Kids are natural actors. Their adorable pouty quivering lips can get anything out of us. That’s why so many parents find themselves making 4 different meals for dinner every night. It’s an assembly line. 3 plates. 3 orders. No onions or mushrooms in that one, this one can’t have any of the foods touching and the third has white pasta with white cheese. Sound familiar? Now you all sit down to eat, albeit 30 minutes late since it takes so long, and you’re just pooped. What would happen if you said calmly “this is what’s for dinner. If you don’t want to eat it, don’t eat it. It’s mealtime now and later there will not be anything else available”?
I’ll tell you what: anything from whining, screaming and flinging of anything green. It will take getting used to, but the payoff is incredible. Less stress for you. Healthier meals for them. Better attitude as adults towards trying new things.
Going to bed hungry is OK sometimes. It reminds kids that there is no second dinner, even if they don’t eat the first dinner with the rest of the family. Eventually children learn that they’re part of a team. No one gets special treatment. Everyone is included. Kids set the table, stay at the table, eat some of their meal and clear their dishes, just like all of the adults in attendance (I hope). This built-in approach to food and eating doesn’t allow much room for pickiness, whining or petitioning for treats.
Are you rolling your eyes right now (or muttering some words that I am too polite to type)? No household gets it perfect every time. In fact just last week I found my three year old stuffing Swiss chard under his chubby legs. He tells me “I ate it Mummy”. Not a good day to be wearing shorts. According to Natalie Rigal, a psychologist and author of Winning the Food Fight, Neophobia (food rejection) is normal. It’s what you do with that food rejection that matters.
And what you do is stay neutral. IT’S NO BIG DEAL. Kids control 2 things: what goes in and what comes out (or, at least where it comes out). So if they feel that meal time is becoming a power struggle then they will do anything to gain control. Remain calm but firm. No substitute meals. If you’re serving cauliflower soup, they’re having cauliflower soup. And if they don’t want it, then they don’t eat it.
Now what will you do with all of your spare time, since you’re not making 3 dinners every night anymore?
Want to read more? Here’s my opinion about “Kid’s Meals”