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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I Will Die on Every Hill

The moment you start fighting with a toddler, you have already lost.  Everyone loses, but the parent especially.  The main problem is that a toddler will treat every minor infraction with the same amount of vigor.  It doesn't matter if they have just broken their leg or if you gave them cheerios in the wrong bowl.  When your toddler has the fighting spirit, nothing can stop them.  So the question is, how hard should we try? 

Right now, my household is a warzone.  We are fighting the "Battle of the Bulge," by which I mean there is no bulge because they're refusing to eat.  (Boy, that was a stretch for a mildly offensive comparison and a not-funny joke, wasn't it?  As you can see, I am no longer working at full mental capacity.)  Anyway, there is no amount of threatening, cajoling, begging or compromising that will get a spoonful of delicious, nutritious, lovingly-prepared food into their mouths.  And if I do, miraculously, trick them into taking a bite?  Well, they get a good taste because it can stay in there for up to an hour.

They have won.  They have engaged me.  I, the adult, find myself on hands and knees, asking a toddler over and over again what is it that I can do for her as she tantrums and pushes me away.  I've never been a parent before, but I'm pretty sure that's not how it's supposed to work.

Toddlers should walk around with a big "Do Not Engage" sign on their chests.  You'll never win.  The only way an adult can win against a toddler is by using Judo techniques.  Ninja them.  You have to keep your calm and wits about you as they throw their deadliest weapons at you, namely the mind-numbing carrying on that can last for as long as they think it ought.  Catch them before it gets to this point, if you can.  Make them think that whatever they don't want they actually do want, either by telling them they can't have it yet or making as if you are going to do it without them.

Toddlers have very little control in their lives, and it's about this time that they start craving more.  They, more than anything, want to let you know that it's their life, and you couldn't possibly understand it.  They want to show you that they are the boss of themselves.  I hear this comes back in the teenage years, and I am already looking forward to it.

If you can somehow take the control out of the picture, everybody will be happier.  I know I usually dole out the advice, but if someone here knows how to do that, I would humbly accept any words of wisdom at this point.

___

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10 comments:

  1. I died on a couple of my own hills yesterday. Went to bed with a headache. Woke up with a headache. Ate donuts for breakfast. Yep, mine aren't even toddlers anymore.

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  2. I just put out a nibble tray and desist. Eat your own meals and look as interested in their eating as you would be in a Lindsay Lohan movie.

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  3. My sister (who watches my toddler during the day) has had success with making food for both of them, but then making a big deal out of "No! This is MY food! YOU can't have any, particularly not any using this toddler sized fork that I happen to be carrying around for no reason!" Which, you know, automatically means that the toddler MUST eat whatever it is NOW.

    Of course, I've tried this and she gives me a look that says "I'm on to your tricks, Mom. And I don't want any."

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  4. My mothers trick when we threw tantrums was to scream louder and longer as long as it took to realize we weren't going to get anywhere by screaming. As for eating they will eat when they get hungry but you begging and pleading only makes them feel they are in control. Just put them to bed if they don't and feed them in the morning. I'm not a parent but that is what I would do if my kid(s) didn't eat.

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  5. I know it's hard to swallow (zing!), but you aren't failing as a parent if they miss a meal. They'll eat when they're hungry, trust me. The food battle is one I have witnessed more than once, and your best bet is to really just let them not eat. Maybe leave some dry cereal or other non-sticky snacks that can be left out for long periods of time without getting gross, if you're worried that they'll go from stubborn-tantrum mode straight into 'I'm hypoglycemic, so I'm going to throw a bigger tantrum, and thus keep you from feeding me because I'm still stubborn' mode.

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  6. Lol...this was a fun read! It reminded me of my post today about nap time! Of course, I always enjoy reading your posts. Anyways, I agree with some of the posters above. Bring everyone together at breakfast, sit them in front of their plates, talk about the night and ask them what sounds elephants or pigs make--just don't talk about their food. When they say they're done, clearly tell them, "THIS is breakfast. If you leave, I'm not fixing any more food until snack time." Let them down and move on. Don't feed them until snack time (I do a 10 am snack). If they eat, great. If not, don't feed them until lunch. If you're really worried about them freaking out, I'd leave the meal on the table for them and offer that when they get hungry. Otherwise, they really won't starve! I don't think food is worth a battle...they eat your food or they wait for another meal.

    It does help if you have some kind of routine so they know when a meal is approaching (or not approaching!). I deal with a lot of toddlers because I do a home day-care, but within two days all the kiddos I've had understand the routine and adjust really well to my scheduled meals and snacks. If they're not hungry, they don't eat. They know if they need food, or not. Also, I think a lot of time we offer too much food to toddlers. I've learned that (at least, according to the USDA) a 2-year old only needs the following serving sizes for lunch: 1/2 slice of bread, 1/4 cup fruits and veggies, 1 ounce meat/cheese/yogurt, and 1/2 cup milk. Granted, I've seen some toddlers eat more than that, but that's one standard to consider.

    Wow...I'm sorry this is such a long comment! I hope there's something useful in there for you! Good luck...let us know how it goes!

    ~Carla

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  7. Just popping over BlogHer for a visit. I love the tone of this post. At least you can find humor in the battle. I have a seven-year-old and four-year-old twins. Toddlerhood is only the beginning! My house is a war zone most days. I call it a success if everyone survives to fight another day. Hang in there....keep fighting the good fight! ;)

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  8. As a mother of six (youngest two twins), I really appreciated this post.

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  9. Not a Mom but having read your other posts it got me thinking....have you tried adding some artificial choice to the meal concept? Having 3 ideas at the ready and saying 'ok you guys get to pick what we all have for this meal but ONLY if you eat it?' Toddle over to the fridge and say 'Hmm...what can we have' and direct their attention towards one of your three already planned meals? Might be worth a shot.

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  10. Wow, thank you guys for your advice and stories, especially you, Carla.

    I'll be sure to let you know when my monsters deem it time to become remotely human again!

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