What do you do when your kids refuse to eat a meal because they don’t like it?
We have a rule that if you refuse a meal, then you will get it for the next meal until you do decide to eat it.
How long would you let them refuse a meal (how many meals, days, etc) before trying something else and what would that be?KarenParticipant
We’ve tried that, but they refuse it the 2nd time, and then I feel bad making them eat it when it’s old and whatnot from being reheated the third time.
Our rule is that if you don’t finish your plate, you don’t get dessert. That seems to work most days. We do have some daughters who will just refuse and not get dessert. some cry, some don’t.KarenParticipant
OH, we used to do the one bite per year and that worked well. Then we slacked off. Now we have trouble going back to it….maybe we’ll pick up that habit again sometime when we’re not so stressed/busy.TristanParticipant
We don’t insist they eat the meal but this is what we do:
Serve small portions of everything. Smaller portions the younger they are. If they choose to eat everything they are welcome to seconds on what they like. If they don’t then they’re done eating, no seconds.
Once they are older we begin asking and then requiring bites. So my 5yo has to take 2 bites of everything. Older kids take more bites. But for little ones it’s just asked that they take one bite of each thing. If they don’t then it’s fine, but still no seconds unless they eat all on their plate.
Oh, and the amount on a first plate for each child is something they can easily finish and still be hungry (unless it’s a child who loves the meal and always eats it, like my oldest with most things now.
Does that all make sense?TristanParticipant
And we’ve had some sensory issues too. Our oldest literally vomits if she eats warm fruit (as in cooked, warmed up, not just fruit off the counter). So she is exempt from that one thing. And Mason has had some oral aversions already due to his many surgeries so we tread carefully there.
One thing I have found is if we only have good for us food in the house then the kids will be eating well in whatever amounts they eat. They all love green smoothies while some have issues with random veggies or fruits, so we do green smoothies often. We also don’t require them to eat sauces. So they can choose to have salad plain (one always does this), we make pasta for spaghetti and serve sauce on the side if we have one with that preference. It is a simple thing that doesn’t affect making the whole meal, so I don’t mind doing it.
What we don’t do:
Offer food in place of the meal. So if dinner is spaghetti, salad, and grapes then you’re not going to get the option to have a sandwich or bowl of cereal. Period.
We also have to work around food allergies. This has been ongoing for years and our solution is simply to have every single meal safe for every allergy. We don’t make separate meals, we keep all the food safe for the whole family. Currently that means nothing with egg, nothing with soy, nothing with artificial food dye. One child had a dairy allergy but outgrew it around age 4. The allergies are not all life-threatening anaphylaxis, but we do have that for one.missceegeeParticipant
Let me start by saying that I grew up supremely picky. The only thing green I ever ate was canned green beans and I didn’t like those very much. Also, most everything we ate was fried – fried chicken, country style steak, fried hamburgers – you name it. Now, I embrace a much more whole-foods, traditional style diet and so does my family.
Here’s a brief true story from some friends who served as missionaries in Africa for decades. During the 70s, there was a terrible famine. Our friends were fortunate to have some porridge of sorts to share with starving Africans. They recalled one mother in particular who had two sons, both malnourished, but the younger in much worse shape. Our friends gave the mother the porridge and her young son ate like you would expect a child literally dying of hunger to eat. The older boy refused and said he didn’t like it. This continued for a length of time until the mother returned for more porridge with only her young son. When our missionary friends asked after the older boy, they were told that he had died of starvation because he refused the porridge.
My children eat what’s served them or do without and I do not cook special meals for my kids. I make one healthy meal for the family and all are expected to eat it with a thankful heart. I’ve had one child (out of four) who chose not to eat for 2.5 days because he didn’t like what was offered. He eventually ate that same reheated meal with gusto when he was hungry enough. My dd6 is my “tries to be picky eater”. I say tries because she knows it is not allowed in our home. She would gladly eat bread, pizza, cereal or any of the less than healthiest choices at any time. Other foods, she’s not that into. However, I serve her very small portions of each item (ie. roast chicken, brocolli, rice, etc) and when she finishes that serving she may ask for more of what she prefers (within reason). She has learned to enjoy so many foods that she wouldn’t have if it weren’t required.
