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Picky eater toddler won't eat unless watching tv

My 3.5 year old son has been driving me nuts since past one year regarding his eating habits. he was one the most picker eaters ever to have walked on the surface of the earth. he started losing weight badly, i had constant fear of malnutrition and because of his poor diet (obviously) he was having issues in height department as well.
his pedi put him on various multivitamins and even told me to give him pediasure as he needed to take "something'' in. so he was just drinking milk and pediasure. it was the solids which were such a big hassle. both of us would end up in tears during meal times.
so usually i would turn off the television when we would sit down to eat. one day i left it on when "trying'' to feed him lunch. he ate!! i was overjoyed. so it's been over 3 months now that he's been really REALLY eating now (while watching cartoons). like he eats EVERYTHING! healthy stuff. rice, breads (all kinds), protein, grains, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables!! literally all kinds of vegetables! he started gaining weight. his sleeping routine improved (naturally) and he's so much in a better mood now. no more crankiness!
now i wanted to finish this habit of watching tv/ or playing on an iPad while eating. but then he wouldn't eat. and believe me i am one of those strict parents who has rules about everything. i strongly believe in disciplining. but this is one of those things where if i put my foot down (like i used to), he goes to bed hungry. and we'll be back where we started.
my husband says to make an exception for this one and let him watch tv while eating till he's a little older.
i'm afraid he might make this such a strong habit that he won't let go of it. but then but then my bigger fear is he might stop eating again. what should i do? any advice please?


Asked by Anonymous at 5:22 PM on Jan. 26, 2014 in Toddlers (1-2)

This question is closed.
Answers (10)
  • Honestly, if I had to choose between Pediasure, no solids, and worries about malnutrition, and healthy food eaten with the TV on, I'd choose healthy food with the TV on. Make it family time, discuss the shows, laugh together. But I think you'll see a pretty even split on this issue here in Answers, and you'll have to come to your own decision.

    Answer by Ballad at 6:38 PM on Jan. 26, 2014

  • Well, realizing we made a LOT of mistakes with our picky eater (over 30 years ago) I would not see a huge problem letting the TV be on if you are all watching and enjoying it at dinner time. But I would not let the child be by himself in front of a TV in another room, etc. Make it a family time.....laugh together, chat together. And I would explain that TV is OK, but no more iPad at the dinner table. Anything that isolates him should be avoided. Also, don't let this creep into other areas like TV at bedtime, having the TV on constantly, etc.. GL

    Answer by silverthreads at 5:42 PM on Jan. 26, 2014

  • Tough love. : )

    My daughter is 4 and she used to start crying when I wouldn't let her have the household iPad at the table while she was eating. (she was so into my little pony on netflix)

    Hold your ground and if he misses a few meals he probably won't die (I'm not a doctor though)

    Answer by Skepticchick at 5:28 PM on Jan. 26, 2014

  • What does your doctor say?

    If you started this habit why is the child who needs to suffer because you are ready to break it?
    You said if you stop he will become unhealthy again? If that is so why would you consider that?

    Answer by luvmygrandgirl at 5:36 PM on Jan. 26, 2014

  • He is almost 4? He is old enough to understand things. No watching tv while eating. Eat then you can watch tv. He know that if he doesn't eat for a certain amount of time he will get that nice tasting shake.
    If it was me. I would stop everything. And keep an eye on him. No real food. No shakes. Just water. No snakes. No tv at all. He will break.

    Answer by louise2 at 5:56 PM on Jan. 26, 2014

  • I say eat with the TV on, just not on special occasions and at family's house. Come on we eat dinner in front of the TV all the time. It's way more fun and relaxed. The only thing I worry about is when school starts what will your child do then!


    Answer by pinkparcel at 7:06 PM on Jan. 26, 2014

  • You are the parent. Tough love.

    Answer by bandgeek521 at 5:40 PM on Jan. 26, 2014

  • Tough.
    Turn off the tv when ever food is presented and do not give even one a taste if the TV is on
    You are the adult. You are in charge.

    Answer by Dardenella at 6:14 PM on Jan. 26, 2014

  • Meals are served at the table. If he wants to watch tv, he should be told after he has eaten. If he refuses, he can sit at the table until everyone else has finished eating, than he can go to bed. After a routine of this he will eventually know what he should be doing.

    Answer by virginiamama71 at 6:18 PM on Jan. 26, 2014

  • If he has to watch Tv to eat let him only watch Tv during mealtimes. Talk to his doctor and get testing for special needs. He is a preschooler not a toddler. I would consider eating food more important RIGHT now. I agree it is a horrid habit. If tough love does nothing it sounds like a deeper problem.

    Answer by staciandababy at 7:31 PM on Jan. 26, 2014