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... Other than chocolate cake and ham sandwiches of course!

I'm seeking help with what seems like a 3 year problem. I have a 6 year old who other than breakfast cereal, ham sandwiches, and chocolate will absolutely refuse to eat anything. Even foods that he has eaten happily in the past like pizza or pasta he will just not eat it randomly until now where he's extremely picky and stubborn. His younger sibling (3 years old) usually eats everything, but has began to copy his older brother sometimes - something that really is a shame!

Things we have tried (and been consistent with over the last 3 years)

  • dessert only after meal finished.
  • we always sit and eat together for breakfast and dinner
  • no snacks between meals (this one is only over the last 2 months because it has got so bad)
  • "it's ok if you only eat half of your meal"
  • appropriate portion sizes
  • when he insists he's full without eating anything, he then asks for cake or cereal - we don't give in to this.
  • prepare meals with him (only dinner every weekend at the moment - we may have to go to weeknights too). Will enjoy cooking but won't eat any of it.
  • we give him a choice of food to eat that night and even after choosing i.e "I want pizza" he will then just push it away.

We really don't know what else to do. He will go days without eating if we let him and say he's hungry, but again won't eat anything other than sandwiches. Our Health Visitor just recommends giving in and giving him sandwiches if he goes 24 hours without eating which is what we do, but I just feel we are re-enforcing good result eating habits.

He will randomly decide he likes a certain food and we will sort of latch on to that and make it twice a week and then randomly decides he won't eat it ever again. So over the last 3 years he has tried (and liked!) quite a lot, but he's just so stubborn.

Does anyone have any advice?

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Here's an article from Harvard, written by a physician, that gives some info about children that are picky eaters.

To end all struggles at dinner I'd suggest giving your son a sandwich and the food that the family is eating, on his plate, every night.

Even when he participates in cooking, giving him a plate with the food he cooked and a sandwich will give him real choices.

By saying nothing about what he eats or doesn't, you create a family space where he's free to choose.

By giving your son foods you know he'll eat and the food that the family is eating, you know that your son will get the calories he needs, and you give him the control that he wants, within the boundaries that you set.

Food is so central to life that children need the security of knowing they'll always be fed, and if, for your son, that means sandwiches every night, for now, and into the future, then sandwiches are the solution.

Don't give up on him eating other very yummy foods, he's still a child, and his food preferences will change over time, and that's a food journey that you can support, but must happen at his pace.


Update: Whatever you choose to do, feed your child.

As a parent you have to choose your battles, and food should not be one of them.

Children are who they are. They are born to us as tiny humans, small people who then develop their own likes and dislikes.

Yes, you need to maintain your authority as the parent, but doing so in a way that means your child does not eat is detrimental to you and your child and your relationship with your child.

You can maintain your authority while also making changes that provide your son food he wants to eat and will eat every day at every meal.

Maybe your son is stubborn?

If so, as his parent, it's your job to work with him in a way that shows how much you love him and shows that you will take care of him.

Letting your son go without food teaches him the opposite.

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    This sounds a lot like the "division of responsibility" for feeding children, so OP may be able to google that for more information. But yes, you need to take all the stress of you, and him, around eating to help him redevelop a healthy attitude to food. If his intake really is as restricted as that (two safe foods) then consider ARFID - Avoidant/Restrictive food intake disorder (beateatingdisorders.org.uk/get-information-and-support/…)
    – R Davies
    Jan 11 at 14:01

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