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Dd's new friend is a super picky eater - WWYD?

post #1 of 124
Thread Starter 
We are new to this area and I am thrilled that dd has this friend. She's a sweet girl and the family is lovely. But honestly I have never met a child as stubborn (or as rude) as this one is when it comes to food. When she is over at dinner time, she will ask what we are having and then inform me that she doesn't like whatever it is. And I am not talking about woo-woo crunchy organic stuff either, I'm just talking about regular stuff like hamburgers, corn on the cob, fried chicken, mushrooms, you name it. It's like "I don't like it" is her default setting. When I ask her if she's ever had it before, she'll say no but she doesn't like it.

Well I have tried my default setting of simply saying, this is what we are having so you are having it too, at least give it a try. Of course I also try to have the few things that I know she likes, like baked potato or carrots. Or if she is just staying for dinner and going home afterwards, I will let her eat what she wants (sometimes she eats nothing at all) and then let her mom know so her mom can get some food into her before bed. But like last night, she ended up spending the night rather unexpectedly and I didn't have "her" foods in the house. I insisted that she eat a little of everything we were having (that is the rule in our house I don't think it is fair to dd if her friend gets a different set of rules, not to mention she did need to have some food in her tummy before going to bed!) and it really didn't go over very well.

So I am sort of puzzling over how to deal with this in the long term. What would you do in this case? I guess there are two issues here: one is how to get her to eat when she is here (the best I can think of is to just be sure we always have potatoes and carrots in the house!) and the other is how to deal with my reaction to her. To me it is just really rude to go into someone else's house and refuse their food, basically expecting them to make something else for you. I have talked to her about it, asked her if she feels uncomfortable eating at someone else's house (sympathetic approach) and on another day letting her know that I feel hurt when she asks what we are having then says she doesn't like it even without tasting it (direct approach) but neither has done any good. I haven't talked it over with her mom yet, although I think I could with no hurt feelings. I'd just like to figure out a solution for myself if possible.

Oh, she and my dd are 8, they are not little ones. I wouldn't have as much of a problem if the behavior was coming from a 4 year old, YK?

Any advice?
post #2 of 124
Well I'd stop having her over for dinner.
post #3 of 124
Thread Starter 
See, I've considered that but I really don't want to go there. Only having her over at non-meal times would significantly limit how much time she and my dd get to play, and as I said I am glad that dd has this friend. Dd is an only child and so really needs other kids around sometimes.
post #4 of 124
I would not worry about it much. If she doesn't eat anything, it's her choice. She's 8, she's not going to starve from one missed meal. That just means she'll eat a hearty breakfast - lol.

And, I would ask her for a list of foods she likes in addition to potatoes and carrots and I would try to always keep at least one of those things on hand. I generally keep pretzels on hand for one of my ds's friends who is here often (though not at meal times). He likes to snack on them and doesn't usually like our other snack foods. He knows where we keep them and can help himself.
post #5 of 124
Quote:
I insisted that she eat a little of everything we were having (that is the rule in our house I don't think it is fair to dd if her friend gets a different set of rules, not to mention she did need to have some food in her tummy before going to bed!) and it really didn't go over very well.
I definitely would not do that. It's sort of mean. I cannot imagine telling a guest in my house, "You have to eat a bit of everything that I'm serving!" I wouldn't do it to an adult, and I wouldn't do it to a kid.

My dd (5) has real sensory issues that make her an incredibly picky eater. She honestly can't help it (though we're getting OT and they'll work with her on this). You don't know why this girl doesn't eat a lot of different things, or why she won't try them. And even if it's simply that she doesn't want to, well, she doesn't want to! Don't force the issue.

Quote:
To me it is just really rude to go into someone else's house and refuse their food, basically expecting them to make something else for you.
I think you need to get over this feeling you have and just make it easy for everyone by, like the previous poster suggested, having her come up with a list of things she likes, especially no-cook things, and have those readily available with meals/snacks when she's visiting.

Then you simply serve the meal, have the "safe" food she likes available, and don't mention the issue. Everyone can sit down, eat what she wants and not eat what she doesn't want, and just enjoy each other's company.
post #6 of 124
I'd just find out what she likes and stock up on a few things that keep well.

