All the questions and answers come directly from Smart Love Solutions in Early Childhood-A Handbook for Parents, Teachers and Caregivers by Drs. Martha Heineman Pieper and William J. Pieper.
My 2 ½ year-old used to be a good eater. Now, he only wants to eat bread, butter and jelly. I thought it was a phase, but it’s been going on now for three months, and I don’t see an end in sight. I have tried telling him he can’t have this butter and jelly sandwich, until he eats some meat and vegetables, but he throws a complete tantrum and doesn’t eat anything. Some days it seems like all we ever talk or think about is what he is eating. I am at my wit’s end.
A: The first step is to consult your pediatrician and find out what foods besides jelly sandwiches, vitamins and milk your son needs to eat to stay healthy. Then take your son to the pediatrician and let him hear the doctor tell him what additional foods he needs every day.
Choose one meal, and make sure your son eats the added foods before he gets his jelly sandwich. If he cries, wait him out without becoming angry or isolating him. Eventually, he will be hungry enough to eat the necessary food and move on to his favorite dish. The point is that you are not arguing with your child over food preferences, you are only using the same principle as when you give him medicine or put him in his car seat; there are certain things that have to happen to keep him safe, and those are not negotiable.
In general it is pointless to go to war with any child, especially a two-year-old, over food preferences. If you begin using punishments or rewards for eating, you open a door you don’t want to go through, because you will be stuck with the consequences for years to come. Hardly a meal will go by without your having to use threats or rewards to get your child to eat.
So remain firm, consistent and caring. Within the limits of preserving his health, let him eat bread, butter and jelly to his heart’s content. At some point he will outgrow this food fad and move on and will outgrow it sooner rather than later, if you can avoid making a power struggle out of it.