Like my missionary friends, I’ve traveled in third world countries and I’ve had mothers try to give me their malnourished and dying children in the hopes that I can bring them to America and save them. In America, we are spoiled, plain and simple. Call it by whatever you want, but it boils down to the fact that we are spoiled gluttons in this country used to having what we “like” instead of what we have. I do not praise my children for eating a meal. I encourage them to thank the Lord that they have a meal to eat and to thank me or whomever took the time to prepare it. Even in European countries, the picky eater problem is not nearly as ridiculous as it is here in the USA. Check out this book, French Kids Eat Everything. In the US, we make our kids picky by catering to their “likes” so often.
That said, I realize some have food sensitivities to be aware of. I, myself, eat a gluten free diet as I have an extreme sensitivity to gluten. However, were I in a third world country again and offered something made of wheat, I would most certainly eat it. My discomfort for a few hours or days would not compare to the shame I would feel at refusing a meal offered me by one who has nothing.
OK, stepping off my soapbox.RobinPParticipant
NOTE: We have no dietary restrictions so my response is based on that. It would be a completely different ballgame otherwise.
Am officially “liking” Christie’s response. I was allowed to be picky to the extreme to the point that, if we were invited to someone’s house for dinner, my mother would cook something for me and take it. I’m sorry. That is totally unacceptable. My boys eat what is put in front of them, very much like Christie’s. They don’t like it? Tough. My adopted son from China would eat all the junk in the world. But broccoli?…no… Tough. I don’t make him eat a plateful but, like Christie, he must eat the small amount I give him before he can have seconds of his favorites. I have come such a long way with my eating but I still struggle…horribly sometimes…and I will not allow my children to be ungrateful for what God has put on our table.
Sorry…very sensitive about this issue as well. And again, food sensitivities are different.jotawattParticipant
We require a certain number of bites too, varying based on age. Slightly O/T story here: my youngest son is definitely our pickiest eater. I used to have to threaten him with spanking just to get him to eat a pb&j sandwich! He’s never liked foods like mac n cheese, either, but I used to make him eat it in small quantities. Until I learned (blush) that he has celiac disease and dairy sensitivity. And I used to make him eat those things! Sigh….teaching2Member
I allow them to refuse, but the consequence is no meal. They usually agree to eat a portion. I don’t save for the next meal, instead the next meal is whatever new is served for that meal. Usually I am happy to have the extra leftovers for myself on the rare occasion they don’t eat but a portion of what is served. I agree with Christie’s thinking in the USA we are spoiled. The habit of refusing a meal doesn’t exist in most places around the world. I do happen to have fresh fruit and veggies at most meals which dc like better than cooked. If I am cooking veggies I will leave some chopped raw ones to the side special only because it isn’t added work for me and it is just as healthy, usually more healthy. If we eat elsewhere, the choices are what they are, but unfortunately I find when we eat out the choices are more desirable for dc because others eat things most kids enjoy like pizza and hamburgers. At potlucks, I try to take fresh veggies and fruits and make the kids choose that as part of their meal. Dc do get choices for lunch, but the choices are things that don’t require extra prep work . For example, they can have leftovers from the previous nights supper or they can have pb and j, salad, and fresh fruit. I used to hate cooked beans, but after one week of a six month stay in a third world country cooked beans with rice became my favorite meal. I am now thankful my dc love cooked beans, even though my oldest skipped a couple meals only to discover they were good once he decided he didn’t want to miss out on dinner.Rachel WhiteParticipant
I also agree with Christie’s. My sensory dd had to eat what we ate, just in smaller portions. She is now a voracious, eat-anything, try-anything young lady. If it wasn’t a facorite food, I give a smaller portion that all must be eaten adn each time we have it, I generally add more with each time we have it adn I’ve found that the majoirty fof the time, they grow to like it.
When my child wouldn’t eat, he went to bed without supper and had it for the next day as lunch – no exceptions. Of course, he was allowed breakfast, but no snack prior to lunch.
