I have a 4 1/2 yr old. We're at the stage where he's definitely finicky over foods. The issue is not so much that he's finicky, but that he expresses it by taking a bite and then mock choking. I am trying to convey that choking is a very bad way to convey this. Sure, I'd love to fix the "I don't want to eat this" problem, but right now I'm more concerned about the mock choking as a way of expression.

  • I should specify.. the mock choking is coughing on the food as if he is trying to act like he's choking but he's not really. It's very obvious to tell that he's not actually choking. Think Tom Hanks in Big eating the Paté Mar 31, 2011 at 16:28

5 Answers 5


One answer could be a serious reaction to mock-choking. What would you do if your child really choked on food? You'd probably act fast and not in an entirely funny manner. Also, you'd have a seriously concerned face. "This time it looked like you really were choking! I was afraid!"

The important point is to be serious, not mock-serious. Also, does he know the tale about the boy that cried wolf every time? Mention it, and he'll make a connection, I suspect.

  • 3
    Thinking exactly the same thing! Including the wolf story!
    – nGinius
    Mar 31, 2011 at 12:34
  • 2
    I would break this down into two steps though. One, introduce, "The Boy who Cried Wolf." Discuss why the actions are bad news. If that doesn't work, Then administer the hemilich (with less force than needed for the real thing) and act like you didn't know for sure. Nov 27, 2012 at 17:00
  • 7
    Please have a trained person explain the Heimlich before trying it on people yourself - you're likely to break ribs or worse, and usually there are things you should try before resorting to a Heimlich maneuver - it is a last resort, when the other option is death by suffocation. It is really not meant as a plaything.
    – Konerak
    Jan 3, 2013 at 12:13
  • @balancedmama Perhaps this is appropriate of a different question, but at what age is it better to attempt a Heimlich than it is to, oh I don't know the name, but to flip them upside down and give firm thrusts to the back? We were advised to do that to our little one (very little, almost 2 and not even 20 pounds) because she has a problem swallowing, and I'm wondering at what size would we do a Heimlich...
    – corsiKa
    Mar 10, 2014 at 23:49
  • @corsiKa At a first aid class I recently took, the guideline was to treat a person as an adult (for CPR and Heimlich) if you believe they are at least one year old, and as an infant if you believe them to be younger than one year. This is based on the average body sizes of a one-year-old, though, so if your two-year-old is smaller than average, you may need to adjust. If you are concerned with being prepared to act in an emergency, I suggest you ask your pediatrician (or perhaps local fire department?) for guidance.
    – pkaeding
    Aug 29, 2014 at 17:19

As a counter-point to @9000's suggestion, try ignoring him completely (assuming you can tell the difference between mock and not!). Most behaviours such are a method of garnering attention.

But whatever you do, only choose one course of action, don't confuse him by switching between the two.

  • This can work, too! This very much depends if this is demonstrative behavior. Does it start only when parents turn to him?
    – 9000
    Mar 31, 2011 at 14:08
  • I think this is the better answer. Making the choking not achieve the results the child wants is the best way to stop it. Not to hype up how dangerous real choking is (that seems to me to encourage the power of fake choking). Jun 12, 2011 at 0:55

This is very serious. I would treat every apparent "choke" as real choking (as 9000 says). If it turned out to be fake after the fact, I think it would constitute some discipline. Basically your child is faking something that could kill them. I think some time out or whatever discipline you practice would be appropriate.


You need to make sure you are responding to his "I don't want to eat that" then. Otherwise, you've left him with no choice but to up the ante.


Take away all incentives to fake choking by making any choking behavior the end of the meal, or at least the start of a significant time period without food.

Whether fake or real, such an outcome is reasonable, and conditions the right behavior.

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