Ahhh… what a loaded question! Hey?! I a ran an online video event (that you can purchase here or access as part of goodbye picky eating) with the extremely experienced and all-round awesome Accredited Practicing Dietitian Meg McClintock all about feeding toddlers.
We are covered:
- Toddler Nutritional Requirements
- Fussy Eating Root Causes for Toddlers
- Family Mealtime Stress Reduction Strategies
- Winning Dinner Recipe Ideas
- Some reasons toddler behaviour is sometimes put down to sex.
The content of this webinar is not actually gender specific. BTW – Here is a link to the Australian Dietary guidelines brochure for children – yet, at age 4 gender specific requirements come into play for dairy where boys need 2 serves / day vs girls at 1.5 serves.
We originally titled the video “Feeding Toddler Boys” due to our collective experiences. Fact: Meg and I have both had a significantly higher proportion male clients.
To answer the above question “Are Toddler Boys Fussier than Girls?” – I thought I would point out some research figures by Anthony J. Mascola, Susan W. Bryson, and W. Stewart Agras (published 2010). A population of 216 babies were studied over 11 years to find that in their lifetime 39% showed fussy eating behaviours at some point and 22% were still being “picky” at age 11. The incidence of fussy behaviours was accounted for at this age as 26% of the boys and 17% of the girls.
However, what was more interesting to me was that boys were much more significantly likely to exhibit tantrums than picky girls and non-picky children. The ways that children exhibit their pickyness has a marked impact on how the parents feel at feeding time. And consequently, may define their child as picky/fussy. Parents of fussy children were also finding problems at the meal time including arguing, short-order cooking (a special meal for their child after a refusal), added negative pressure on the child to eat and, for boys in particular, they were more likely to be offered a reward for eating. However, this is only one study. I have seen many studies similar and the differences are usually like this or they don’t find any significant difference between sex. The studies can’t be done on every child and focus on every root cause, but they do help us see what strategies we need to keep working on as parents and as health professionals. Even when there isn’t a significant difference between sexes, I always think that providing some more information to people on root causes, stress reduction strategies, nutritional requirements and recipes has to help out. Right?!
But, if I had to give a blanket yes or no response to “Are toddler boys fussier than toddler girls?” – I would say no. Children all behave in their own way. I don’t think “fussiness” is a quantitative measure that can be pin-pointed exactly because it’s a very subjective term with so many definitions, so many causes and so many manifestations. The definition for fussy (picky) vs problematic feeder is a bit more easy to elaborate on. Yet, the definition of “fussy” or “picky” is often left to the researcher or parent to decide. One set of research may use “parents report picky eating as lasting for 6 months” or a behaviour like “dinner refusal and short-order cooking within the family unit”. The definition is so varied in literature, that I always go back to my stance that nobody knows the child like their parents and that labels won’t necessarily help kids. However, it’s always important to know when to get assistance looking at these red flags here.
Why am I trotting out research? I was trolled pretty harshly on Facebook when I mentioned that we were doing a video on fussy toddler boys. And it made me really upset. I am definitely not a person to present anything that is unsubstantiated. I make every recipe on my blog for my family. I physically do every sensory resilience building activity that I suggest. I purchase lots of resources to test and see if they work before I recommend them (with my own money). I help many kids with problems from a broad range of root causes to reach a whole set of varying functional goals. I do not take lightly the struggle that some families have at mealtimes. I know every child’s journey is different. I know that the stress is real.
So, yes, the original title of our feeding toddlers video was “feeding toddler boys”, yet as it happens it is also extremely relevant to all children because I for one defintitely know how big a sensory meltdown and tantrum about food can be coming from my pint size little miss. We just had to call it something and it came from our experience and some research. We aren’t doing it to be “intentionally sexist”, “weird” or to “give you a pat on the back if you have girls”. It’s just one of many topics that I discuss on my blog – I cover a pretty big array of topics if you want to check them out 🙂 I am sure that if the internet trolls tried they could find a way to tell me my blog post about crispy rice bubble slice is excluding corn flakes unnecessarily.
Have you ever been trolled? How did you deal with it? I’d love to get some more coping strategies, as I sadly know it probably won’t be the last time. I can’t be everyone’s cup of tea!