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my toddler refuses to eat dinner - how do i handle this?

he is 2 yrs 8 months and has been an ok eater. he eats lunch fine but has been refusing to eat dinner the past few days. when we eat at a restaurant, he eats. i don't know what the issue is - is it a power play or he's just not in the mood to eat homecooked food? i just put him to bed w/ a glass of milk and that's it. when he wakes, he's not even hungry for breakfast. do i just let this "phase" pass since he'll eventually want to eat again? i just don't want how i react to affect long-term negative behavior on his part. i also don't think punishing him for not eating is right, so i just say, if you don't want food, fine, then no food for you...and let him starve. but he never seems to feel starved or wants food later on either... thanks for your advice!

Answer Question

Asked by Anonymous at 7:53 PM on Jul. 12, 2010 in Toddlers (1-2)

Answers (9)
  • It's just a phase. It'll pass soon enough. My daughter doesn't eat much for lunch. A couple of bites and she's done. I don't make a big deal about it, but I make sure she gets something to eat to later on (like peas, cheese, whole wheat bread, or a yogurt).

    If he's hungry enough, he will eat.

    Answer by Fallaya at 7:58 PM on Jul. 12, 2010

  • It'll pass. And you're being reasonable about it too. It's good to offer food at mealtimes and then if they choose not to eat, allow them to be hungry. If food is offered at any old time, then they don't learn anything!

    Answer by aliceinalgonac at 7:59 PM on Jul. 12, 2010

  • Sounds like you are doing fine with it. Make the food available and don't panic if he doesn't eat. Stay calm and don't let it become a big deal. It became a big deal in our house and, boy, we regret letting it get out of hand. It was our fault it became an issue. Don't start making different food for him. Just keep offering what you have made for the family making sure there is something he usually likes. It will pass.

    Answer by elizabr at 7:59 PM on Jul. 12, 2010

  • most likely it's just a phase. my dd is not much for dinner, she never has been. but i always make her a plate and make her sit at the table with us for a while. sometimes she will say she is not hungry but if she sits there while we eat she will end up eating half her food.

    Answer by jennifer588 at 8:01 PM on Jul. 12, 2010

  • I agree w/ PP's, you have nothing to worry about. My kids have periods where they eat less, and then they get a groth spurt and eat like crazy again :)

    I don't know if you give him snacks between lunch and dinner, but if you do, you could try to cut down on those.

    And lets face it : of all the meals we eat, dinner is the least nessasary. Food is fuel for the body, and we don't have a lot of time to use the fuel we get @ dinner time, before we go to bed...

    Answer by Nynne at 8:06 PM on Jul. 12, 2010

  • Remember it's been hoy. I haven't been that hungry either.

    Answer by NHRachel at 8:10 PM on Jul. 12, 2010

  • Probably a phase... my son goes through periods where he eats almost nothing (like the past few days) and then next week he'll probably eat like a horse! I think you are doing fine with the behavior... don't make it a power struggle... if he doesn't want to eat, no big deal. And like you are already doing, no snacks to make up missed meals.

    Answer by AmiJanell at 10:37 PM on Jul. 12, 2010

  • Does he get an afternoon snack or milk? If so, you might want to cut it out. Also, you should make sure there is at least one thing he really likes on his plate (its usually cheese at our house). Sometimes, they'll go for the favorite food whether they're hungry or not and that will spark and appetite and they'll eat the rest. If that doesn't help, then I think you're reacting appropriately. If he really isn't hungry, then there is no reason he should eat. He also shouldn't be snacking later on either...if he's not hungry for dinner, then he's not hungry for snacks and sweets later on. You should also avoid trying to bribe him with dessert, gives the impression that dessert is somehow a better food than say, meat and veggies.

    Answer by ANGIE409 at 3:41 AM on Jul. 13, 2010

  • It is probably a phase, though he may be getting too many calories from milk (he doesn't need any). Give him water with meals, and only water after you brush his teeth at night.

    Answer by rkoloms at 6:11 AM on Jul. 13, 2010

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