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Do you think it's cruel not to make children extra food if they don't like what you made?

post #1 of 103
Thread Starter 

I see myself as an open-minded peaceful parent who prefers to talk rather than use discipline.  I would probably consider myself a permissive parent: I allow my kids to watch tv and play computer games when they like, for the most part, after dinner it is my husband's turn to watch tv, and we try to be in bed by eight pm.  my kids attend a school that practices progressive education, so they have no homework and their school work is mostly self directed.

that said, every night when i make dinner, for myself, my husband, my parents, and my three children, the oldest and the middle, to a lesser degree, balk at dinner and I don't make them anything else to eat no matter how they gripe.  later on when they are hungry before bed, they end up eating a fruit, and sometimes they eat cereal.

so i don't keep food away from them, but i tell them that fruit and cereal are poor dinners.  my husband tells me that i need to cater to them, for their own health, so that they will eat right.

i don't stop my husband from buying cereal.  i have tried in the past but he says he wants to get it anyway.  i am worried about their health too, but am i wrong to think that if i just keep serving them and eating it in front of them that they will eventually just see that it is good, delicious food?  they are 8 and 4 and 1.  the 1yo eats most everything, as the boys both did when they were young as well.  since i am making meals for seven humans, i feel that it is reasonable to make one dinner that we all eat.  it is good food and nutritious and tasty.

post #2 of 103

I don't think that one person can decide if food is "delicious" or "tasty" for another person.

 

That said, I don't think it's wrong to not make separate cooked-to-order meals for each family member.  I'd try to make sure there was something everyone would eat at each meal, and if they preferred fruit and cereal (as long as it was healthy cereal with milk or some other protein), then that's their choice.

post #3 of 103
I think it is reasonable to only make one dinner. And I do think that their eating is likely to expand when they're exposed to different foods and see you enjoying them.

In the meantime, I think it is also reasonable for you to set an alternative to the dinner if you don't want them eating fruit and cereal every night. The blog It's Not About Nutrition has a post called How Cottage Cheese Changed My Life or something like that. The blogger's 6yo often wouldn't like the dinner she made so she chose a single alternative. She wanted it to be easy, nutritious, readily available and something her child liked but didn't love (otherwise it would always look better than dinner). Her child could either have dinner or cottage cheese. She says it worked very well for them. Not sure how it fits with a permissive parenting philosophy but, might be worth a try if you want to stop the cereal.
post #4 of 103

For a long time we did the "dinner or plain yogurt" option, similar to the cottage cheese plan the previous poster described. I thought he would eventually get tired of yogurt but he never did.   Now we have a two-bite rule. My DS (5 yo) has to take two bites of our meal before he decides he doesn't want it.  Half of the time he decides he likes it (after whining and retching over it just minutes before).     He eats a huge healthy breakfast and a good lunch so I don't worry to much if he refuses his dinner. I don't allow snacks after dinner if he refuses to eat anything. For awhile we were going through a phase of refusing dinner, then crying that he was starving before bed and getting cereal.  Now I just wrap up his dinner and if he says he's starving he's welcome to try it again. He's much more likely to his dinner if he knows he can't get cereal or a bar before bed.

 

I don't think it is cruel or unreasonable at all.  We're a household of four people and we are lucky to have healthy nutritious food on our table for three meals.

post #5 of 103

We had foster kids and would cater to them and make them "kid" food.  They left our house for a year and the people they were with ran supper like you do.  Now when these kids visit they are willing to eat anything we serve - all vegetables. I believe we were doing a disservice to them.

 

I have heard a nutritionist say to foster parents "If there is nothing that the kid will eat on the table then he/she can make themselves a PBJ sandwhich for supper".

 

Our doctor said to make sure that there is one item on the table that the child likes and let them eat that.

post #6 of 103
We often disassemble a meal if we know they will refuse it. Like for fajitas, setting aside some seasoned chicken and putting it in a quesadilla. My kids are excellent veggie eaters, but dd has taken a long time to warm up to peppers and onions. We've also sautéed onions and/or peppers in a separate pan if making stir fry, then those who like them can add them to their plate, and the kids eat the rest of the stir fry without complaint.

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post #7 of 103
An occasional dinner of fruit and cereal is one thing. On a regular basis? This is probably the unpopular view, but "yes", I think it is cruel.

I consider myself to be permissive, but always keep what is best for my child in mind. TV and computer games (unless educational) are not good, therefore they can be eliminated. Dinner is food -- a necessity. Therefore it is important that children and their preferences are taken into consideration.

Before anyone jumps on me, saying they do take their children into consideration and the children refuse to eat, I cannot go to your house and see for myself how well you listen to your children. Maybe you do, maybe you don't, and only those in your home know.