My ds is a pretty picky eater. He wouldn't eat hamburgers, corn on the cob, chicken, or mushrooms, either (or potatoes and carrots). But it is likely you have something in his cupboard he would eat like pasta with parmesan cheese or crackers. It's also likely he'd not want to return if he was pressured into eating food he didn't like.

Helping him eat new foods and a more varied diet is my job, not something I want other people taking on. Other people "encouraging" him tends to backfire. I know when he is in a good mood, not tired, feeling adventurous enough to try something and not sensitive enough that he will have sensory issues with it.

But I do encourage him to just say "no thanks". Continued pressure might result in a less polite response, however. Sometimes he says something tastes like a dead mouse, lol, and I ask him how he knows what a dead mouse tastes like.

I wouldn't worry about having different rules for guests. That is a common enough occurrence. Just because it is a child guest doesn't mean she should be treated differently than an adult guest who is allowed to abstain from foods that aren't to their preference. It's more rude to make a guest eat a food than for a guest to not eat a food, IMO.
post #7 of 124
DH is a picky eater, He either eats what I cook (I include things he likes) or he fiends for himself. So maybe you could have her mom send something with her? Single serve things? or "home foods" that she likes that way you aren't put out, and she still eats.

I do think it's rude that she won't eat. I had a greek and a southern friend, the foods they ate were very different then what mom cooked. I still at least ate some and told them how delicious it was. but my grandfather is Italian, and not eating WILL GET YOU KILLED in an Italian family don't even play, they don't care if you're full or whatever, you're eating, and you're liking it.
post #8 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thao View Post
I haven't talked it over with her mom yet, although I think I could with no hurt feelings.
I think you definitely need to talk to her parents about it. If they are expecting her to be at your house during a mealtime and she won't eat anything that you offer, then she either needs to bring a packed meal of her own or not be there during mealtimes. Maybe if she knows why she can't be there at mealtime she want to be a bit more cooperative and try new things so she can stay, but if not, it shouldn't be your problem.
post #9 of 124
I'd try to have foods on hand that you think she'll like- maybe ask her mom or dad for suggestions of things the child likes that are easy to keep in the pantry or freezer.

It's not your job to make the child eat new foods- it's simply your job to offer food to her. The only thing I'd address with her directly is HOW she tells you she doesn't want it. If "I don't like it" seems rude to you, then teach her to say "no thank you" instead.

I'm wondering if the foods you prepare are VERY different from what she eats at home. Your "location" says that you're in Vietnam- and maybe hamburgers and corn on the cob aren't "basic normal food" there? Would she be more likely to eat a stir fry or a curry?
post #10 of 124
When my daughter's friends want to eat here, they first ask what I'm making and only want to eat here if it sounds good to them. If someone wanted to stay for dinner I'd probably warn them about what we were having to help them make their choice. So maybe you could do something like that? When she says she wants to stay, tell her what you're having and if she doesn't like it, suggest she stay another night instead.
post #11 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thao View Post
I insisted that she eat a little of everything we were having (that is the rule in our house I don't think it is fair to dd if her friend gets a different set of rules, not to mention she did need to have some food in her tummy before going to bed!) and it really didn't go over very well.
If I were the friend's mom, I wouldn't allow my child back at your house if I found this out.
post #12 of 124
I would definitely never insist a child eat something they don't like. Especially someone who is relatively new in your lives. You don't know if "don't like" is a way of saying "makes me sick to my stomach" or "allergic to" or whatever. To me, coercising someone to eat is as much a violation of their body as hitting them. This seems extreme but as someone who's parents regularly did both, I can assure you they feel very similar.

Also, I think its inevitable that you will have different rules when guests are present then when they aren't. So I wouldn't get hung up on that. In our house rules such as how much clothing you need on when out of your bedroom changes, as well as where it is OK to play.

