Topic | OT: Refusing a meal

Viewing 11 posts - 31 through 41 (of 41 total)
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  • Rachel White

    Thank you.


    @QueenMama – No offense taken. I see your point and respect your stance. As a former very picky eater who was left to grow out of it, I am not thankful for that experience. I didn’t just grow out of it, but rather made very deliberate decisions to better my health as a young 20 something and again as a 30 something year old. Those changes were very, very hard for me. Even now, I struggle with some things that I know I should eat and those I shouldn’t. My parents could have greatly lessened that particular struggle for me and my siblings by requiring us to at least try things. I’m not faulting my folks for feeding us the way they did as it’s what they knew, but I do take issue with allowing a child to be picky. I don’t see that as any help to the child as he grows.

    I have family members who as adults will eat only meat and potatoes and refuse other food, even when in another’s home. I’m sorry, but I do find that rude. If someone took the time to invite my family over, shop and prepare a meal for us, then the least we could do would be to try a small portion of each food without complaint and with real gratitude. In my own home, I expect my children to do the same.

    Growing up, I was allowed to simply say I didn’t like something and refuse trying it and I’m ashamed to say that I probably wrinkled my nose in disgust more than once. My children can dislike things, of course, but it needs to be based on more than seeing a food or hearing its name. Dd6 doesn’t care for  black beans. When we have black beans for dinner I could allow her to wrinkle her nose and skip it, but I do find that both rude and unacceptable in my kids, so I require her to take a small serving of 1-2 tablespoons of the beans to try. She isn’t served a plateful. Her choice is WHEN to eat not WHAT to eat. This works in my family. This same dd has learned to like strawberries, blackberries, pesto (her all time favorite food now), wild rice, beef, and many, many more food items that she would not have even tried on her own. By requiring a small no thank you bite, she’s broadened her palette and has thanked us for making her try something. Even at six, she realizes the importance of real gratitude. 

    I have trouble getting behind the idea that a “grateful heart” is demonstrated by eating what is in front of you.  By my definition, “grateful” is a feeling, and one either feels it or one doesn’t.  While eating what is served you may be one way to express gratefulness — for the production of the food, the labor behind the meal, the employment that made it possible, God’s gifts that helped to grow it, etc — it also may be an action that is completely removed from any feeling of gratefulness.  One could choke down food in submission to authority without feeling grateful at all (in fact, possibly feeling resentment).  I even worry that one could become LESS grateful for food when said food becomes part of a power struggle — “You will eat this because I made it for you, you get nothing else until you do, and you have no REAL choice in the matter.” 

    I agree that there are many ways to express gratitude and to teach about gratitude. One of the ways we do so in our family is by eating the food served us. You may disagree, that’s fine. You should know that food has never been a power struggle in our home. We set the standard and our kids understand that they are expected to try things. They aren’t resentful or ungrateful because of that expectation. It’s simply an expectation not unlike the expecting that they give their best effort in playing piano or working math problems. They rise to the occasion. 

    Either way, we can simply agree to disagree. We all want what’s best for our families and it will never look the same in everyone’s home and that is ok.

    Rachel White

    Christie said: “You should know that food has never been a power struggle in our home. We set the standard and our kids understand that they are expected to try things. They aren’t resentful or ungrateful because of that expectation. It’s simply an expectation not unlike the expecting that they give their best effort in playing piano or working math problems. They rise to the occasion. “

    I wanted to add that that has been the case in our home as well. The only time it was a power struggle was with my grandchild when we were watching him; he was between 2-3 yrs. old. He had been allowed by his mom to choose the food he ate, thereby establishing himself as the one in charge, so naturally it became a power struggle if he didn’t “get his way”. Also, he was used to grazing and picking food off the table and walking around and eating it, so when we were at the supper table, he wasn’t happy there either.

    With this situation, as in others when it’s not a biological issue, which is most of the time, it’s a matter of training and authority.

    Lastly, I also can identify with the adult being left to come out of pickiness on my own described so well by Christie. I sure would’ve appreciated if my mom had taken a different method than letting me be the one in charge. I didn’t know what was best for me and my decisions were childish and immature without any regard for the long-term effects or of gratefulness.


    Thanks for your response.  I think our perspectives are equally valid, and our different experiences as picky eaters have led us to different conclusions.  🙂

    Why not consult Charlotte Mason on this question? She had plenty to say that applies to feeding children. Her principle metaphor for education is feeding, and what she has to tell us about one applies to the other. First, we base what we do on the fact that the child has a natural affinity for nourishing foods, an appetite. If we assume that the child has an appetite and is born able to self-regulate, we know not to force.  We work with that appetite and leverage it. Then we use CM’s three main tools: Atmosphere, Discipline and a Life, which I call Good Conversation, Good Habits and Good Food. Those are our only legitimate tools to “get kids to eat” as to “get kids to learn.” It is, as stated above and notably by Ellyn Satter: it’s our job to set up the atmosphere and provide the right foods (only the very best we can give them) at the right time (when it’s meal/scheduled snack time) in the right way (in pleasant atmoshere where children are not allowed to whine and insult and fuss and misbehave and where parents also respect the child as a person and her freedom over what goes in her own mouth) and right place (at the table). Then it is the child’s job to decide what and how much goes in her mouth. Setting up those basics may take care of the picky eater problem for most people.  Do your job as a parent and a normal child will do her job of eating. That said, if your child shows signs of having an eating problem (problems with development, medical issues, sensory processing issues), therapy and treatment exists to solve those problems:  But usually parents of picky eaters start breaking the rules in reaction to their child’s abnormal behavior, becoming abnormal in their parenting in response: forcing, cajoling, bribing, providing crummy foods just to get the child to eat something, letting them eat anytime they want. I understand that and sympathize. But then it’s a vicious cycle. It’s the same pattern we see in education: grades and rewards, dumbed-down materials. I write a blog and give workshops on feeding children following CM’s principles.


