What to do when your dc doesn't like dinner? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 03:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ds(6) often won't eat much of his dinner because he 'doesn't like it'. I do my best to make foods I know he'll like, but he won't always willingly eat his veggies or finish what he's been given. Even though 5 mins before he said he was starving, he'll say he's full (we strongly suspect he actually doesn't like it).

H always tells him he has to eat "8 more bites of ____" and "3 more bites of ____, then you're done."

It makes ds eat, but I'm not sure how I feel about forcing him to eat. maybe he really is full.

Last night h made a risotto that I knew before ds would not like. But I didn't say anything since I figured he could eat the rest of the sandwich he didn't finish in his lunch instead. Ds said he didn't like it and did the whole gag bit. H told he had to eat it or go to bed. Ds went upstairs crying. h was determined that ds would go to bed hungry if he wouldn't eat this risotto.

What do you do when your child just does not like dinner? What's the gd way to go about what happened at our house last night?

Thanks!
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#2 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 04:07 PM
 
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If DD1 doesn't like what we're having, I'll routinely offer her a bowl of plain yogurt and some fruit. This doesn't take me any effort to prepare, so it's acceptable to me, and I know she likes it, and it's healthy enough to satisfy the mama in me. If she doesn't want that, she's told she's free to stay at the table and not eat, or get down.

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#3 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 04:09 PM
 
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I never force my kids to eat something. Nor do I use bedtime as a punishment for "not eating" something.

I do, however, insist on respectful behavior at the dinner table. If one of my kids starts "gagging" at the table, I'd give them the choice to make gagging noises in another room or to sit at the table nicely. Basically, they have 3 choices: They can eat what I've prepared, they can leave the table, or they can politely ask to eat something else (but nothing that requires more cooking! I'm thinking leftovers or something simple like a bowl of cereal.)

There are times when I've made something that one child doesn't like and I'm hoping to get another child to eat it. In those situations, I won't allow the "not liking it" child to have an alternative food until after the meal has been served and cleaned up.

I often make my kids eat one bite of something new, just to taste it, but I won't insist on 3 bites or 8 bites- just one for taste, and then if the food isn't liked I won't insist on more being eaten. There are also times when I know the child likes various foods, but prefers the rice, when I'll give reasonable portions of all foods, but won't allow 2nds of the rice until the veggies and chicken are finished. I won't force DC to eat- if you're full you can stop, but if you want more rice you need to eat some broccoli and chicken first, then you can have all the rice you want (but this is only when I already know he likes the other foods and I won't insist on him finishing a food he really doesn't like.) But I don't do this all the time- usually only on Friday nights when we're all sitting together for the Shabbos meal.

In general, I let my kids eat when they're hungry and stop when they're full. I offer healthy snacks between meals. I offer a healthy bedtime snack as part of the bedtime routine, to minimize "I'm hungry" when it's time for lights-out.

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#4 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 04:10 PM
 
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There are always a number of things on the table that each person likes. Often really simple things: olives, pickles, cheese cubes, veggies of various stripes, refried beans...

Dinner is really a fun part of the day.
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#5 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 04:24 PM
 
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I wouldn't object to making something else (easy, no cooking) but not til I'm done my supper. He can sit at the table nicely or go play or something til I'm done eating, then we can figure out what he wants.

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#6 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 04:24 PM
 
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Here is the rule at our house: You eat what is put on the table, as much or as little as you want. I do not cook anything special; this is not a restaurant. If you don't like it, then get down from the table and go without. That has been the rule from day one. It was the rule when I was little. I do make exceptions when they are sick (duh!) but I don't cook two different meals. I cook things I know EVERYONE will like and 99 percent of the time it works. My oldest is 22 months and she has never starved. There have been nights when she ate just a bite or nothing at all, but she knows she won't get anything else. Your kids will eat if they are hungry enough. Hope I don't like a bi*ch about it, but that is one of my pet peeves at our house. Good luck mama!
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#7 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 04:36 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lilgreen View Post
Ds(6) often won't eat much of his dinner because he 'doesn't like it'. I do my best to make foods I know he'll like, but he won't always willingly eat his veggies or finish what he's been given. Even though 5 mins before he said he was starving, he'll say he's full (we strongly suspect he actually doesn't like it).
This will sound either stupid or confrontational, but I mean it out of just curiosity--what is it that leads you to think that he isn't full when he says he is?

fwiw, one of my kids started saying she was full very soon after starting to eat, even though she'd been starving only minutes earlier. It turned out that she had reflux, and eating was causing pain (of course, she also did complain of pain a lot,but not all, of the time).