Now let me tell you where I'm coming from. I grew up with undiagnosed food allergies/intolerances. I suffered, while my mother believed she was providing good food. Because of those experiences, I always side with the child.

Make sure you listen to why the dinner is not liked, and do your best to provide alternatives that are better than fruit and cereal. Especially as I doubt lunch is stellar at school. As the parent, you do have an obligation to provide healthy food for your children, which means they have to be able and willing to eat it.
post #8 of 103
Nope. I'm no short order cook. Once my children were physically able to make their own PB and J or pour their own bowl of cereal..... I made one meal for the family. One.
post #9 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by philomom View Post

Nope. I'm no short order cook. 

 

My kids are 2 and 4. I cook one meal. Our go-to alternative is cheese and salami and we have a hanging fruit basket the kids access at will. I don't limit access to eating but my effort is worth something and I'm not going to teach my children that it is ok to be demanding and rude.

 

ETA: we also have a two bite rule. And I do cater to likes when I'm cooking. We have no allergies. No one likes onions. I don't make anyone eat peppers if they don't like them. My rule is, "It is ok to pick around food on your plate and not eat the stuff you don't like but you must try it and you must be polite to the cook." In our house when we sit down the non-cooking parent models appreciation for the effort of cooking at every meal. My husband makes breakfast and I make dinner. 

post #10 of 103

Well, I'll admit I'm sometimes an experimenter in the kitchen, and I like some weird stuff that doesn't quite jive with the palate of a 5 y.o. So, yes, I sometimes put together something different for DD. We're on the grazing side anyway, here, so it's not uncommon to have several things available (that don't require heating/cooking) that are my go-tos when dd thinks my dinner stinks. She has a right to her opinion too, and if she wants to eat carrots and avocados for dinner instead of moroccan stew, I guess I can concede. This does throw me off sometimes, though. I never expected her to like pea soup, so I didn't make her any. She ate mine. I warmed up more for me ;-)

 

For the record, PB n J is a very rare treat...it goes in the same category as candy here....so I wouldn't offer it up as a dinner option, typically.

 

We have only rice puffs as cereal here, but once in a blue moon I'll bring home some other kind. It's for weekends only, though (since they are so loaded with sweet).

post #11 of 103
I only make one meal, but I always have a few things on hand that they can get together themselves if they want. Those things are not much fun or they'd always choose them, but they're things like nuts, carrot sticks, peanut butter, apples, etc. They can make themselves something if they don't like what I cook.

I also often give them a version of what I make - like keep the parts separate for them so they can have the bits they like but not everything.
post #12 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by OliveJewel View Post

I see myself as an open-minded peaceful parent who prefers to talk rather than use discipline.  I would probably consider myself a permissive parent: I allow my kids to watch tv and play computer games when they like, for the most part, after dinner it is my husband's turn to watch tv, and we try to be in bed by eight pm.  my kids attend a school that practices progressive education, so they have no homework and their school work is mostly self directed.

that said, every night when i make dinner, for myself, my husband, my parents, and my three children, the oldest and the middle, to a lesser degree, balk at dinner and I don't make them anything else to eat no matter how they gripe.  later on when they are hungry before bed, they end up eating a fruit, and sometimes they eat cereal.

so i don't keep food away from them, but i tell them that fruit and cereal are poor dinners.  my husband tells me that i need to cater to them, for their own health, so that they will eat right.

i don't stop my husband from buying cereal.  i have tried in the past but he says he wants to get it anyway.  i am worried about their health too, but am i wrong to think that if i just keep serving them and eating it in front of them that they will eventually just see that it is good, delicious food?  they are 8 and 4 and 1.  the 1yo eats most everything, as the boys both did when they were young as well.  since i am making meals for seven humans, i feel that it is reasonable to make one dinner that we all eat.  it is good food and nutritious and tasty.

It's your opinion that it is "good, delicious food".  My dh LOVES beets.  I think they taste like dirt.  If he told me they would "good, delicious food" and I had to have that or cereal instead of a veggie that I enjoy, I'd be very unhappy. My children are allowed to choose what food they like to eat.

 

If you know they won't like it, then I think it's not ok to put it out and say "this is it".  If they taste it and don't like it, then I think it's fine to let them have something else like cheese and an apple. If they are just stomping their feet because they would rather eat Skittles, then heck no, eat your dinner.  If someone made me dinner and I didn't like it, I would be furious if I wasn't allowed something else to eat.

 

 

My dd isn't picky but she loves buttered noodles.  This makes me crazy because HELLO, it's just noodles.  But when I make casseroles that I know she won't enjoy, I pull out a serving of plain noodles for her.  It's not the best dinner but she's welcome to have a serving of whatever else I made (that she likes and will eat, but would rather just eat noodles).  If she chooses not to have more dinner that's on her.  But it's not because she doesn't like it, it's because she chooses not to eat it.  

