Our Little Spitter

For the past week or so, Matthew has been spitting at meal time.  Not just fun, “I’m making noise” spitting, but real problematic spewing-food-and-milk-all-over-the-place spitting.

I knew we had a problem when I firmly told him, “no,” and was rewarded by a face-full of milk and that defiant look in his eye that parents know all too well.  (This is the first time I had seen it coming from Matthew, though!)  Aaron and I have talked a lot about “no special treatment” for Matthew when it comes to discipline – we agreed to treat him just like we treated Micah, or would treat any other child, with age-appropriate discipline when the time came.  So, here we go.  I again firmly said and signed, “no” and put my hand firmly over his mouth.  Next bite, he looks right at me and spits.  “No, Matthew,” and I gently slapped his lips (not enough to hurt, but enough that he didn’t like it.  I hate to even use the word “slap” – it’s really more of a “bap,” as Micah would say.)  Then, I decided meal time was over.

The next meal, and the next, and the next . . . . all went about the same way.  Matthew spitting about every-other bite or drink, and me repeating the “no” and the light slap.  For a kid who has picked up so quickly on other things, he just didn’t seem to be getting this . . . or else he is just stubborn.

 The next meal, I noticed he would spit every bite except his favorite item on his plate (that night, mashed potatoes.)  Growing weary of the battle, I decided that the next meal would be finger-food that he could choose and feed himself rather than me spoon-feeding him.  Maybe he was expressing (although inappropriately) his likes and dislikes.  The next meal, I simply placed finger food on his tray, and let him choose and feed himself.  Guess what?  No spitting.  He ate mostly broccoli for that meal, leaving the other choices behind, but at least it’s good for him.  The next dinner, I repeated this, and he ate mostly asparagus, leaving the rice and meat behind.  When he was getting full, he started throwing food and spitting.  When I asked him, “all done?”  He grabbed my hands and “helped” me sign “all done.” 

O.k., child, I’m starting to get the message.  Be patient with Mommy – sometimes I’m a slow learner.

Since then, Matthew will still spit occasionally – especially when we’re spoon-feeding him something, and especially when it’s not his favorite or he’s starting to get full.  We still say “no,” and lightly slap his lips, but I’m beginning to see that most of the time, he is trying to tell me something.  And, since I’ve realized that, the spitting problem has not been quite so bad.  We’re working extra hard to encourage signing, hoping that giving him more appropriate communication tools will help

But meanwhile . . . anybody have any other suggestions??

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By the way . . . yes, I did say “broccoli” and “asparagus.”  My entire family loves asparagus, but it wasn’t always this way.  I lightly toss it with a little olive oil and Johnny’s seasoning salt, then grill it on our barbeque.  You should haves seen Micah jump up and down saying, “Yeah!  We’re having asparagus for dinner!”  And, I could hardly believe myself using it as a bribe . . . “If you take 2 more bites of meat, Micah, you can have another asparagus!”  Aaron wouldn’t touch the stuff until he tried it cooked this way . . . now he can’t get enough!


3 thoughts on “Our Little Spitter

  1. Seems to be some pretty age appropriate behavior he is demonstrating! I remember the same thing happening with both Isaac and Jack, they wanted independence! Yeah for communication!

  2. Nice detective work! It’s easy to read the books that say “misbehavior” usually serves a purpose, and that our job is to figure out that purpose and offer a more appropriate way to meet that need…but it’s much harder to actually DO that! You hypothesized that he wanted attention or a different reaction to him, and your first hypothesis wasn’t right. You kept observing, formed a new hypothesis, tested it, and hit the jackpot. Who says you won’t use your science training as a mom? 😉

    Maybe this is obvious, but one way to offer Matthew a choice even without signing or only offering finger foods is to let him point to/reach for a choice of two spoonfed foods. Either with a picture representation or two bowls.

    And you probably did this, too, but if I were his teacher or mom, I’d narrate what I guessed was going on. “Are you spitting to tell me you want to choose your food? That’s not okay. You can tell me you want to choose your food by pointing to what you want, like this” etc

    Ironic that I’m reading this while dealing with Siena’s four month old hunger strike…

  3. My daughter will be 22 at the end of the month. Man, I wish I’d had a blog as she was growing up. Reading your issue with Matthew spitting, and trying to figure out how to deal with it, really brings back some memories.

    I think it’s right to offer your kid things he wants, as long as he’ll eat nutritious stuff. I’ve always thought it was rude to give kids things that you know they don’t like unless they just don’t like anything, and it’s important to model courteous behavior to kids. Of course, you have to strike a balance between doing that and letting your kid be in control. Sounds like you’re a thinking parent, like I’ve been.

    I hope you don’t think the parenting ever ends. While my daughter was home on spring break, I helped her enter data from her senior project (effect of soil warming on sunflowers) into Excel spreadsheets and format them. “I love you a lot,” she said. I “made” her email them to herself after she was done. When her laptop looked like dying on the trip home she was grateful to me for “making” her do that. I used to think that when she was all grown up she wouldn’t need to be mommied anymore but that’s just not the case!

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