    I like this; it’s a more worked-out statement of my vague inclination.  We put a variety of foods on the table. Our children choose which ones meet their needs.  I am very suspicious of forcing foods, as I worry about forcing and requiring breaking the connection between what a child needs and what they eat.  That way lies problem eating and either overeating or eating disorders or both.  And so what about a child who decides to become vegan or vegetarian?  This is a really hard thing to fight through–I’ve done it.  I had good reasons for my choice and my parents fought me tooth and nail.  I finally ended up getting a job and just buying all my own food.  There are a LOT of good reasons to choose diets other than typical and since my children are people, I can’t see why I should get to choose for them if they make a reasonable diet choice at a reasonable age.  Now, they need to convince me that it is reasonable.  Twinkies for every meal would not be reasonable!  But if I had a child choose vegetarianism or veganism, or raw foods, or high protein/low carbs, I’d work with that to help the child find a healthy way and then honor that.  I know that *I* have grown a lot as I’ve learned to listen to my body’s signals about when, what and how to eat.  I want my children to learn to feel that same connection, but that’s hard to do if I have taken over the ship and put it on mommypilot.  I think our bodies can be wiser than we know, if we listen to the deep-down signals (I’m not talking about the ones that scream “chocolate chip cookie!!!!” but the ones where you know you need more protein that day, or you just are craving a fresh salad, etc.) I want my children to be dialed into that.


    I do agree that our bodies (in general – assuming no problems masking it) know what it needs and makes you want to eat those thing….

    I do think that food “manufacturers” have “created” foods that overpower that natural sense of what is needed, in order to make people desire their foods.    

    So if your family is eating a pretty “natural” diet (ie, very little processed food) – that that works.  I admit to not being sure how well that would work in – say – my family….


    Late response as I just read this….I adopted my son from Russia when he was 13 mths old and he had a lot of sensory issues. For many, many months after I brought him home, all of his food had to be pureed. Over time, he has gotten much better and for the most part does well. He actually likes broccoli. I don’t know that I can offer much insight but with my son, I insist that he try two to three bites of a new food. If it is something he has tried before and doesn’t like, then I still insist on three bites. For example, sometimes he will eat creamed corn and sometimes not. Since that isn’t the healthiest food in the world, I don’t sweat it as long as he eats a few bites. I have him eat until he is full (I probably put more on his plate than I should – but that is my issue not his) but I insist he eat a reasonable amount before leaving the table. I have had huge food battles w/ him and have finally gotten to the point where I am willing to say that if he doesn’t try something, he can go to bed without dinner. He gives in and tries it. There are some foods that he refuses to try and I don’t push it because I can tell it is a sensory issue (he won’t eat oranges due to the white parts); he doesn’t like watermelon (texture issue – I think he likes the flavor). Sometimes if I am battling w/ him trying something new, I might even offer him a chance to lick it so he can taste it w/out having to actually chew it. I know that is bad manners (we do that at home not in public) but I still remember what it was like with me sitting there w/ him in a highchair and my trying 4 or 5 different foods and he wouldn’t eat any of it when he was a baby.


    Regarding the ability of our bodies to know what they need, I agree, but with a caveat. Many people eating modern western diets have a serious food addiction and don’t even realize it. When the diet is high in carbohydrates, the body craves more carbohydrates. This is the body saying it needs something, but in this case, it’s lying. 🙂 We eat low-carb and primal in our household. Since we’ve made the switch, my children have become less picky. My two year old, who’s just grown up this way, has never been picky at all. She eats anything we put in front of her. Anecdotal, I know, but I’ve heard the same from other primal/paleo moms, too.


    Okay, so I didn’t read all 39 posts – I shouldn’t really be on the computer at all! But I did want to offer a story that relates to this:

    A WWII prisoner of war in Japan shared in a documentary I watched that the reason he felt he survived was that he grew up on a farm and was expected to eat what was put in front of him. He learned the self-discipline of eating food that he didn’t care for. He described eating the maggot infested rice balls they were served as ‘rations’ as no big deal to him – while other men died of starvation because they just couldn’t bring themselves to eat this disgusting fare.

    Now, of course we all hope that our kids are never in this position. But I think there is something to be said for showing respect for the person who has prepared your food by eating it readily and without complaint. And I don’t think it would hurt many of our kids to learn to discipline thier flesh a bit and learn to put up with what they don’t like every now and again.

    We all like things that aren’t necessarily good for us to eat. But as adults we make logical choices and healthy diet decisions to eat not just what we like, but what is good for us (most of the time). I think it is our duty as parents to instill those healthy habits in our children which override the desires of any given moment :). I would say that goes along with a habitual self control. Just my two cents!


    For those with Charlotte’s original series, Chapter 2 of “Parents and Children” gives a great overview of family government, in general.

Viewing 11 posts - 31 through 41 (of 41 total)
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