have been having the same struggle. And where at 2 I was like she's just 2 eventually she will learn these things, At 3 it has really been driving me nuts, and we've been having a lot of power struggles around this. It was so good to hear how common this is. And I loved the ideas about having their dinner and a few other healthy options available and making that part of bedtime. I've always believed that it is normal for babies and kids to be hungry in the middle of the night I get hungry as well, but when I hear "I'm Hungry" As soon as I turn the lights out every night it just pushes my buttons. We will totally be adding a bedtime snack to our bedtime routine. Thanks for the tip.