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Ds said he didn't like it and did the whole gag bit.
What do you mean here? Does he actually gag? Or are you saying he pretends to gag or makes a big show of gagging?
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#8 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 05:15 PM
 
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my ds is about 3-1/2 and we are kind of running into a problem where he won't eat at dinner time and then right when we're in bed say he's really hungry.

i never make him eat more than one bite of something. he's awesome about trying something and then saying, "this is delicious!" or, "i don't like this." so i don't feel too badly, i just want him to try it.

i usually use the line, "it's your choice if you want to eat this or not." when he gets really irritating about how dinner is gross.

i will also prepare things like yogurt or peanut butter and jelly if he's not into the dinner but not at dinner time. it's either eat dinner or wait until we are ready to get you some cereal or yogurt or cheese.

i read something about how children who have their food regulated for them (eating only at meal times, finishing their plate when not hungry, or food used as a punishment) are much less capable of regulating for themselves and tend to end up being obese more than children that are allowed to regulate themselves.

i've noticed that my son will go for a few days without eating much and then chow down. his weight is just right and i think that it's because he knows what he needs.

maybe your son just needs more freedom to create food for himself? or give him some healthy choices to choose from? or involve him in making a dinner that he likes?

it's hard to offer advice because my son is younger. good luck!

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#9 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 05:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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sorry... problems loading my response....

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This will sound either stupid or confrontational, but I mean it out of just curiosity--what is it that leads you to think that he isn't full when he says he is?
He'll say he's full after literally a couple bites right after saying he's starving. Also, when h isn't there ds will tell me straight up that he doesn't like the food (rather than claim he's full, I suspect) likely because he doesn't have to fear a confrontation.

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What do you mean here? Does he actually gag? Or are you saying he pretends to gag or makes a big show of gagging?
Either or. He gags. I dont' think it's a conscious thing... but I think he consciously knows that he isn't going to like the food he's about to put into his mouth, so naturally his reaction is to gag once he puts it in his mouth. H sees it as a show.

I'm so glad to hear how easy going you all are about this. I wish dinner didn't have to be such a stress in our house. It's hard when h and i don't see things in the same way. Your stories, however, give me the confidence to be ok with what my gut tells me. Thank you!
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#10 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 05:39 PM
 
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My kids often eat only a few bites of dinner, even if it's something they like. Then sometimes, they eat more than dh or I do.

Also, lots of times if my dd doesn't like what we're having, she'll have a few bites and then be done. I'll offer her something else, but she doesn't want it. And she's of a perfectly healthy weight.

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#11 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 05:41 PM
 
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I try to make things she likes, or at least make a version of what I'm making that she'll like. If I'm making something I know she doesn't like (which is rare) I'll make something special for her. But if it's something she likes and she just doesn't feel like it, we have food on hand at all times she can get to herself if she's hungry - things like nuts, fruit, bread and peanut butter, cheese.
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#12 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 05:43 PM
 
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My kids are sensitive eaters too. I was one as a kid, and I am not as much of one now, although there are foods that honestly make me gag. Like beans. Now that I'm grown-up, I do the socially acceptable thing and eat, or try very hard to eat what has been served to me, even if I'm gagging down every bite. But this is a LOT to ask of a young kid, and I won't feel bad if my kids never learn this. I'm not sure that it's a good thing at all.

There are plenty of dinner meals that DH and I both love, but the kids don't love them yet. My habit is to serve them a small portion of our dinner, as well as something else I know they like--yogourt, home made bread with jam, fruit, applesauce. Something that takes less than a minute to prepare. Often they don't eat any of our dinner, and they are free to leave that. Dh or I will eat it usually. And sometimes they surprise me by eating our dinner and liking it!

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#13 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 06:23 PM
 
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On one hand, we try to prepare food that everyone will enjoy (at least part of the meal) ~ which is tricky with dd's food allergies!
We never force her to eat and since we both have food issues and weight problems we are very careful with our choices around food/ eating messages.
So usually if it is a new food, I ask her to taste it ~ she knows she doesn't have to eat it, just try it ~ which seems to work, she trusts we won't force the issue, so she tries it and sometimes will continue to eat it.
Otherwise, she can have fruit, bread or other simple, healthy things that require no prep time.

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#14 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 06:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm so blown away at how relaxed you all are. Because of how strict h is about this, I always feel guilty for doing it how you guys do it (which is how I do it when h isn't around). I do worry about forcing ds to eat in terms of the longterm effects about self-regulation. H has lots of weight issues on his side of the family and I'm fearful that this will be passed onto ds, who isn't scrawny (he's always been big, but certainly not overweight, but not skinny).

There are just so many issues like this that make me so sad that I just can't parent how I want to. I feel so often like h is screwing up our kids. How do you come to terms with that feeling? Sorry, that's another thread... just rambling now.

Thank you all so much for you inspiring stories
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#15 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 06:38 PM
 
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At 6 years old, I moved into the idea of having "one" family meal. If they didn't care for that meal, they were physically capable of getting themselves a bowl of cereal or a peanut butter sandwich. I got a couple of whines, but most of the time it was easier for them to eat what was in front of them than make their own dinner. I am not a short order cook or their personal slave. I deserve to eat the meal I cooked and not be jumping up and down waiting on kids.
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#16 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 06:40 PM
 
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lilgreen, do you have a sense of where your husband is coming from in his choices about how to treat food? Is it possible for you to explain to him that you are not comfortable with this way of going about it and would like to change it?

