Annie’s Mailbox: Force-feeding 5-year-old abusive

Parents should not force-feed 5-year-old

July 16, 2013

Q. I am the grandmother of nine beautiful little grandchildren. Two granddaughters live with their mother and spend weekends with their father, who remarried, and he and his wife are currently residing with me.

Here’s the problem: The younger child, who is 5, was petite until recently. Then her mother and stepmother began forcing this little girl to eat more, or she is punished. She is a picky eater and has been known to throw fits about eating, but no child should be forced to eat portions that are so big. She has gained 18 pounds in the past five months.

I understand the parents’ frustrations. But she’s a tiny child and should be served smaller portions of food. I also am a firm believer that force-feeding will lead to an eating disorder that could haunt her for the rest of her life.

I am very worried about her. I’ve seen her forced to eat a grilled hot dog, which she’s not fond of, only to throw it up shortly afterward and then not be allowed to eat anything else. They say she was “putting on an act” so Grandma and Grandpa would feel sorry for her. But, Annie, this sudden weight gain cannot be a good thing. She is sick a lot, and I think this is affecting her overall health.

I admit I’m an overprotective grandma, but my kids were picky eaters when they were young. My wise pediatrician said, “Give them a vitamin every day and let it go. You cause more problems by forcing them to eat. Trust me, they won’t starve to death. They’ll eat when they need to.” And they did.

I will do whatever you say, but it’s getting more and more difficult to keep my mouth shut. – Worried Grandma in Illinois

A. Forcing a child to eat until she throws up or gains 18 pounds in five months could be construed as child abuse. We know her parents think she needs to eat more, but this is completely misguided. Not all children eat the same way, nor should they, and force-feeding a 5-year-old is harmful, both physically and psychologically. Please speak to your son. Ask him to talk to the pediatrician about this immediately.

Dear Annie: A few years ago, my wife and I retired and moved to a new home. We are friendly, helpful and generous, especially with good food and hospitality. But our neighbors have never reciprocated with so much as a cookie, and we have never been invited to their homes.

We all get along well enough, but I have asked my wife not to make extra dishes for them any longer. I’m disappointed with the manners of younger folks who don’t seem to understand reciprocity. – Southern Golden Oldie

Dear Southern: Some people are reluctant to entertain in their homes, but you certainly do not have to keep putting forth the effort if there is no reciprocity of any kind. There’s no point in being resentful. You can have a perfectly cordial relationship with these neighbors without baking pies and inviting them for coffee.

Dear Annie: This is in response to “Midwest Cook” and others who wrote about children who are picky eaters and don’t have the manners to say “no, thank you” when offered food they don’t like.

My clever daughter-in-law taught my grandchildren to say, “Those Brussels sprouts look delicious. I’m sorry I can’t eat them, but I’m allergic.” Of course, a few nights later, when served scalloped potatoes, my grandson said (with a glint in his eye), “Those look delicious, but I’m allergic to potatoes unless they’re french fried.” – There’s Always a Solution



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