 

I will NEVER battle with my kids over food.  They aren't eating Pop Tarts for dinner, but they don't have to eat what I make.

post #13 of 103
Oh vegetables. I forgot that. I always make two or three kinds - I just steam them all together - for a couple of reasons. 1) there is at least one kind of veggie that everyone likes. 2) I think you end up eating more veggies without noticing how many you're having when there's more than one kind.
post #14 of 103

Ha!  I've already instituted the "one meal" rule, and when she refuses but is still standing at the pantry door crying and saying "I eat!" and "Bites!" and "Please!", I give her bread with peanut butter or hazelnut spread on it.  You know, the husband-person gave me crap about it, something about "bread and water" for her.  As the cook, I find the "dinner or PBJ" method very reasonable.

post #15 of 103

I only make one meal, but I will split apart the meal for the kids if i know they won't eat it the way I make it. Mainly for tacos or fajitas, or something like that. My older DS, who's almost 4, is just starting to get the hang of tacos. But generally they eat what I make, they are pretty good eaters. And they love their veggies, but we are vegetarians so they graze on veggies all day almost.

 

If I make something new, I do make them at least try it. Like last night I made sweet potato and onion stuffed shells for the 1st time. My older DS complained the he didn't like them the whole time he was eating, but still ended up eating his whole meal. My younger DS tried one bite and then wouldn't touch them. He ate all his green beans and then had yogurt instead. If its something I know they love, like spaghetti or veggie burgers, I don't give in to them not eating it and they don't get any snacks after dinner. If they are hungry before bed they get their dinner - and most of the time will scarf it down at that time.

 

I'm not naive or mean, I know there are some foods my kids don't like and I won't make them eat it. But I also won't send them to bed hungry.

post #16 of 103

I offer her a plate of food. She has about 20-30 min to eat, and then she has to wait till the next meal time. She has 5 meal times in a day, another opportunity will come to eat. That being said if its something I know is a little spicy, she can have a PB&J. I dont pressure her to eat anything. Sometimes if she is distracted I will try to get a couple more bites in her, but I wont fight about it. 

post #17 of 103

I don't think there is a correct answer... as a kid I remember being fed "one meal" that was nutritious and "delicious" (to an adult lol) and if I didn't eat it, it would be wrapped up and saved in the fridge for when I was ready to eat it. At the time, I wasn't trying to be difficult or picky, it was just truely vile and would make me nauseous in normal doses, now as an adult, I really love those foods, go figure lol

I don't think it's reasonable to expect a person to be able to cook 7 separate meals multiple times a day but at the same time, everyone's nutritional needs must be met... maybe give them more input on what you prepare and have the adults be more flexible if it means eating the same meal repeated 2-3 times a week? Or cook a large batch of something the kids like and freeze it into tv dinners? ...or get creative in how you serve the food, like different containers or cutlery every time?

post #18 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by pek64 View Post

I consider myself to be permissive, but always keep what is best for my child in mind. TV and computer games (unless educational) are not good, therefore they can be eliminated. Dinner is food -- a necessity. Therefore it is important that children and their preferences are taken into consideration.

Before anyone jumps on me, saying they do take their children into consideration and the children refuse to eat, I cannot go to your house and see for myself how well you listen to your children. Maybe you do, maybe you don't, and only those in your home know.


Now let me tell you where I'm coming from. I grew up with undiagnosed food allergies/intolerances. I suffered, while my mother believed she was providing good food. Because of those experiences, I always side with the child.

Make sure you listen to why the dinner is not liked, and do your best to provide alternatives that are better than fruit and cereal. Especially as I doubt lunch is stellar at school. As the parent, you do have an obligation to provide healthy food for your children, which means they have to be able and willing to eat it.

I agree with this.  

 

I don't think that cereal is cruel, but it is a good sign that perhaps your dinner isn't accommodating them well enough.  They are probably old enough to help devise a menu with you.  You don't want to be making 5 dinners, but you can work to accommodate them in general.

 

And as far as short-order cook I hear about time and time again--what's the big deal about this?  Why the line-in-the-sand directive that kids eat whats on the table or else?  Unless your kids are helping cook and plan the meals, unless they have regular input in what will be served I think that it's harsh and unfair.  (And in the case of undiagnosed allergies downright bad for you.)  

 

We *have* to make different things in our house due to severe and competing allergies.  Adding a terrible picky eater into the mix was frustrating, but a no-brainer.  We were already making several different things for the table, why not accommodate her, too?  Cooking this way is really not that hard, I don't understand why people get so oppositional.  Sure, it took some working out.  And yes, now and then they will ask for something, I will make it, they change their minds and I say "nothin' doin', you asked for this, I made it, I will not make yet one more thing".

