Friday, May 13, 2011

Food fight (Mom vs. Toddler Tantrums)

Holy Screaming Tantrums

On Monday, Maya had her first ever true tantrum . . . like, the real deal. Over 20 minutes (23, to be exact), mostly filled with absolutely hysterical, high pitched screaming, giant tears . . . the whole 9.
The cause? Mango. Who would have thought that tiny, delicious, yellow pieces of fruit could cause such a breakdown.

The Background
One of my biggest goals right now is to expand Maya's food repertoire. I want her to start school with a diet that's more extensive than yogurt, meatballs, and cereal bars. She has the jaw strength and chewing ability to start trying more stuff, and I need to make it a priority to make her (wo)man up. With fruit season upon us, fruit has been goal #1.

Maya is also a much safer eater now---she's fully mastered how to use her tongue to thrust unwanted food out of her mouth, which is a mixed blessing. It's fantastic in that I don't have to be quite as panicked concerned with her possibly choking, but it's infuriating frustrating because she just spits things back at us over and over again. (And sometimes she thinks it's hilarious, too.)

So, back to the tantruming . . .
On Monday, she got into the high chair for a snack. When I presented the mango (which she had eaten, and enjoyed, earlier in the day) she starting having a fit and signing for milk. I told her "First 2 pieces of mango, then milk." Then she totally lost it.

I had already said "2 pieces, then milk." So now I was stuck. I taught middle school, I'm semi-well versed in children . . . if you say something, you have to mean it. (Sometimes I wish I could tell this to the folks I see at the playground who issue 37 "If you throw that sand again, we're leaving, Johnny!" warnings. I want to tell them "If you say that, you best be ready to hit the road. Otherwise, please don't say it. At this point Johnny, his friends, and half the parents here think you're a joke. And good luck the next time you try to issue an ultimatum, sister.")

So after 23 minutes of tears, she ate 2 pieces of mango and got her milk. She was sweat soaked, I felt terrible, but we all survived. When I tried the process again on Tuesday, there were still tears, but it only took 12 minutes and never reached the scream-like-a-banshee decibel level of Monday's showdown.

And then we took the show on the road
Without a doubt, the better the motivation (like the milk she loves so much) the more likely it is that she'll eat quickly. So this morning (and yesterday) I packed up some blueberries and we walked to the playground. My plan was simple: she needed to eat 2 blueberries before she could get out of the stroller and play at the playground. I was fully prepared to sit there for up to 40 minutes with her in the stroller, calmly saying "Do you want to go play? Ok, then you just have to eat 2 blueberries." every so often, until she either ate them or the clock ran out and we left. (I'm not sure if this seems mean. But she's got a good memory, and after a few not-getting-out trips I knew she would cave.)

After 13 minutes of sitting in boredom this morning, I changed the ultimatum---instead of "If you want to get out, you need to have 2 blueberries" it became "Do you want to leave? If not, you have to have 2 blueberries." She started to cry. I decided to take out my cell phone and start taping:

Some translations, if you're curious: At 0:29, she's saying "bye bye?!". At 0:51 I'm telling her "chew chew" because she's been getting scared of the fruit textures and forgetting to chew & swallow. At 0:54 I'm pulling her hand away because when she starts to get nervous she will take the food out of her mouth and throw it. 1:35 is signing "all done". The hand twisting at 1:38 is signing "play".

She's so smart . . . we've definitely crossed a bridge, past the brute force phase (sometimes we just had to muscle in whatever food we could) and into the logical reasoning phase.

What I've learned so far
This feeding stuff works much better if I have enough time set aside to wait her out. When we have to grab a quick snack between therapies, I need to stick to something that she won't fight. And when she is ready to fight, I have to channel my calm inner teacher and let it roll off my back, instead of getting emotionally involved.

The rest of our time at the playground . . .
. . . was super fun for us, but less so for Parker. I left him sitting outside, where he kept watching for us like a watchdog. Maya visited him a few times to cheer him up:

Hi, friend.


jerri said...

ah gosh, she's gorgeous! What a smart little cookie she is! Nice job mommy! You guys are doing great! Yes, she may have difficulties, but she's a very bright little girl.

rocketmommy said...

*sigh* I'm totally with ya on the having to stick it out. My kiddo likes to chew up the food she doesn't like and just not swallow it. She'll hoard it in her cheeks like a squirrel. I have to do the "if you want to get down and play, you just have to swallow". Sometimes she does and other times it's a battle of wills. It is getting better though. Yikes. Good times, good times.
PS I always just love seeing the pics of Maya and Parker. They're so cute together. =)

Angela said...

Wow. I want to be you when I grow up.

anne said...

Awesome video. You are really great.

3pigletboys said...

She's so adorable!

I'm having the same issues with feeding. My DS is getting a hand stamp at school if he will at least attempt to eat a food. Which doesn't happen very often.

At home he just pushed it away with a "NO!"