I've had several of DSs friends to dinner (same age), and some of them don't eat very much or express dislike for what I serve. Mostly my strategy has been to plan on meals that are reasonably kid friendly, and make sure I have bread and butter and carrot sticks and ranch dip on the table (or something that I know most people will eat). Serve dinner -- without telling child first what is for dinner, unless its "we are having X, would you like to stay or should I call your mom to pick you up?" Don't worry about how much she eats. If she is rude about not liking it, stick to neutral information like "I'm sorry you don't like it but please don't spoil it for everyone else." If she's staying the night, offer a snack of something "safe". If she's not staying, tell her parent when they pick her up that she didn't eat much dinner so she might need a before-bed snack.

I put as much consideration into feeding a child guest as I do an adult guest, though maybe not as much fuss as a "special" guest. That, for me, is part of being hospitable, and that is important to me. If you aren't willing to do that, then I would really plan on playdates that didn't involve dinner as everyone will probably be happier.
post #13 of 124
well I would stop having her over for meal time.

or tell her that is fine but you aren't going to make something special and she can eat when she gets home. (although I think this is kinda rude since you invited her over a meal time)

if those is not an option I would offer her a bowl of cereal or a peanut butter sandwhich. I would never insist an invited guest eat anything. they are after all a guest. if this was a child you were babysitting regularly, a family memeber who was over all the time it would be different. but this is someone yuou want at your house and it seems yuo think the pickiness is still worth it to have her over for dinner. So if you know she will be there I would either serve something she likes (like you would for your friends) or plan playdates when she won't need a meal or will be eating a meal where she is a little easier to accomodate.

Maybe for sleep overs have her mom drop her of after supper. Breakfast food is sometimes easier. or drop her off right after breakfast and have her bring a sack lunch. have your dd pack one too and they can have a picnic. or stick with a simple kind of sandwhich you know she likes.
post #14 of 124
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Just because it is a child guest doesn't mean she should be treated differently than an adult guest who is allowed to abstain from foods that aren't to their preference. It's more rude to make a guest eat a food than for a guest to not eat a food, IMO.
I don't really think the comparison to adults works because quite frankly if an adult came to my house at dinner, asked what we were having, and then announced that they didn't like it (and I mean almost.every.time) I simply wouldn't have that adult over to my house any more .

I hear what you all are saying (and it's probably what I will end up doing, just having "safe" foods on hand so she doesn't get too hungry) but it's not sitting well with me yet. It is a matter of manners and house rules. If the rule at our house was that the kids go to bed at 9:00 and a friend came over and expected to stay up until midnight, I would say the same thing: these are the rules in our house, my daughter is expected to follow them and I expect you to follow them while in our house. I teach my daughter to do the same when she is at a friend's house. It is a matter of respect. I understand that y'all have different rules and may not agree with my rules, but when at someone else's house it is polite to follow their rules (as long as they are reasonable, naturally).

And just to be clear, I'm not expecting the child to eat an entire plate of something she doesn't like! Our general rule is that we all eat at least a little bit from the major food groups, which we define as protein, carbs, and veggies. If my daughter doesn't like broccoli I don't mind her substituting seaweed, for example. But if there isn't any seaweed then she has to eat a small amount of broccoli if that's what we have.

If this child is going to be over often (and it looks like it will, she hasn't been put off at all by the food issue and still wants to come over all the time, LOL) I'm trying to figure out how it is okay for her to follow different rules than my daughter. Maybe it is okay, but it doesn't feel like it to me.
post #15 of 124
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruthla View Post
I'd try to have foods on hand that you think she'll like- maybe ask her mom or dad for suggestions of things the child likes that are easy to keep in the pantry or freezer.

It's not your job to make the child eat new foods- it's simply your job to offer food to her. The only thing I'd address with her directly is HOW she tells you she doesn't want it. If "I don't like it" seems rude to you, then teach her to say "no thank you" instead.

I'm wondering if the foods you prepare are VERY different from what she eats at home. Your "location" says that you're in Vietnam- and maybe hamburgers and corn on the cob aren't "basic normal food" there? Would she be more likely to eat a stir fry or a curry?
No, I just have to update my profile! We are back in the US now.

