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We have a 3 year old who started with us a few months ago. She was very difficult to settle at first but since she came back after the summer holidays has been much more confident, almost getting a bit too rough with the other children.

The real problem is that she has hysterics when we suggest a snack. She drinks out of her own bottle but won't even sit at the snack table without screaming. Mum tells us she is the same at home and hardly eats, never sits at the table and only likes junk food.

We have been a bit firmer this week and strongly encouraged her just to sit at the snack table, giving her praise and stickers when she does, even for a moment. I think this method will get her to sit there but nothing seems likely to get her to eat, even when we offered bisuits which we know she likes at home. She just keeps repeating "I won't eat!"

I see this as a big problem for her when she goes to school next year and would like to help more.

Any suggestions would be great.

Jane

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If you are to have any chance of improving matters for this little one I think you will have to work very closely with her parents and regain control over mealtimes. The language she is using suggests that she is well aware that she is winning a power struggle.

 

If you ignore her refusal to sit with you and eat and concentrate on having a lovely social time with the other children at the table perhaps she will decide to come and join you. Be welcoming to her if she does join you but don't offer attention when she is away from the table. Trying to persuade her to sit at the table and eat could be reinforcing her behaviour.

 

Are you aware of what reaction she gets at home to not eating? It sounds like she might be getting exactly what she wants. Has mum spoken to the health visitor?

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I'm sure you are quite right and it is a power struggle which the child is easily winning.

Her parents are very young and have a rough time recently including a death in the family which they feel the child took very badly. They phoned us up at the start of the term and said she was too upset to come back but when we encouraged them to try she was absolutely fine apart from the food issue.

They have spoken to a health visitor who didn't seem to help much but that may well be the way that the parents reacted to the advice.

Everything needs to be slow and gentle, more for the parents than the child. However, I'm not sure what we do will make much difference if they aren't willing to be tougher with her.

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However, I'm not sure what we do will make much difference if they aren't willing to be tougher with her.

 

It's a shame but I don't think you will be able to do much if they aren't going to make changes at home.

 

I have childminded a couple of children like this over the years. They both soon realised that I was not going to get stressed if they chose not to eat. I made a point of never ever offering them food or trying to get them to the high chair or table. I always waited until they asked. As soon as they refused anything it disappeared. We had lovely relaxed mealtimes with lots of chat and attention for those who were participating. One mum refused to believe that her son was eating so much until a mutual friend saw it and reported back.

 

I guess you are in a pre-school so you probably only have snack-time to work with her. I suppose it depends on what she had for breakfast and whether she actually feels hungry mid-morning. If you think biscuits might work try just offering them to the children at the table without commenting on what she is doing. I'm quite sure she'll pick up on what is going on and with a bit of luck she'll realise she's missing out after a few sessions and come to join in. If you can turn things around for her in the setting, perhaps you could build on it later by helping her parents to make some progress at home.

 

Good luck. She's lucky to have you taking such an interest.

 

Let us know how you get on.

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We are a playgroup and have a rolling snack so she always has something else to do while the snack is out.

You have made me think that we could get her to play games at the table we use for snack when it is not on which might make the place seem safer for her. Worth a try anyway.

 

Thanks for your help.

Jane

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