Aiden has always been a thumb sucker. I tried my hardest to get him to use a soother as a baby, since he was so fussy, but it only ever lasted a day or two. Once he could find his thumb, it was his default whenever he was tired or overwhelmed. He went through times where he would suck his thumb less, but I still would say he was a pretty heavy thumb sucker. In the car, watching tv, reading, bored – always there.
When Aiden began preschool, he was asked to stop thumb sucking there and he was ok with that. Our thought had been to kick the habit before age 5 with work to begin when he turned 4. However, not yet 4, the habit is gone. Here’s how it went down…
Aiden was at the dentist, where we discussed our plans for addressing the thumb sucking. Despite what we discussed, the dentist approached Aiden and told him that we had “agreed” to stop thumb sucking and that the dentist would give him a prize if he could do it. Well, we were like “oh crap,” but Aiden was relaxed: “Ok!” So, if he was on board, we got on board. I quickly made up a chart with an additional prize reward after 2 weeks of success, one I knew he wanted but that was a pain to get (so I’d told him he wouldn’t get for his birthday). Well, that did it. He was very highly motivated.
That night, Aiden struggled for a while, clearly saying “I’m really trying not to suck my thumb” many times. And he didn’t suck it. His complaints went down within 3 days and only from time to time is it now apparent that he is craving it. For a while, he complained of being tired throughout the day and after a while I realized it was at times when he would have otherwise sucked his thumb. Overall, it was super easy (for us) and we are so impressed with his personal drive to stop a very difficult habit. I’d say that since he kicked the thumb sucking it actually mellowed him out – perhaps he had to learn a different way to calm down or maybe the thumb was making him tired/grumpy sometimes. Nice bonus outcome.
Although Aiden no longer sucks his thumb during the day or to fall asleep, we do sometimes see him sucking his thumb during the middle of the night when he’s asleep. Since this is obviously when he is doing it unconsciously, we’ve let it slide.
The reward chart worked really well in this situation, but it has not helped at all with potty training at night. Just goes to show how readiness is a key factor in the success of these methods.
Toddlers are picky eaters. It’s one of the only things in their lives they have control over, so you really can’t blame them. As a baby, Aiden would eat almost anything I put in front of him (except fish). As a toddler, not so much.
Though he does like his food with some pizzaz (heck, he’ll ask for hot sauce on a quesedilla), he has definite preferences for types of food and how its presented to him. He also goes through food phases where a much beloved food (butter chicken) can suddenly become one of the many foods on the “no yike it” list.
Though we try not to cook for Aiden, our cooking choices are definitely impacted by what Aiden will or will not eat. We try to offer him a variety of healthy foods, so we tend to cook meals where we can set aside items he may like before mixing, saucing or spicing them up for ourselves, if necessary. We will also less frequently make foods he has never enjoyed, which is kind of a pity when we like those foods ourselves.
Aiden likes foods unmixed. He prefers his vegetables steamed only (no sauces of any kind) and doesn’t like most foods that group together (stir-fry, casserole, etc). In some cases, we can deconstruct the meals, taking out the food items he’s likely to eat and presenting them separately. I recently discovered that he will in fact eat fruit salad – if I re-separate out the constituent parts. Go figure.
I wish feeding a toddler was a straightforward thing, but it’s not. There are mysteries to every food critic, including mine, such as:
- Why will Aiden only eat cheese that is melted? Or Babybel (sometimes)?
- Why will he eat Mexican rice, with carrots and corn, but not other rice dishes?
- Why will he eat skin on apples but not touch fruit like kiwi or strawberries (because they look like they have seeds)?
- Why will he eat steak with a sauce on it but not the broccoli with the same sauce?
Our Picky Eater Tactics
We’ve tried many things to get Aiden to eat a more varied diet. Some of them have worked. For example, I can get Aiden to eat more fruit if I offer peanut butter for dipping. The same trick has not worked for vegetables or other food, however, as he doesn’t like other dips of any kind or even ketchup.
