It can be very difficult to explain to children why in the world they should want to eat broccoli and carrots. They don't taste like chicken nuggets and french fries. We get it. But one dad is being scolded by his ex wife for attempting to feed his son healthy foods. She is autistic and is convinced that he is as well, and that his aversion to foods is part of his condition.
The dad, and the professionals they consulted, disagree. However, his wife insists that trying to force healthy meals on their son is essentially starving him. The father thinks that his son is using his mom to get away with eating whatever he wants.
I (31M) have two children (11M, 4F) as well as a step daughter (9F). My son I had with my ex wife. My daughter, step daughter and current wife are mostly irrelevant in this situation.
My son's mom lets him eat sh*t. Constantly. She's autistic and is insisting he is too, despite us having him assessed three times and every time them saying no. He is a little different but mostly I think thats his mom's doing rather than him being autistic. He's relatively normal when he's at mine.
The only issue is food. Because she is convinced he's autistic she exclusively lets him eat his 'safe foods'. Frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, fries. Typical kid foods.
We, however, don't eat that. Every night either my wife or I make a well balanced and seasoned meal. The girls both have very varied palettes. My son, however, will not touch it. He will have full blown tantrums over dinner and demand 'mom's food'.
I do not give in. If he doesn't eat it, he doesn't eat. Its the same approach we took with my step daughter when we were transitioning her to a healthier lifestyle and now she eats fine.
He isn't required to finish his plate, but he is required to have a full bite of everything on his plate (and no spitting out food). If he doesn't like it he is welcome to make himself something else (but I will not, and it won't been frozen food as we don't stock it).
My ex is, obviously, outraged, and hates this. I feel like her reinforcing that I'm a bad parent is only making him want to fight me more. To be clear, he does eat - breakfast and lunch usually go down fine, alongside snacks throughout the day. He just misses dinner.
My wife nor I think what we're doing is evil, but obviously we are the ones doing it, and I guess bad people don't realise they're bad.
My parents actually agreed with what we're doing which is what made me second guess myself. They were not good around food. For example, they'd make you sit at the table until you ate all your food, and if you didn't eat, they'd serve it to you for every meal until you did. I once had a meal that was actively growing mold.
I don't wish to be like them at all and now I'm concerned we're doing that to him. However neither his doctor nor the custody officer have anything bad to say about my methods.
Still, my ex hates it and claims we're going to give him trauma. I think he's being stubborn because he knows mommy will fill him up with Mcdonalds the second he gets home. So, AITA for letting him 'starve'?
I think that fact that you aren’t forcing him to eat the whole plate, instead saying he has to try it but if he doesn’t like it he can have something else, is the key here. You are giving him options. He’s just mad because he’s not getting exactly what he wants. NTA
I think it’s beyond being mad he doesn’t get what he wants. He has his mom in his ear saying he doesn’t have a choice on what to eat because he’s “autistic”, when three different professionals say he isn’t. And then dad is giving him options, which is what I think the right approach here is.
But we’re all adults, and he is a child having his mom project her own issues onto him. I don’t think the child has the maturity to be responsible here. If he lives full time with OP, or if mom and OP were on the same page here, then yeah, child is being stubborn. But mom is doing him a huge disservice here.
The problem is that OP can’t fix this solo. I think his approach is ideal here, under other circumstances. But with mom not on board, this could backfire and cause food issues or just normal parent-child resentment.
This is a lot more delicate a situation than it should be, and the problem is mom. OP needs to work with her, as difficult as she’s being, because his approach won’t work right now with mom’s interference.
NTA Why would someone with autism WANT their child to be autistic? Maybe get some hate here, but why, after 3 series of tests, is she insisting he is autistic? You want your kids to eat a well balanced meal. See nothing wrong with this. The types of food he wants are fine for a young kid, occasionally, but a constant diet of snack foods? Unhealthy.
NTA. He's 11, not 4. He'll be a teenager soon. And it's not like you're telling him 'eat everything or don't eat', you're saying 'eat a few bites or cook something for yourself' giving HIM the option to fix the situation if he's unhappy. If he refuses, then that's on him.
The best parenting advice I ever heard was 'you aren't raising children, you're raising functional adults'. I think you are giving him a lot of autonomy in this situation and it doesn't hurt to put the idea in his head now that he can't eat junk for every meal. Keep doing what you're doing. I think he'll be a better adult for it in the long run.
NTA. I'm more concerned about the mother's behavior and I'd even go so far and talk to a lawyer about it, because it's not healthy that she keeps telling him that he's autistic. Neither are her food choices.