Why a young child won’t eat

Shahriar asks: My child is not taking food, even when I insist. She is now three years old. I’m very hopeless. What can I do?

Hi Shahriar –

There are lots of possible reasons for a three-year-old not wanting to eat.  Some of them are emotional (she’s feeling sad, or excited), some are just defiant (she doesn’t want to do anything you want her to, including eating), and some are physiological (she may have stomach pain, or really bad allergies to some foods).

Of course, the first thing you need to do is to rule out the physiological ones.  And there’s no good way to do this except to take her to a doctor who can check her out.  Any qualified pediatrician will know exactly what to test to find out if there’s anything wrong with her.  And of course they would be the best people to suggest what to do if they do find something wrong.

If they determine that she’s not suffering from a physical problem, then your job is to find out why she’s refusing the food.  Again, it could well be that she’s just being defiant (what we normally hear called “the terrible twos”).  If so, your best bet is to keep offering her food that you think she’ll like (but that doesn’t mean only offering her candy and junk; if you do that you’re just creating problems for later).  And just know that eventually she’ll agree to eat it; no child has ever starved themselves to death just to be stubborn!

But if she’s not eating because she’s feeling sad or angry, this is a real problem.  She’ll probably start eating relatively soon, but it’s really important that you find out what has been bothering her so much.  Maybe she’s concerned about some changes going on in her life, maybe she’s just having trouble moving forward in her own development, or maybe she’s upset about something really awful that you don’t know about yet.  So try to find out what it is.  And if either you can’t figure it out, or if you begin to suspect something really bad has happened to her, I strongly suggest you find a good child therapist to help her with this.

But most likely you don’t have any reason like that to worry.  Much more likely she’ll just need to change her diet slightly, or work through a bratty defiant phase!  I just want you to be careful!


Thanks for asking me.   And good luck with her!





About the Author

Leave a Reply 0 comments

Leave a Reply: