We took Fainjin along to see a dietitian today, to discuss his self-restricted diet.  Within the first two minutes, I found myself biting my lip, and reminding myself to listen, don’t get defensive, just listen.  The appointment lasted 30 minutes, and things didn’t really get better for me.

It’s my fault.  I should have moved him from purees to chunks earlier when he was an infant.  I’ve given him too much control over his food and eating choices.  He’s naughty, and we don’t handle that appropriately.

No-one has ever called him naughty before.  “He’s so good!” “What a charmer!”  “A delightful wee man!” – those are the sorts of comments I’m used to hearing.

So now, if he refuses to taste his dinner, he’s to go into time out.  Suddenly, it felt like we were in an impromptu episode of Supernanny, the hopelessly incompetent parents being re-educated.  He should go into his room with no toys.  EH?  Where should we keep his toys then? Don’t get defensive, don’t look for the negatives, listen to what she has to say.

When he does taste his dinner, he should get an instant reward, like a sticker chart or similar.  “That’s not really his sort of thing…” I venture.  “What motivates him?  What reward works?” I look back at her helplessly and feel like a total failure.  Don’t I know my own child?

The truth is, he’s always been so self-contained, he doesn’t seem to need much input from outside sources.  He entertains himself.  He does have great social skills and plays really well with other kids, but he doesn’t need them – or us – to have a good time.   A new toy is great, but he’ll be happy without one.  A sticker?  So what?  Attention is nice, but denial of attention (eg, time out) will pass, he can wait it out without suffering.  Praise is enjoyable, but no motivation for doing anything.

I tried to explain this, but I don’t think I managed to get it across.

The word naughty was repeated several times, and we were made to see our inadequacies.  “What happens when he’s naughty about other things?” We describe our reactions to a couple of circumstances… “So, there are really no consequences for him.  He’s been getting away with it for far too long”.

We left with tails between our legs, and I, at least, have had my confidence badly shaken.  Oh, and I’m not feeding Babess properly, either.

We’ll make an honest effort to follow her advice.  I know we’re not perfect parents, and I’m sure there are ways we can be better at it.  I just didn’t expect to feel so awful.

4 Responses to “Chastened”

  1. PB and Jazz Says:

    I would get a second opinion. Do either of your other children have the same issue? Have you done anything different? Something is wrong here. I know this is my unprofessional opinion, I am not a nutritionist but I am a mom and I work with preschoolers. I have a friend whose son would only eat 3 foods for years. He now eats everything. I would get a second opinion. I am sure you could have done somethings differently but who isn’t that way. Is this person a parent? Keep searching. Coming from an obese nation, punishing and rewarding over food scares me. How about offering choices this or that and empowering your child. Just a thought.

  2. Jill Says:

    Poor thing! (you, not Fainjin. He’s just fine.) I don’t like your dietitian, and if I lived closer I might come and say some sharp words to her for crushing a good mummy’s feelings so utterly. Because you *are* a good mummy, and don’t let anyone make you forget it!
    A dietitian knows a great deal about nutrition. However, she is not a child psychologist, nor Supernanny, and she has never been to your home, seen your parenting in action, or witnessed what a lovely child your little boy is in most ways not related to mealtime. She based her strong opinions of Fainjin’s naughtiness (alleged) and how you should handle it on a very small bit of information in a 30-min appointment. So try to take her dietary advice, certainly, but don’t take any direct or implied charges of inferior parenting to heart in the least.
    Also, as your pediatrician has probably told you, but this lady seems to have neglected: Many children are picky or strange eaters at various stages of life, sometimes for quite long at a time, without any lasting harm. I myself spent most of my 5th and 6th year eating almost nothing but cheese on toast and applesauce, and I grew up just fine in the end. If he is generally healthy and growing well, and getting at least a small variety of food types, then there is no crisis. If it will help you worry less, give him an appropriate child’s multi-vitamin until he learns to eat a more varied diet.
    Improving his eating habits is just something to work on over time, like improving his vocabulary, his manners, his manual skills, and his ability to refrain from hitting people who take his toys. No need to obsess or turn every mealtime into a battle. Just take it slow and trust yourself to know your child and do what’s right for your family. After all, you have a good 20 years or so to teach him to eat his veggies 😀

  3. upsidebackwards Says:

    Don’t worry, I’m not taking up the Worst Mother In The Whole Universe crown just yet! My kids are nice people. That has to count for a lot, and at least some of that has to be our fault, right?!
    I suspect there is more than a grain of truth in what we were told, though. I would have said we were choosing our battles, but perhaps we have been avoiding them. It wasn’t presented in the most tactful way – condescending and accusatory were two of the words Fainjin’s dad used afterwards – but I suspect dietitians are trained out of sugar-coating things (oh, I am so witty).
    We went along because we needed help. We’ll try these things and see if they work. I’ll keep you posted.

  4. minichick Says:

    I know nothing about a child’s development of taste, but is there any chance that he may be more interested in flavour rather than substance of the food? My assumption is based on your earlier note that he prefers chicken and herb tortellini to plain pasta. Could you try putting an appropriate amount of herbs used in the tortellini (rosemary? thyme? oregano?) in his food?

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