…I kept telling myself that you had said it was normal and, I have to say, that mealtimes have been much more relaxed and enjoyable now that I have been able to give the older children their own responsibility… It has been hard to break the habit of praising amounts of food eaten, but we are getting there…
And then, over the past few days, suddenly there have been steps forward…On Sunday we were invited round to friends’ for lunch. I told them that we would carry on exactly like at home and if food was served straight onto plates, they should eat what they wanted and then put their cutlery together and, if asked, simply say that they’ve had enough, thank you. I can’t remember the last time I was so relaxed when out for a meal. They ate beautifully, tried everything (I think – I wasn’t actually watching them like a hawk!) and it was a lovely meal. My biggest issue was the little one escaping from her booster seat rather than trying to force the older two to “eat a couple more bites”!
Yesterday at tea, the three-year-old had eaten what he wanted and was sitting there with his (untouched) pieces of sausage on his plate and suddenly asked: “What does that taste like?” I said that if he wanted he could try a piece and then turned my attention to something else (pretending that I wasn’t at all bothered what he did with his sausage!). When I came to clear away, he had eaten all the sausage! I’m very pleased to say that I didn’t comment at all, even though I wanted to punch the air and say “YES!” And this evening, my oldest had (wheat-free!) spaghetti with (tomato-less!) bolognaise sauce and carrots on her plate. Spaghetti always goes down well, but suddenly she said: “This sauce is delicious – could I have some more, please?” and then “If there’s any left, can I take some in my lunchbox tomorrow?” I managed not to fall off my chair and handed her the serving bowl so she could help herself. This is the child who fussed and fussed so much in the past as I tried to make her eat “just a couple of mouthfuls” of the very same bolognaise sauce.
Seeing I was so quick to write to you when I was concerned, I just wanted to share the good times with you, too, Katja, and thank you again for all your wonderful work.
I have highlighted some of the wonderful passages in this (heartwarming to me) email. Common themes emerge when instituting the DOR and learning to trust your children with eating.
• it takes patience, progress can feel painfully slow
• the first thing to change is usually the attitude. Parents tell me meals are more fun, less stressful (but still struggle to keep the worry and subsequent pressure about what and how much the kids are eating in check.)
• often, suddenly children seem to take off with skills and food acceptance after a long, trying time of seeming not to make any “progress” (hence my photo of a flower blooming in the desert)
• this ‘suddenly’ may be a long time coming if you have an especially cautious child, one with sensory issues or on the spectrum, but this trust model of feeding can and does work in those situations, but takes a lot of patience and trust from the parents
• feeding habits are hard to break (praising, pushing to eat two more bites…)
• you will probably have to fake it at first. Pretend not to care what they eat etc. It will get easier and more automatic with time.
• undue fussing and fighting over eating is most often a reaction to pressure, or crossing the lines of the Division of Responsibility, i.e you trying to do your child’s job of deciding how much to eat.
• it can and does get better
• this mom shared that she is in a recovery process from an eating disorder. Parents who haven’t figured out their own eating can do better by their children, and even find the children to be a source of healing and motivation.
Have you “suddenly” seen steps forward? Have you been able to wait it out? Do you find your child’s success to be a motivator for you? (As I did.)