It's one of the biggest debate questions posted in Facebook parent forums. Many Moms and Dads wonder - do you try to force your toddler to eat dinner, or do you send them to bed without any food? Do you let them have other food instead?
Some moms send their child to bed without any other food, choosing to enforce the dinnertime rule that what is served is what's for dinner.
Other moms let their kids have milk instead and nothing else. Other moms don't have any rules around food or bedtime at all, choosing to act on a case-by-case basis.
So what's the right decision here? Let's explore some of the considerations involved.
First, it's important to remember that toddlers are inconsistent eaters.
Since they are growing, they may have days where they eat constantly and want everything but the kitchen sink, and others days they may turn their nose up at almost everything. Therefore, in some cases, the child may not really be going to bed "hungry," as he or she may have already eaten enough that day.
Second, children have far more sensitive taste buds than adults. What might taste great to you may be too much for your toddler, making it difficult for them to eat. Always consider having a food option on your toddler's plate that you know they will eat without issue.
Third, many pediatricians say not to push or bribe your child to eat when they are signaling that they are full. This can lead to the child eating when he or she is not actually hungry, a slippery slope to overeating problems.
Finally, it's good to keep an eye on the actual amount of food your child needs a day. Parents.com recommends that toddlers eat 35 to 40 calories per pound, which is ~1200 calories for a 30lb child. They also recommend feeding your child every three hours. This means they are on a schedule, and much less likely to get to a point where they are super hungry and upset.
When it comes to parenting, there's never a clear answer - but it never hurts to educate yourself in the meantime.
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