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…About Forcing Food on the Unwilling

by The Momma on August 5, 2011

The Daddy: Irrationally Deciding He Doesn’t Like Something Before Trying It, or When Does it Become Okay to Force Feed Your Child?

The Momma: This is one of those places where I just think…Kids are so DUMB sometimes!

D: I figured this would be a place where we really differ. I’m not above forcibly putting something on his tongue when I know he’ll end up wanting to eat it. When he’s older, I don’t think I’ll ever force him to eat anything, but for now, yeah. He’s just being dumb.

M: I don’t force food into him…but I might find a way to make it touch his lips (like with the freaking ICE CREAM he was treating like poison). But no, I don’t really like the idea of forcing food into him. Because I don’t want food to have negative connotations.

D: Same here. I really am against forcing him to eat, but the ice cream is a perfect example: right now he’s in this really wacky headspace where he has such visceral reactions to foods that he really does end up liking. I mean, if he acted that way and then tried the ice cream and randomly hated ice cream, well, that would still be pretty weird, but it would at least validate his assumptions. Instead of him just being really stupid about food lately.

M: I get where you’re coming from, but I just think he’s got to figure that stuff out for himself. Even though he’s being dumb. I mean, if it was a matter of nutrition or him starving himself, that’d be one thing, but him just being willful? I just think we can’t always fight that.

D: It’s a tricky case. On the one hand, I don’t want to give him some kind of psychological complex by forcibly opening his mouth and putting food in there, but on the other hand, I’m worried that by letting him not have it by some arbitrary decision on his part, he’ll end up reinforcing that he HATES a certain food later on, by never having tried it. Heavy and over-wrought I know, but it’s a case where I think his judgment isn’t the best.

M: True, he makes TERRIBLE decisions. But then, so do most kids. And people. Hell, I spent a lifetime living in the heart of green chile country and hating green chile. I was dumb. I came around, the way it often happens. But I just don’t know that forcing him into something as a toddler is the right way to do it. When we can reason with him later and say “Just one bite, and then if you don’t like it, you don’t have to have anymore” that seems to be a better time to address your concerns than by force-feeding him.

D: Yeah, I just keep thinking it will help other scenarios- eating with other kids, eating at daycare, hell, enjoying a variety of food! He’s so picky about every kind of food right now as it is, it’s frustrating to offer a food like ice cream or candy bars or pure sugar only to have him react like we’re feeding him a bucket of chum! He should be happy to finally be getting something he’ll eat and enjoy! That’s the frustration with the forceful denial lately. It seems so counter productive.

M: He IS forceful lately, that’s for sure. But I think (and hope and pray) that it’s all NORMAL. Which, theoretically, means that someday it will be equally normal for him to try foods, or enjoy treats, or eat things that are delicious.

D: Yeah, it’s that whole “living life to the fullest” thing I’m always focused on. I want him to try as many foods as possible early on, to cultivate a variety of flavors and tastes, to not make some of the mistakes we made with food and our pallets. That, and the whole balanced nutrition thing. Chalk this one up as another notch in the parental frustration board.

M: That board’s getting LOTS of notches lately. Toddlerhood basically has us whittling the damn thing into a toothpick.

D: I’m assuming we’re gonna go through a few of them. They send us a new one every few years, I hope?

M: They really should have made the stupid thing a whiteboard.

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