Dont beat your self up about this its fairly normal stuff and you are doing what you can, I have a couple of suggestions he is three so let him have as much time as he wants to eat, dont spoon feed him, dont feed him at all,let him feed himself and that will also motivate him to eat faster,lots of great finger foods out there . As you are aware it is that you have enabled him, so take a step back, give him a nice meal you can sit with him, leave him alone you eat yours and let him eat his. ,children hate being rushed .
Don't beat yourself up about this too much. You are doing what you can. I know that time is in short supply when you have two little ones and that sometimes, it is just easier to do what works at the moment. I have a 25 month old and a 13 month old, and our meals are pretty much like that most of the time too. My daughter (25 month old) does fine at breakfast...she loves to eat breakfast, but lunch and dinner are quite the opposite. So, at lunch and dinner, I always have to spoon feed her in addition to feeding my 13 month old (who is a very picky eater). So, I am fighting both of them at the same time to eat. What I might suggest is to "bribe" him with one of his favorite foods to get him more motivated to eat the main meal. So, for example, if he loves yogurt, put a yogurt on the table, in his sight, but out of reach, and tell him that he gets to eat his yogurt once he finishes his meal. That often works for me when I am trying to get my daughter to eat something she doesn't want to eat. If the bait is something she really loves, she will usually gobble up whatever meal I have put in front of her as fast as she can to get her reward. It doesn't always work, but it's worth a shot.
If that doesn't work, my mom would always play a game with us when we were little that worked well with us. It is almost spoon feeding, but it is a step in the right direction. She would scoop some food onto our spoon, and set it on our plate. She would say, "Oh my gosh...I hear a mouse. He is looking for some food. I think he wants to eat your food." Then she would look away or actually walk away and say "where is that mouse? I better find him before he eats your food". Then we would take a bite on our own to make her think the mouse had gotten it, and she would look back and say "Oh my gosh! The mouse got your food! You better take a bite before the mouse gets another bite from your spoon!" and she would start the whole thing over. A little time consuming, but eventually, we just learned to eat on our own without the game. I also use something similar with my 2 yr old. It just depends on her mood.
Another thing my mom does now with my niece and nephew is to tell them that their plate is happy when all the food is gone, so she tells them to make a happy plate, and they are very proud of themselves when they finish their meals and made a happy plate. They always say "I made a happy plate!". They are 6 and 3, FYI.
If nothing seems to work, then I think Margypops has it right. Just give him time, enjoy the fact that you can eat a meal,and don't rush him. Make sure the TV isn't on and remove anything that might be distracting him at mealtimes. If he only takes a few bites and you are worried about nutrition, make sure he gets his multi-vitamin every day, and only give him nutritious snacks (like his yogurt he loves so much). Best of luck. I hope it gets easier for you!
There are picky eaters everywhere. It is normal and I have one too. My Dr. has told me that children will not starve themselves, frequent snacks, things you know he likes and let him take his time. I tried the advice of a Dr on TV ( I know...I know) but IT WORKED !! Sit down with your meal and give him an empty plate, begin eating yours and pay as little attention to your son as possible. He will wonder what is going on and before you know it he will be asking for food and eating it or taking food off your plate. It took my son about a minute and a half to start picking food off my plate, he ate it with his fingers but he ate it and that is what really counts. The other 2 commenters are right don't beat yourself up about it many 3 yr olds use meals as a control issue, they can't control much of thier world so they will try to control anything they can...like what and how they eat.
I agree with the above, don't be stressed about this issue, but do be patient with the issue, it will solve itself faster than you expect, I believe. Little kids are not going to starve themselves. If you put food in front of them they will eat, in their own time. You just need to set the example they should follow. I advise you to sit near them, have the same food on your plate and basically narrate your way through the meal as a means of instructing them. "Here we go, picking up our spoon. First a bite of mash potato, here we go! Yum yum, chew chew chew, swallow. Put down your fork, pick up your cup, have a sip, mmmmm". Etc etc... it's the kid's version of On The Job Training.
I was just about to post my own question regarding this when I came across your's! My fiance and I are having issues with his 3 yr old son eating at the table. My fiance has stressed that he's always had a hard time getting his son to eat....even from infancy. We have started making the dinner table a fun place. We talk about the day (not sure how talkative your child is...) and make it a place where we all bond.
We originally tried the bribery with candy or "treats," but one thing I will warn you about that is that the child will always expect that sort of treat and sometimes MORE of that treat after the fact. We are moving away from that to more "physical" rewards like an activity after dinner, a movie, or even a few extra minutes up in the evening. Personally, our main concern is that he is intolerable to eat out with and we feel that focusing on that behavior at home may help.
I completely understand the spoon-feeding. My fiance used to use the "now watch this for me....don't take a bite" approach, but he has stopped that now. The grandmother on the other hand still does this! Unfortunately we have had some tough times with this, but if you stick to your guns about your child eating, they will eventually see that this is how it has to be.
I certainly agree with the idea of finger foods, of course healthy as possible, that they do like and will eat. We have found that our little boy decides he just doesn't want to eat whether he likes it or not. Doctors have mentioned that sometimes it's just not the right time for the child to eat, and they will always eat when they're hungry....they will NEVER starve :)
Another thing I'd like to mention - per Margypops post - it is unrealistic that parents in this day and age have all of the time in the world to have their children sit and eat. We have tried to give our child as much time as possible, but realistically, we could be sitting there 3 hours with him some evenings! We have found the best approach for us is to make him sit until we are finished our meals and then save his dinner so that when he is hungry, that's what he goes back to.