I’ve found that if I offer a plate of food with at least one food I know he likes, in a smaller quantity, that he will sometimes continue after that food onto others. Sometimes cutting food into new shapes, or involving him in its preparation, will work – but mostly not. Bribery (yes, tried it) works to get Aiden to eat more of a certain food, but won’t compel him to eat other foods he’s rejected at that particular meal.
We repeatedly offer Aiden new foods to try. To give him credit, he does try a lot of foods – some of them are just spit out after a few chews or rejected after a couple of bites. Other times, persistence pays off. This past week, Aiden has tried a strawberry, ravioli, oatmeal and brussels sprouts. He’s been offered these many times before, and even used to like some of them, but had rejected them for a long span of time. We typically just place the food on his plate – a verbal question on trying the food will always be met with a ‘No’.
We will continue to make progress, and have set-backs, I’m sure. This piece of advice has helped me a lot in struggling with this issue: consider a toddler diet as a week-long balancing act. Some days they may eat a lot of protein, others a lot of fruit. So long as the week seems to balance, don’t worry too much about the day-to-day.
Is your toddler a picky eater? In what way?
… And they are not likely to give it to you. At least not my toddler. The more we ‘need’ space, the less Aiden seems willing to play independently. He will cry and tantrum for movies, for books or for playing with one of us. He becomes completely incapable of independent play.
Such common times for this are when we are cooking, when Mommy is working or even during the day if I’m tired and ask for him to play. The more we ‘ask’ for independent play, the less it seems to happen.
As the pregnancy progresses, I find myself in need of more ‘me’ time, being both tired and a little wary of my two-child future. I’m finding I would like a little more ‘freedom’, even if it’s just 5 minutes where I’m not explaining something or reading a book. I spend even less time at home just so that Aiden is encouraged, by being out, to play on his own.
When independent play happens at home, it’s awesome and it can last a long time. But I have learned that it cannot be asked for.
Aiden has been a much easier toddler than he was as an infant – mobility and communication have gone a long way to making him less fussy. That said, he’s not without his moments. He whines a lot, testing his voice and his limits. If you don’t respond to his question, demand or statement, he says it louder and louder until you respond. He will shriek when both very excited or annoyed, which we’re trying unsuccessfully to modulate.
One of the biggest areas for yelling and tantrumming involves Aiden’s wish to be carried. I swear I hear “Mommy, Up” a hundred times a day. He’ll whine “Mommy, Up. Ahhhh!” over and over again, even if he is up. It’s become his general whine. I would really prefer not to carry him, but it’s not the easiest situation to avoid. Sometimes it results in a very very long trip back to the car when I put my foot down and he does too.
In the above photo, I was trying to get him to walk. To avoid yelling, I get down to his level, look in his eyes, and tell him he can walk on his own or he can hold my hand. It works most of the time, though it may take a few repetitions. This time, he did me one up by crawling instead.
Aiden was testing his – and my – limits this afternoon. Generally, speaking, I try to avoid saying ‘No’ whenever necessary. However, we do use other terms that are cautionary, like ‘not in the mouth’ or ‘don’t touch’, with explanation.
This afternoon, while playing outside, Aiden chose the most annoying place to explore. Annoying because it’s an area where ‘No’ needs to come out more than I would like in free outdoor play. In our back alley, there is an area next to another house with rock fill and garbage cans and an old flag pole holder that fills with stagnant water. This is where he wanted to explore, of course.
When I heard him voice ‘Nom’ holding a rock, I had to say ‘not in the mouth’, of course. Which meant, more than anything, that Aiden had to repeatedly attempt to put the rock in his mouth and/or lick it. ‘Don’t touch that broom, it’s not ours’ was welcomed by a tentative finger reaching out to poke at the broom, just in defiance. And the stagnant water? Well, wouldn’t my toddler like to drink that? Of course!