Should I punish my toddler for not eating?

Many parents are often worried about whether their toddlers are eating enough healthy food or not. They worry when their kid eats very less, doesn’t eat healthy foods like vegetables and fruits, or refuses a meal completely.

It is common for tots to eat only small amounts of food, to be fussy about what they eat, and to refuse to eat at all.

For some parents, this worry can be significant, specifically if the baby is not gaining weight well or is losing weight. For others, uneaten meals can be a source of frustration.

Parents often use pressure, force, or coercion to try to get their kid to finish their meals. But, should I punish my toddler for not eating? Here is everything you need to know.

Should I punish my toddler for not eating?

No, you should never punish your toddler for not eating their meals. You should identify why they don’t want to have their meal. If they hate what is being served, prepare something else that they like to eat. Do not try to force your toddler to eat what they don’t like. Punishing a child for not eating a meal is unfair in many ways, and is also harmful to your little one. It is unfair because the kid likely didn’t decide on the menu or determine the portions. The parent is not inside the baby and can’t tell if their baby is hungry or not.

Why is it bad to pressure or force a toddler to eat?

It is harmful because it sets up an unnatural relationship between the food and the child. If a kid learns to connect eating with approval, he or she will learn to use food as comfort later on.

If you punish your kid for not eating their meals, you will not allow your little ones to listen to their own body.

Hunger signals are important and learning to follow hunger appeals is one of the primary ways that a kid learns to listen to the cues that come from within themselves instead of only being governed by the thoughts of others around them.

Children may not eat because sometimes the portion sizes that we serve to them are unrealistically large, meaning that it is impractical to expect the kid to finish the meal and every meal will appear ‘unfinished’. In this case, it is not the child eating too little, but the portion size is too large.

To let your kid eat their meals, it is good to offer them a varied diet full of many different things and let them explore at their own pace.

The only rule in our house is “you should try one bite of each new food.” Let your kid have one thing they won’t EVER eat.

Should I punish my toddler for not eating?

Reasons for toddlers not eating their meals

It is important to understand the reason behind your kid not eating their meals. It will help you know the root cause and will help you get your child to eat their meal.

There are a few reasons for this. Toddlers have small stomachs. They are not growing as fast as infants, so they need less food. Toddler appetites vary constantly due to growth spurts and changes in activity.

They are interested in the world around them, so they have short attention spans for food.


Should I punish my toddler for not eating? Refusing to eat is a common parenting challenge. While normal ups and downs of a toddler’s appetite and picky eating can be the root cause, it is not always the only reason.

Based on how long the issue continues and what other signs a toddler has, it may be caused by another issue that needs to be addressed.

Looking for ways to address food refusal positively can help resolve the issue and lead to happier mealtimes, but if you think the underlying problem is beyond the normal, talk to your kid’s pediatrician.

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