You make a good point, though. It is not my job to make her eat. The more I read this thread the more I realize that to me this is really more an issue of respect. So maybe working with her about how to express her preferences.
post #16 of 124
Thread Starter 
Quote:
I put as much consideration into feeding a child guest as I do an adult guest, though maybe not as much fuss as a "special" guest. That, for me, is part of being hospitable, and that is important to me. If you aren't willing to do that, then I would really plan on playdates that didn't involve dinner as everyone will probably be happier.
I do try to do this, thus the "kid friendly" foods like corn on the cob and hamburgers.
post #17 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thao View Post
I hear what you all are saying (and it's probably what I will end up doing, just having "safe" foods on hand so she doesn't get too hungry) but it's not sitting well with me yet. It is a matter of manners and house rules. If the rule at our house was that the kids go to bed at 9:00 and a friend came over and expected to stay up until midnight, I would say the same thing: these are the rules in our house, my daughter is expected to follow them and I expect you to follow them while in our house. I teach my daughter to do the same when she is at a friend's house. It is a matter of respect. I understand that y'all have different rules and may not agree with my rules, but when at someone else's house it is polite to follow their rules (as long as they are reasonable, naturally).
You can insist that the child go to bed at 9pm per your 'house rules'... But you can't 'make' them go to sleep at 9pm. If a child, yours or a guest, wanted to lay in bed awake, not disturbing anyone until midnight - you couldn't stop them.

It's the same with food.

You can insist that she be polite about turning down food. You can insist that she sit at the table politely and visit while the family eats. But there is NO WAY that you should insist that she eat something.

Personally - I would make sure to have a snack I knew the kid liked and serve it long enough after supper that I didn't feel like it was a meal replacement. If the kid complained about being hungry - I would probably say that once the rest of us digested supper - we'd have a snack.

I don't openly 'cater' to children. But I sure do it secretly. Before my DD was drinking cow milk - we never bought it. But I would buy it when my sister came over with her kids because they refused to eat 'different' food and were absolute pains with nothing in their stomachs. But could quite nicely live off milk. So I'd make sure to have some on hand so that I didn't have to deal with their crappy behavior when they got hungry and refused to eat my food. I'm sure they would have also eaten icecream instead of supper - but that didn't feel right to me, so I bought milk instead.
post #18 of 124
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thao View Post
I do try to do this, thus the "kid friendly" foods like corn on the cob and hamburgers.
Well, if you were inviting your adult friends over to dinner, what would you do? I think you might think beyond "its adult friendly" to "what does X like to eat". At least, that's generally the way I approach cooking for friends. Of course, if they have dropped in unexpectedly, then its "we are having X, would you like to stay?" I don't do unplanned playdates, and certainly not ones that end in meals, so for me there is some planning time built in. If these are entirely, "oh, X is here and its dinner time, can she stay?" sorts of deals, I think all you can do is put a couple of safe, effortless choices out and hope for the best.

If, as you say, this is going to be an ongoing issue, I think your next step really needs to be a discussion with the child's mom about how she would like you to handle it. Basic playdate rules would dictate that you not do something that the other parent is opposed to, so I think you should go that route next. I will say that "forcing", no matter how gently and how little, my child to eat a food they didn't want would be a deal-breaker for me. In fact, my SIL did this to my son and it was the last time they have babysat him. I think you can say, "Our house rule is X, is that OK with you?" If she says no, then you can either work out an acceptible compromise or you can agree that child doesn't stay to dinner any more. But I think you are at the point where you need to involve the other parent.
post #19 of 124
You are not a short order cook; if she dosn't like what your serving then she can miss out. I wouldn't be making a seperate meal just for her I don't have the time or energy.
post #20 of 124
As the mom trying to figure out what to do, I'd say to do what I do with my own kids which is to offer them cereal or a quick PB&J sandwich if they don't like what I'm fixing for dinner.

As the mom of the kid who is a picky eater, I'd want to know about it so I could help coach my child in how to be gracious as well as adventurous in what she's willing to eat. My oldest DD is picky. She will eat a hamburger, but only one her daddy has grilled in the backyard. She will eat pasta but only certain kinds, etc. It's frustrating to cook for her. I wouldn't want a friend's mom to cook a separate meal for her, but I'd appreciate it if that mom would take into consideration what my kid will eat, not just what kids in general will eat, YK?
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