Our youngest is 18 months old, and only wants to eat by herself 90% of the time. This 90% encompasses 100% of her eating time with me. She will eat for her mother or grammy, but just laughs and doddles away from me when I try to feed her. It is most definitely a game to her, and she thinks its hilarious. I don’t think its funny really at all, although sometimes I laugh cause she’s so damn cute.
The battle that is really going on here is a battle of control. She wants to be completely in control of everything. Obviously this can’t happen for many reasons. So we must give them a little slack and see what they do with it. Yogurt is likely the worst kind of slack to give. She is able to eat yogurt on her own with a spoon, a vertical spoon that is. This has proven to be a very effective way to dollop yogurt all over the floor, her clothes, the furniture, the unassuming sleeping dog. Just about everything under about 2 feet tall is fair game for this little monster. Here is my battle. I know she wants yogurt, and her only chance at eating any is if she is in control. I just don’t want to clean up the whole house from 1 cup of yogurt. The slack I am giving is the cup of yogurt, and the damage rendered every time is previously stated. I have tried to sit her in plenty of places and feed her. I have also tried to feed her helicopter style in which I follow her around, or the other case where she aimlessly circles and drops in now and again for a bite. Any way you slice it, the yogurt is not all going in the child. In fact most of it will be slung all willynilly about the house. Is is bad that this drives me nuts?
Psyching yourself up for breakfast shouldn’t be a thing. But it is here, that the beginning battles of the day are housed. Hangry children I wouldn’t wish on anyone. And as the minutes in the morning pass, each momentary decision walks the edge of the cliff with treachery. What do they feel like today? Do we even have anything they will eat? Can we just have a breakfast buffet in our house? The conversation is simple. Feed your children, and do so such that they have nutritious choices. Easier said than done.
Control ends up being the biggest perpetrator of issues with our little ones. They are learning about their little worlds, and learning about relationships. They are learning to navigate these bodies and these voices. We as parents have to remember this. Its so easy to just jump into a battle with them. Realizing that they don’t always have the tools to understand things like we do is a huge help. The take a breath approach has helped a ton in these instances.
I find that the biggest issue I have is the walking into a mess situation. If I know a spill is imminent, and I go ahead and give them the thing to spill, am I just adding to my own nightmare? The answer is “NO”. I had to tell myself this over and over again. Because I have been cleaning up messes for years from this exact situation. The focus of this whole interaction is on their progress, its not on my cleaning, or my mental state. We all learn by doing, when it is appropriate for them to understand the orientation of a spoon, and the dolloping of yogurt, they will. We as parents, most importantly I as a parent, need to understand and be patient with them learning. We need to give them enough slack to learn. We need to grant them the freedom to fail. They need to have the latitude to live their lives and learn. They also need the support to understand why things happen. This is not for us to lay out for them. We are passengers on this train. Not that we don’t have a say, or that we have to sit idle, but we need to empower our children to claim their space in life. We need to empower our children to manage themselves. We just need to empower our children. So, as I will be doing, keep your mouth shut and just clean up the yogurt pops.