I'm worried my 5 year old is developing an eating disorder
For about a year now my 5 year old has been getting more and more picky about dinner. It started with him saying 'I don't like that' about food that he loves. I wasn't too concerned I figured it was his way of being independent. But now it has progressed to where he will literally throw up at the dinner table because he does not want to eat. I have tried everything i can think of to resolve this, and ease his anxiety but nothing has worked. I have tried letting him choose an item we would have for dinner. I've tried sending him to bed without eating. I've tried telling him thats fine you don't have to eat if you aren't hungry but when you do get hungry this is what you can have. I have tried making him finish eating even after he has thrown his fit. I've tried punishment ( loss of priveledges, time out, spanking etc) The only thing to show any results was punishment but I think that in the long run punishing him because of food will only cause psychological issues. His pediatrician was no help. I know its not a digestive problem because he eats pretty well for breakfast and lunch its primarily dinnertime we have this problem. Any advice or suggestions are greatly appreciated.
5-year-olds do not have much control over their environment. Therefore, they are quick to find something that gives them some control. For your son, it sounds like it might be the dinner time...
You mention that he eats well for breakfast and lunch,, but dinner is a struggle. You already tried various interventions without much success. I think that your son realized that it means a lot to you for him to eat his dinner and refuses to eat it to remain in control.
Parents and children have a responsibility if it comes to eating. Parents prepare healthy meals and snacks, and children are to eat them. I recommend to parents not to allow the meal time to become a power struggle. A meal time should be an enjoyable experience for everybody, not a battle ground.
Since children are able to control how much food they need for growing, and your son eats healthy breakfasts and lunches, give him a daily multivitamin, offer nutritious snacks in between meals, a healthy bedtime snack, and forget about the dinner. Have your son sit with the family at the table when dinner is served, but allow him to decide what and how much to eat. If he eats little or nothing, you'll have a piece of mind that he gets all the nutrients, because of the multivitamin, and healthy snacks.
If your child fusses over all meals, refuses food intake, looks or acts sick, or you notice weight loss, talk to his health care provider as soon as possible.
First of all, <<hug>> I'm sorry you're having to go through this. It's tough, it's stressful, and I've been there. I've eaten many meals with tears in my eyes and a feeling that I'm the worst mom ever--alternately for being too lax or too strict. I served all these healthy fruits and veggies only to see them get pushed aside. When my daughter started having trouble with constipation, my husband stepped in and developed this system:
Now, at mealtime, we don't argue about food. I lay everything out, and tell my daughter what is in each dish. Then she chooses two half-cup servings of vegetables from what's there and puts them on her plate. If she eats that, she can have a serving of meat or beans, and a serving of whole grains. If not, we stop there.
If she finishes her supper (and there is some grace there), she can have a small treat just before bed--something nice enough to encourage her to finish up if she actually is hungry, but not so spectacular as to make her want to force herself if she's full or ill. It's usually a cookie or a lone Hershey's kiss. We don't prompt her either way. It's her choice. It's totally okay to refuse any food, but she can't push aside the healthy stuff and hold out for junk food. If she doesn't finish her supper but turns up hungry at bedtime, she can always have a healthy snack then.
We have the same system at lunchtime: fruit first, then other healthy foods. It was really hard for me at first, because it's a mom's instinct to feed her child. I saw her go for hours and hours without food, and I wanted to cave and let her eat chicken nuggets twice a day. But now we've been doing it for so long, that she hardly notices anymore.
You mentioned that he eats well at breakfast and at lunch and that it is only dinner that he gets upset about. I'm curious to know, what time do you serve dinner?
If dining too close to say, snack time, he may not actually be hungry, too late, he may have past the hungry stage and is just angry.
Also, what are the conditions when he eats breakfast and lunch opposed to when dinner is served? I would look to see if anything is different, such as family members present at dinner that may not be there at breakfast and lunch, I know my kids don't eat as well when we have company as they do when it's just us.
Looks like you are trying really hard to find solutions to fix this, maybe it's just something simple that's being overlooked. Best wishes!