The Oatmeal Standoff

Not actual oatmeal...which is now in the trash

It was a Friday morning and what should have started out as a wonderful sunny morning slowly progressed into a place that no parent ever wants to end up, a stand off between myself, my two year old and a bite of oatmeal.

Maybe I am being a bit dramatic but when you are in the throws of a power struggle your blood starts to boil and it’s all you can do to remain calm, cool and collected. You know that saying, ‘never let em see you sweat’? Well that pretty much holds true for toddlers.

The past two days Little Man had not been finishing his breakfast (oatmeal). That alone wouldn’t be a major issue but the fact that 5-10 minutes later he is asking for a snack led me to believe he obviously was still hungry and just refusing the breakfast I am offering. So by the third morning when he had only taken a few bites and then proclaimed he was all done, I wasn’t buying it. So I told him he needed to take one more bite and then he could be finished. He kept refusing and I tried to stay positive and not push too hard. I certainly didn’t want to turn this into a power struggle, yet I also needed him to know my word is final and I always follow through. Consistency and follow through are two things that I strive for in every parenting decision. If I say something I always back it up, hence why I am so careful with what I ask of him. Yet for some reason this seemed to be a good time to teach him mommy means what she says (am I feeling silly as I write this? Yes, yes I am).

The TV was on (don’t judge!) so he was happy simply watching the program and occasionally asking to get down to which I reiterated my first request. I let him sit and watch while I finished my breakfast. Thirty minutes went by and I could see he was not going to take this bite on his own. I turned off the TV and began to explain the need for taking one more bite. He whined and pushed back. It gradually progressed into what I had hoped to avoid, a complete standoff…and an hour and half later we were no closer to getting this bite inside his mouth much less his stomach and mommy was almost to the point of shoving it down his throat.

For some reason every tool in my parenting tool belt evaded me and I could not come up with a way to back myself out of this corner. During the standoff, and out of pure desperation, I posted this status to Facebook:

So I said (40 minutes ago) that Little Man needed to take one more bite of his oatmeal. He is still sitting in his chair crying and refusing. Am I expecting too much of a 2 yr. old? I’m trying to be consistent so he knows I mean everything I say. This is nothing new but I’m wondering if I didn’t work myself into a corner.

I was amazed at the amount of comments I received, over 30! I only wish they had all come in during the last 5 minutes when I finally made a decision as to how to end this standoff! I couldn’t just take him out of his highchair and put him down as if nothing had happened. Then he would know all it takes to get what he wants is crying for over an hour and mommy gives in. But I also couldn’t let him sit there any longer as he had gotten to the point of hysterical and I doubted he even had the emotional capability to calm himself back down.

As I prayed to the Lord asking for guidance the only thing that came to mind was how does God deal with me? With that thought running through my brain I did the only thing I could think to do, I took the bite for him. I explained that since mommy said that one more bite of oatmeal was what it would take for him to get out of his chair I was going to take the bite for him. I offered to let him feed me the bite and through his choked back tears he lifted his spoon and fed me his bite of oatmeal.

Do I feel stupid and lame? You bet! Was this the best way to handle the situation? Probably not. But sometimes you have to lose one battle to win the war.

How have you handled power struggles with your little ones? What would you have done? Next time I may just come back to your comments to refresh my tool belt. : )


  1. Brilliant!!
    Hatzoff. A deep and profound spiritual lesson; may he never forget it. It could create the foundation for his belief in Christ.

  2. I’m so inspired. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Well you managed to get yourself out of the corner with minimal if any damage. Definitely not a good habit to get into, but you managed to dig yourself out of this one. You want to know what I would’ve done? Depending on how much sleep I got thanks to the newborn, and how much mess and fighting I woke up to, I likely would’ve forced it down and scarred them for life. I’d like to think i would’ve remained calm but I may never know! Your creativity served you well! 🙂 Well played momma! WELL PLAYED!

  4. Oh the dreaded power struggle! I have found, with my girls, that power struggles stem from them feeling powerless and best way to give them some “power”? Give him some choices: Maple Syrup or Honey on his oatmeal? Milk or water to drink? I make the choices logical: oatmeal or cereal? Cereal or eggs? There is a fine line between offering choices and becoming a short-order cook, mind you… in our house, once the choice has been made, there are no backsies. 🙂

    But I love how you took the bite for him, it seems like by that point you were both exhausted and done and sometimes the wisest move is to end it and start over again the next day.

    So how was that cold oatmeal? 🙂


  5. Aw, that’s a sweet story. And I think the best thing you could do in the situation. It gets so tough when you have to stand your ground and they have a meltdown!

    I mostly avoid food battles, but I think I’m just scarred from my own childhood. My parents always did the “one more bite” routine, and it was probably more trouble than it was worth. That said, when I ask Adelaide to take “one more bite” she usually does it, so maybe she’s more cooperative than I was! Let’s hope.

  6. marlina says:

    I think you handled this situation in a great way Kate ! Are Lord brought to you a way He saw for it to be done & over with ! I understand how hard it is with toddler’s been there before with 2 of them at the same time . When mine were toddler’s we had a timeout chair for them & when they missed behaved they would sit there in the timeout char depending on there age if they were 2 then it would be 2 minutes & so on !! They did not like sitting there doing nothing but looking at the wall ( mind you I was still in the same room with them ) Another one we also did if you don’t finish your meal at the time it was given to you then there will be no snack before the next meal of course this was much older then 2 now ! Just one more thought for you we do then & still do it till this day ! If you don’t finish what your meal is at the time , that will be your what your eating at the next one !! I’m praying our Lord will guide you through these hard times of toddler age fits & to prepare you for the next stage of of mommy hood stresses !! : )

  7. LOVE THIS STORY. And I’m also a little convinced that your toddler and my toddler have secretly been in cahoots over breakfast. Here’s what I’ve been trying (in addition to occasional standoffs, of course): When she says she’s “all done” (and I know she’s not), I play along and get her out of her chair AFTER I tell her that there’s no more food or snacks once she gets out of the chair. Do you understand? Yes, she says and nods. So, I let her have her way. Then, when she cries and whines for “crackers” 5 minutes later, I say “No crackers right now…. remember the rule? Breakfast is over.” She screams and has a fit right there in the kitchen and is then OVER it in about 5 minutes. We go play or do something (I distract her) and then she forgets. She gets her way, I stand my ground and get my way… but then if we have a snack an hour later, does that mean she won? Oh my. Now I’m just confused. 🙂 I do love your story though! Sassy call with taking the last bite!

  8. Very inspiring

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