I don’t recall it ever extending beyond that as going to bed hungry was sufficiently uncomfortable.teaching2Member
Also, like an above poster mentioned, I do think kids can have undiagnosed sensitivities so that is why I don’t force the eating of food, offer a variety when possible, and don’t save meals for next mealtime.missceegeeParticipant
I know that food sensitivities exist as I have one, but I doubt that more than a smidgen of picky eating comes from food sensitivities, but rather from people being slaves to their taste buds. Again, take a look around the planet; I doubt the kids I’ve seen eating mudpies in Haiti to fill their empty stomachs have the luxury of avoiding certain foods just because there might be a sensitivity. If there were food, any food, available, then they would eat it.
Again, I know there are real allergies and sensitivities, but I call it like I see it and the vast majority of this is our spoiled, gluttonous society wanting what it likes.suzukimomParticipant
Like others, I try to give small portions, and they have to eat what they have before they get more (generally…) – I will let them have more vegetables without having eaten everything else (yes, it does happen….)
Basically the consequence is nothing else to eat until the next meal – which is whatever it is. Sometimes I have kids quite happy to finish off the other person’s meal… in fact, I sometimes worry that there are a few meals that my kids will eat and eat until it is all gone – no matter how much there seems to be…
These rules take effect when a child hits about age 3. Before that, I will allow a slice of bread or something like that – especially for supper…
My kids have learned to like vegetables, and I think it is due to “Movie Night”. Roughly once a week (some weeks we can’t) we have a family movie night, where we eat in front of the TV. My dh cuts up vegetables into a platter, makes dip, and we also have cheese, bread, and some type of cut up meat (like Ham or something.) Occasionally something else like Strawberries or something. When the kids are young (or if there is a problem) – I monitor the meat/cheese/bread getting from the platter. If there is something new, each child is expected to try one – otherwise they can pick and choose what they want from the vegetables. (Mind you, there needs to be selection…. I won’t let them take just cucumbers, say…) If we have a young one, my dh will steam some veggies too – and he usually still does as they prefer things like brocolli and cauliflower steamed. This all seemed to open my kids to vegetables…. They don’t like all veggies – but they all like some!
I have gotten comments at the grocery store, as we will be there and one child will be saying “We are out of brocolli, can we get some?” another “We haven’t had brussel sprouts forever!”, and yet another saying “We need some bell peppers!”
Now that said, my kids have picky areas. Only 1 of my kids really likes spaghetti. One will NOT eat macaroni and cheese. and it is almost guaranteed that no matter what I make (unless it is something totally unhealthy, and mostly not made by me – say hot dogs or fish sticks….) – well at least someone is going to whine that they don’t like it….suzukimomParticipant
I also agree with missceegee…. our kids are picky because there is plenty, and there is choice. Places where the meals are pretty much identical every day because that is what there is aren’t picky….
But, that is the land I live in. I also know that the professional recommendations today is to try to avoid food struggles (without catering to whims) because of the food issues my generation has because of the food struggles when we were kids. When asked, the one professional admitted that they really don’t know if this tactic is any better – they just know that the older way caused problems….
So, the current recommendations (well, from a couple of years ago) by the Canadian Paediatric association…..
– Don’t force the child to eat (ie no “You can’t leave the table until you clean your plate”)
– Don’t keep presenting the same plate of food
– Don’t cajole your child to eat (ie no “Come on sweetie, just one bite for mommy”)
– Do try to keep meals as stress free as possible
and on the other side
– Don’t cater to the child… no “You don’t want what I cooked? Ok, I’ll make you some hot dogs”
– Do make sure that the food is overall nutritious….
But as I said – they don’t know if that is truely the best – they just know that my generation had so much obesity and so many food disorders. (That said, this current generation seems to have a lot of obesity etc…. )lnosbornParticipant
Great tips here! I have a picky eater, dd6. I tried the saving it and reheating thing, but it didn’t always work… like if we unexpectedly ate at someone else’s house later or her leftovers accidentally were thrown away. Plus, after a day of reheating it every meal, it would just get grosser for her…and frustrating for me to watch! So we do no food until the next meal as consequence and no sweets of course, but I do want her to try things so maybe the very small portions and having her take a couple bites would work now that she’s a little older.
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