...are doing the child a grave disservice. I'm not talking about Rancid Pickle
's serving food that the child himself takes on his plate for the next meal. "You take it, you finish it at some point before you get anything else." That is not forcing
him to eat when he's not hungry.
I'm talking about the parents who believe that their child is not chubby enough, chubby being equated with healthy in children below the age of 5.
A boy entered my daycare when he was three. His parents told me, "he doesn't eat right, you must sit with him, and feed him what I give you. He won't want it, but you must take the spoon and make him eat it." I was dumbfounded. A three year old unable to feed himself? The very first meal I saw, I could not believe. A bowl heaping with noodles, vegetables and meat. Very healthy, yes. The quantity was more than I, a full grown adult, could ever finish at one sitting. The size was completely innappropriate for a three year old.
The boy was very unhappy as the meal time hour approached. He would sit listless next to the other children, hands at his side, staring out the window, at the ceiling, anywhere that was NOT on his plate. I did not feed him. I gave him a fork and said, "eat what you like, you don't have to finish it." He sat there quietly crying, but did not eat.
He did eat a few bites of carrots and a few sips of milk that I offered for snack later. For a week, this continued. He was sent the same thing every day. No variety what-so-ever. The parents berated me for not force feeding the child. The parents berated the child, in front of the other kids, for being a bad child and not eating. After that, I chucked the food out. Yes, bad me, but I could see right away the child had serious food issues and something needed to be done, quickly. The child was controlling the one thing that he could control, that which entered his mouth. The parents forcing it was making matters worse and they could not see that. That evening I told the parents, they didn't have to pack for him. I would provide all his meals during the day. "What will it cost me?" nothing extra. free. So the journey began to fix what needed fixing so badly.
It took 6 months of offering varying foods. Breakfast, snack, lunch, snack. Served family style. Take what you like. He started trying new foods, small portions at a time at least at two of the serving times. He started to help pick out what we would have for snack. He started to help prepare it. He started to smile more. He started to eat, on his own, when he was hungry. He started to look forward to meal times.
When he was with me a year, the parents announced that they were providing his meals again. They were angry. At his four year old checkup he had gained "only" four pounds from the previous year. He was too skinny. I was starving the boy. They told me in no uncertain terms that I was to feed the boy everything that they provided. I was to sit there and make him finish every bite. I told them that they were WRONG. I printed out every nutrition pamphlet I had for them. I researched healthy eating, childhood behavior, etc, etc. I gave them articles on food disorders. I gave them the nutrition guidelines. I gave them copies of the menus, the kids and I had carefully planned. I belonged to one of the nutrition programs for kids. I had training every three months. I was monitored by the state. I know of what I speak. Force feeding leads to eating disorders, feelings of low self-worth, feelings of having no control. A three year old is busting out to have some control over his world! I also told them that I would NOT force feed the child. Period. If they didn't like it, they would have to find alternative daycare.
They did not remove him. They sent food. I offered it, along with the meals I offered as a group to the kids. He ate what he liked. I tossed out what he did not eat. It was not spoken of again. He ate healthily for any normal preschooler. The parents sucked up their disapproval of my methods and put up with me. Why do you ask? Not because they accepted any of my arguments or evidence that I knew what I was doing when it came to the health and welfare of young children. Not because their son was happy. They put up with me because I was the cheapest child care that they could find.
Sometimes the parenting I saw made me want to cry.