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Step sons eating habits
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Step sons eating habits

I am worried about my step sons health and eating habits.  He is going to be 7 years old in september.  He wears a size 4T cause 5T's fall off his waist.  He is sick all the time, tired, no energy and dark circles under his eyes.  In 3 1/2 years that I have been around him the only thing he'll eat his Mac & Cheese, grilled cheese, cereal (sugar kind), P & J, pancakes, waffles, just started eating pizza and that's about it.   He doesn't eat any fruits or Veggies.   I have a 1 year old daughter with my husband (his father) that will eat anything.  My rule is that I am not cooking two meals and you have to try everything once.  When you ask him to try something, he acts like it is going to kill him.   He throws a fit.  My husband doesn't push the issue or seem to concerned about the way things are when we don't have him (that is why he eats like he does-way things are with mom) He doesn't see what it is doing to his son, not eating healthy.   Should I be worried about his diet, eating habits?  Does this contribute to his poor health, no engergy, dark circles under eyes?  How do I get this kid to get past the fear that he has about trying foods-to get him to eat different things.
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Avatar_n_tn
i see plenty of parents in my office who make horrible decisions about their kids every day.  your situation could be worse (trust me, i've seen it!) but it also could be a whole heck of a lot better too!

some kids are really small all on their own.  the little boy i used to nanny comes to mind - he was fed a wide variety and healthy amount of wonderful foods (i was feeding him - i know!) and he was the shortest little thing you have ever seen.  he looked like he was 3 when he was 5.  your stepson is probably predisposed to being on the small side, but his eating habits are in need of much improvement.

his lethargy is what bothers me.  for this reason, i suggest you have his blood tested just to rule out a few potential problems like thyroid issues or metabolic disorders.

i will suggest to you what i suggest to my clients.

refuse to give him anything he wants (be it milk, dessert, pasta, cheese, whatever) until he takes some bites of the healthy foods you place in front of him.

tell him the new rules (you must eat the healthy food before you get ANYTHING else to eat) beforehand so he knows them.

give him choices where appropriate and easy to do so:  for example,  "stepson, i'm making dinner now and i want to know whether you would like to eat carrots or broccoli tonight".  if he says  neither, politely and calmly inform him that you will make the decision since he is offering no input, and then don't give him anything else until he eats your choice.  if this means cold broccoli for breakfast the next morning, so be it.  a few mornings of cold broccoli for breakfast and he'll understand it's better to choose than to not choose when stepmom asks for dinner choices!

also, give him the vegetable on his plate first and put no other food on it.  make all your plates match his (i.e. only the vegetable) and tell him he can have the rest of dinner once he finishes the veggie first.  proceed to eat your vegetables and serve yourself a big plate of all the other yummy stuff right in front of him.  he will become jealous, then angry, then stubborn.  don't give in.  finish your plate, comment on how good it was, and remind him he's welcome to the food once he finishes his vegetables.  

i can tell you with absolute certainty that you are up against a hard battle if his biological mom is clueless about how much damage she's doing by feeding him whatever the heck he wants.  it won't be easy for you, especially since your husband also has no motivation to be a responsible and consistent parent when it comes to feeding his son.

being united on this front is essential.  your stepson can't assume that if step mom says no, dad will say yes.  you both have to stick to the rules no matter what so he knows he can't play you.

waiting until he's 7 means you are working against 7 years of ingrained bad habits.  it will not be easy, it will not be quick, and it will take a lot of willpower and creativity and patience to turn him around.  but do it.  do it for his sake mostly, but for your sake as well.  you and he both are in for a lifetime of regret and discord if you don't, and a lifetime of health and peace if you do.

good luck.
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Avatar_n_tn
Excellent advise. I too am worried about the 7 year old. If he were my stepson I would take him to a naturopath and have him tested for parasites and food allergies. It would probably surprise you at what one is allergic to and how it affects the body, especially one so small. Please let us know what you have finally done and how it is working for you and your stepson.
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Avatar_n_tn
Thank you very much for your advise.   For me the biggest thing is to have his father see his eating habits aren't healthy and to support and get on the same page as me.   He feels it's a losing battle for us to try to get him to try and eat new things since his mother who has him 5 days a week doesn't.    I am the one that pushes the issue of him trying things and I just get yelled at and it makes me look like the mean person.   I don't want to wait until he is 7, I was just informing everyone of his age.   For me I am worried for his health.   Like I said above he is always sick and doesn't have the energy a 6 year old should have.  My husbands family said two weekends ago how skinny and sick he looks (malnurished).   I can't take or suggest to my husband that his son get tested for problems.  In my husbands eyes,  I would be telling his there is something wrong with his son and I would once again be the evil step mother.  To me he doesn't want to admit that he also has and is contributing to his poor eating habits.  He did make him this weekend try a little piece of hamburger helper that we had for dinner.  Before he even tried it he started crying.  He gets it in his head before he tries anything that he isn't going to like it.   He put the food in his mouth, didn't even bite down, and started acting like it was going to make him sick.  He ran to kitchen screeming to get something to drink.   It's like he has it in his mind that he isn't going to like something before he even knows he is going to have to try it.  For our 1 year old daughter, she has to try everything we eat, well the stuff she can eat.  When she gets older she will have to try everything at least once or twice and I won't be cooking her a different meal.  How do I explain to my daughter that her brother gets to have a special meal and doesn't have to try or eat what we are eating.  That is another point I try to address to my husband.  I will show my husband your guys suggestions and see what becomes of it.  He really needs to see he is only hurting his son's health by not doing anything about his eating habits.  Or even addressing his concerns with my stepson's mother.  
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Avatar_n_tn
well if your husband will be reading this, it's time to take the gloves off, don my marriage therapy hat, and get to work!

