I am a 29 year old single mother of a first grade boy. I'm writing to you because I'm having problems getting men I like to continue dating me due to my son's behavior.
Men like me but when they meet my son they back up. I guess they see me and my son as a problem they don't want to deal with, so they leave.
My son is a picky eater and constantly cries (throws tantrums and whines), when he doesn't get what he wants to eat. I've tried time outs, I've tried talking, I've tried yelling, I've tried spanking on the hand, I've tried being mean, nice, everything you can think of!
But he keeps throwing these tantrums about food. I don't understand why. He's 6-1/2 years old and he knows better.
It's hard to find a guy I feel is decent in San Francisco already, but when I have it always goes bust after they meet my child. I love my son to death, but I want adult male companionship too. I need help or I'll be single forever!
At the End of my Rope
I understand how frustrated you must be after years of this type of behavior from your son. I have a couple of suggestions.
First, make an appointment for a complete physical that includes blood work. Make sure there is no medical reason for his resistance to food. Allergies, gluten sensitivity, digestive problems, juvenile diabetes, etc.
You want to rule out a physical reaction that may cause pain for the child as the reason he resists eating the food you serve. Sometimes a simple modification of the TYPE of food served that provides the same nutritional value will make all the difference.
Second, do not argue with him or try to reason with him while he is in the middle of his meltdown. I know this stuff is making you crazy, but screaming at him, threats, or arguing back and forth is not going to work. Try to remain calm - you must maintain control even if he is losing it.
Third, have a conversation with him about his behavior in a neutral setting that he enjoys. Say, if he loves bubble baths and playing with his boats in the tub, then sit next to him and talk to him THEN. You want to get him in a relaxed state where he will be less likely to challenge you. You may find out a surprising reason why he acts such a fool about meals that he never shared with you before.
Fourth, make sure that his tantrums aren't his chief way of getting your attention. Children are brilliant and will get our attention "by any means necessary". In other words, they do what works. So if being good didn't work, your child will try being naughty and combative. Either way they have your attention, which is all they want.
Make an effort the next week or two to spend more time with him, talk to him, hold his hand when you are out places, sit next to him and color or play video games or whatever it is that 6-1/2 year old boys do. Invite him to help you fold laundry, cook, shop and do dishes. Set up opportunities for him to be with Mommy while learning valuable life skills.
He is after all, just a little guy and since you're a single parent, he is very attached to you.
Lastly, do not reward his errant behavior. Don't give in to him and give him what he asks for, whatever you do. That teaches your child that if he acts a fool long enough, the parent will give in and they will get what they want.
After clearing his special dietary needs with his pediatrician (if any), he must learn that he will eat at least 3 bites of what is put in front of him, or he gets nothing. That means all vegetables or main dishes will have at least 3 bites from them before he is considered finished with his meal.
If he doesn't want what is served and insists he hates everything, he is to get up from the table and leave the kitchen. He will be in his room for the rest of the night. All food is put away until the next meal. He is not to be given any snacks except maybe a piece of fruit. Trust me, he won't die if he misses a meal or two, or even an entire day of food.
Parents worry about sending their child to bed without dinner. Ha! Hunger pangs will eventually overrule any little brat's need to control his or her parent, and the child will then eat the food you provide and be happy to have it.
I remember when my daughter was about four a friend had a work emergency and needed me to watch her 7 year old child overnight while she filled in for a coworker at a conference. It was Saturday and I was at home. My daughter liked her daughter, so there was no problem. I was making lunch when they arrived - tuna sandwiches, fruit and home made potato chips.
My friend informed me that her daughter was a picky eater, didn't like tuna and wouldn't eat it, and asked if I could cook her something else. I was thinking "this ain't Burger King and you don't get to 'have it your way!'" but I thought to ask "is she allergic to fish?" The mother said no.
So then I calmly said "I made tuna and that is what we are having."
So she leaves. Her daughter sits at the table and eats the chips and the fruit. Didn't touch the tuna sandwich. I wrapped it up and put it in the refrigerator for later without a peep.
So dinnertime rolls around. I'm making that kid favorite Spaghetti & Meatballs, broccoli with baby carrots, and salad. She was excited about dinner and was talking about how hungry she was. I just looked at her because she didn't know the deal but was about to find out!
At dinner I sat out the plates. Hers was a tuna sandwich. My daughter and I had spaghetti. She couldn't believe it. I told her in my house we do not waste food. That since she didn't eat her lunch, she could eat it now. She knew Aunty Debbie was serious and started eating. She decided she liked tuna after all.
I had her stop after half so that she could enjoy some spaghetti with us. I wrapped up the other half of the sandwich so she could eat it later which she did as a snack with a small glass of milk. She went to bed happy.
So you see, there is no reason to fight with picker eaters about food. They either eat it or not. Handling their tantrums about food merely requires you to be strong enough not give in. This is a great skill set for most women to develop, as boys big or small respond well to women that set firm boundaries and expectations for their behavior.
There is no need to yell, no need to hit the child, and one must definitely not overdo the niceness routine. Just be firm in your stance that this is the meal, you eat it or you eat nothing. The End.