 

We make several things, keep them rather plain, my husband and I might pile everything together and add cheese (no cooking *with* dairy in our house) and hot sauce.  On nights that I make chicken soup (with potatoes--no wheat for my oldest), I make a few egg noodles for dd2 in some (perfectly strained and clear) broth.  I usually make wheat-free cornbread, and I pop down a slice of homemade wheat bread (I can't have corn).  I steam some cauliflower, and dh and I might add this to the soup or just nosh on it plain.  DD2 might snub the noodles she asked for, but she can eat yogurt and cornbread, and dh will add her noodles to his soup.  

 

It's not that hard.  In my grumpier moments, I feel like it's more a power trip than an honest effort to help kids tolerate diversity in their diet.   Now, growing up, we were 3 young girls with a mother freshly divorced from a deadbeat dad.  What we had on the table was often the only thing in the house.  So, I get that this can be necessary.  But I simply don't understand the depression-era rigidity, especially amongst AP parents.  That's a pretty top-down way of dealing with this issue.  Bolt.gif

 

All that said, I think it's a far stretch to say it's "cruel" to offer cereal and fruit for dinner.  If their diet is nicely varied, I don't even see the trouble eating it every night.  Again, if they are wanting to eat it every night, you probably need to reconsider your menu.  

post #19 of 103

Sweet Silver--I think that a lot of my "top down" style of handling this is because I hate cooking. I'm bad at it. At this point in time it is the big point of friction in my life. (Laundry is no longer so bad now that we are done with cloth diapers. YAY!) I grew up eating ramen two meals a day and eating free lunch at school. Learning how to cook vegetables and meat has been a major journey for me. If my kids had allergies or serious issues I would deal with them. But children all over the world are handed a pile of vegetables and they can eat it or not eat it. I don't see why it's mean. 

 

But I have a house where everyone is pretty content to eat my cooking once they get past the first "I don't wanna" bite. We have no allergies or major problem preferences. (My youngest won't eat potatoes. Fine. I don't put any on her plate.) I certainly don't force feed them. But I've worked really hard on cooking and if they snub it just because it makes me cry. Is this my issue? Of course. But we have to live together. And I don't see why it is mean for them to understand very early that preparing food requires effort and when people put forth effort for you it's polite to not complain about it. You don't have to eat it. You can push your food around on your plate and fib a little and tell me, "I guess I'm not that hungry" and after dinner eat an apple.

 

I feel like food culture overlaps with all kinds of other manner issues. And I have so few areas in life where I tell my kids that they should appreciate my efforts (I sure as heck don't expect them to appreciate me cleaning the house or doing their laundry at this stage) that I have made a stand on food. Is it appropriate? Maybe not. I feel like in the scheme of things if this is my big thing then I'm doing ok. I'm not that controlling about food. If we are out they can eat whatever they want. I don't limit sugar or treats or anything like that. If it is in the house they can eat it. But when I bloody make dinner be nice to me. Darn it.

 

I do recognize that I would have to have a different attitude if my kids had health issues. So can I say that I have made this stand with a conscious eye towards the fact that it is a privileged point of view? 

post #20 of 103

I don't think it's cruel not to make them extra food if they don't like dinner.  If they are fine with cereal & fruit as a bedtime snack - and you are too - that's fine.  If your dh isn't happy, come up with a better but acceptable post-dinner snack.  Like - is he worried about not enough veggies, or protein, or something specific?  You can make small adjustments to your dinners or what's available for snacking to compensate for those concerns.

 

I personally, sometimes do the multiple extra food thing.  We have allergies and picky eaters, some vegetarians and some not.   I'll make dh a pork chop sometimes, I'll heat up preferred leftovers for a kid who doesn't like 'regular dinner' as much as everyone else, I'll make boxed mac & cheese for the kids and make something yummier (to me) for myself & dh.  I personally have just seen too many food issues around us that I don't want to make it a power struggle, and in our home it ends up going that way (just due to our personalities and preferences, I suspect).  That isn't worth it for me.  I enjoy food - I easily make a special one-off dinner for myself and something else for everyone else sometimes.  winky.gif   

 

I do expect the kids to try foods, not make rude comments about it at the table, and to speak with me in the kitchen (and not at the table) if they can't figure out something else to eat (we'll easily do toast/bagels/oatmeal/scrambled egg/yogurt/sandwich as dinner alternative as dd1 can make most of this herself with a bit of help).  I do expect the kids to let me finish eating before I run off to do more cooking for them if it's really necessary.  I expect their assistance to clean up and put away whatever it is that they prefer not to eat.  I do keep in mind what things they do or don't like as much when I go about planning and cooking dinner.  I certainly don't make 4 different meals every day of the week either for everyone.  I do happen to do lots of customizable meals (think: tacos, chili, veg dogs, rice & beans, fajitas where you have a variety of toppings to choose from in addition to the main item) - this helps us avoid some of our struggles.      

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