what i see here is a serious breakdown in communication and goals between you two!  SERIOUSLY.  your husband needs to respect the fact that how he treats you in front of your kids (biological or otherwise) is paramount to them developing a healthy perspective on marriages and relationships.  if he belittles your opinion, especially in front of them, or if he outright ignores your suggestions, this is a big red flag to me and i think you need to put the food worries aside and book yourselves a marriage therapy session pronto.

kids are extremely intuitive and your (collective) behavior in front of them is abominable.  truly, it's terrible.  why would you think your son would obey your mealtime rules when he's seeing clear as day that you two don't even agree on the rules yourselves?  you FIRST need to get on the same page when it comes to feeding and caring for your children, and then you need to implement your boundaries and rules with love, solidarity and consistency.

the whole "losing battle" comment makes my blood boil.  is your husband 2 years old?  i don't mean to sound flippant, but honestly...  does he think he has absolutely no say in how his own flesh and blood is raised?  he needs to get a fire lit under his butt and step up and be the dad he ought to be... and this includes enforcing appropriate feeding behavior AND discussing his new plans with his ex-wife.  he's not helpless and lost (though he certainly is acting so) and he's not unable to do something.  he just needs to get off his lazy, conciliatory, apathetic butt and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

as for you... stop being a doormat and stand up for what you believe!  you seem to have some semblance of an understanding that your stepson is a nutrition nightmare, and good for you for realizing that!  acknowledging the problem is an important first step.  now you need to put your foot down and spearhead change in your household.  don't take no for an answer from your husband.  he clearly has very little gumption when it comes to disciplining his own child at the table, and very little respect for your opinions to boot.  sit down with him and tell him you need to figure out a way to 1) set appropriate expectations and boundaries for table manners and 2) get your (step)son some medical attention.

your comment that your husband would see helpful and concerned suggestions as being an evil stepmother and an insult to the health of his son is asinine.  he cares more about his ego than his son's health.  he certainly won't be winning any "dad of the year" awards with that screwed up mentality.

Michigan DAD, if you are reading this....  open your eyes to this disaster that you have caused.  open your eyes to your son's poor eating habits and his consequential health problems.  open your eyes to your selfish, arrogant, prideful attitude and (for once) set aside what YOU think or YOU want to do the right thing for your family.  don't shut your wife out.  she is your family and she is trying to help.  get out of the way and let her help.  take your child to a doctor AND a nutritionist (not either or....  BOTH) and start fixing this.  most importantly... vow to never assume you can't do anything when it comes to the health of your child.

i sincerely hope you find help and you join forces on this.  your son's health and your marriage both depend on it.
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Avatar_n_tn
I can empathize with all of you, the child and the 3 parents.  Was he, by any chance, intubated at birth?  Tube down throat to vacuum out maconium. (Black prebirth baby poop, in there to keep the intestine open), released and "inhaled" due to stressed baby at birth or other..

We learned that there is something called oral sensory motor dysfunction which manifests as the person not being able stand the feeling, and often the smell,) of most foods in the mouth.   There is a high incidence of this condition in children who were intubated at birth.  An early, unpleasant imprint, if you will.  This is not the only cause of OSMD, but a big one.  It is in the realm of SI (Sensory integration issues) and, if you can't easily discuss it with either biological parent, maybe your own visit to a "pediatric occupational therapist" may help answer some questions.  I know many of these children and adults and it is far more common than I ever thought.  If this is what's going on for these kids, they are not doing this to be manipulative or spoiled and nobody is to blame.  It is a physical condition.  They honestly cannot stand it.  Our son has this (now 19 yrs old) and, as a little guy, I stated giving him "whole food" natural vitamins and EFAs as a "big treat" at first.  They quickly became an every day event.  Patience and our wonderful family practice doc got us through.  He still eats a limited diet but is 5'11' and works out almost every day so he has a sculpted body.  We went to a few SI parent evenings and they had us put on gloves, played music very loudly, flashed the lights to allow us to experience the level of "over-stimulation" that these people face every day.  Sometimes it is oral, sometimes auditory or visual, etc.... you get the picture I think.  Can't stand tags in clothing or sock seams (kinesthetic over-stimulation) They are honestly wired differently and things feel much more exaggerated to them.
Best of luck to you all.  Especially the little fellow.
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