Are there sources or authorities (besides you, of course) that he would respect?
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#17 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 06:42 PM
 
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I kept healthy snack on a shelf where DCs could reach them whenever they wanted something. This was fruit, crackers (cheese chunks in fridge too) nuts, etc. This was all fair game. If I observed someone going for food right before dinner, I would remind them that dinner was on the way, but if they still wanted to snack, they could. By 6 if they weren't interested in what I made, they were welcome to make a sandwich or whatever. No reaction, just a matter of fact response. Both mine seem to have developed pretty healthy habits.
It's too bad your DH is being a pill. I'm sure you have observed how "helpful" this is.....NOT. I think your best bet may be to model as best you can. Beware of trying to convince him of what "works" as this is usually a misnomer. The truth is, GD does "work" it just doesn't "work" the way many people think of it, i.e. you do A, and kiddo magically does B. I think the definition of what "works" ought to be, what serves the situation and the individuals involved, best.
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#18 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 06:42 PM
 
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Disclaimer- obviously I am not a parent with a child eating table food yet, so my reply is based on my experience as an early childhood educator/professional, and a teacher of childhood nutrition.

I feel that it's the adult's role to provide the food choices for any given meal. It's the child's job to choose what and how much s/he eats from those choices. As long as the adult's choices are healthy options, it shouldn't be a big deal if a child only wants to eat one thing or skips something else. Now if soda, oreos, carrots, and chicken were the choices the adult provided for dinner, and the child chose to only eat the soda and oreos, you can see how the responsibility is really on the adult to provide healthy options. This doesn't mean having to run a restaurant at every meal, but rather, as long as there is at least one choice in the meal that the child likes, they won't starve.

Food can become a huge power issue for young children. Forcing children to belong to the clean plate club, or bargaining for bites (3 more bites before you can get down, eat dessert, etc.) just exacerbates it. We also tend to have a hard time as adults understanding children's portion sizes- we are so used to huge portions at restaurants, etc. that most adults serve children far too much food as a serving...children can get full very easily/quickly!

I want the children I work with and my own children to learn to listen to their own bodies to let them know what they need. I don't want them to see food as a reward or punishment- it's a fuel to help our bodies work and grow. No child ever starved to death from choosing to not eat dinner one night- when they get hungry, they'll eat. I think consistency is key- it's hard to do this if the rules change night to night.

I also don't see dessert as a reward for eating a meal...everything in moderation, including treats! Some nights I don't feel like eating a huge helping of dinner, but I still want a little treat after- why should the kids have different expectations?
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#19 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 07:09 PM
 
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Originally Posted by lilgreen View Post
There are just so many issues like this that make me so sad that I just can't parent how I want to. I feel so often like h is screwing up our kids. How do you come to terms with that feeling? Sorry, that's another thread... just rambling now.

Thank you all so much for you inspiring stories
I'm sorry you feel like that. What does dh say when you talk to him about it?

I went through a very long and painful stage where I felt my dh was going to screw up my kids permanently. It was from when dd was about 2-3, and I'd been doing a lot of reading on here and in parenting books. I got obsessed with every little interaction between dh and the kids, and scrutinized every thing he did or said. I tried to be so diplomatic about it, but irregardless, it drove him nutty. I think the real issue was that I was depressed and feeling insecure about my own worth/place in our family and marriage (adjusting to not being a wage-earner), and I was projecting this all onto their relationships. Anyway, long story short, I am now of the mindset that how dh phrases something is going to have very little effect on the kids' happiness and mental health and even their relationships. If something big comes up, I'll bring it up to dh, but I also am trying to be much, much more open to his suggestions, even if I think his rules are pointless and wouldn't choose to enforce them.

Anyway, not saying you're having this issue, but I do think that spending too much time on the GD board can sometimes distort the relevance/importance/weight of discipline issues.

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#20 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 07:11 PM
 
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My 8 year old is my problem eater right now. She will say she is starving...then when dinner is on the table she will say she is full! Very frustrating. I used to get stressed out about it but now I don't have the time/energy to. She knows now that she CANNOT have toast or whatever after dinner anymore. If she doesn't eat then she can't have anything until breakfast. We keep a fruit bowl on the table so she will usually grab a piece of fruit and have that while the rest of us are eating our dinner. I don't feel bad if she is hungry. It was her decision not to eat and I will not force her to eat. Breakfasts are her favorite meal so usually if she didn't eat a very big dinner I will make sure she has a fairly large breakfast that she likes.

I have noticed like a pp said that she will go for days eating very little and then in one day she will wolf down more than I could ever eat! She is a healthy weight and an active child so I am not concerned about her missing dinner often. It all balances out in the end.
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#21 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 07:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm sorry you feel like that. What does dh say when you talk to him about it?

I went through a very long and painful stage where I felt my dh was going to screw up my kids permanently. It was from when dd was about 2-3, and I'd been doing a lot of reading on here and in parenting books. I got obsessed with every little interaction between dh and the kids, and scrutinized every thing he did or said. I tried to be so diplomatic about it, but irregardless, it drove him nutty. I think the real issue was that I was depressed and feeling insecure about my own worth/place in our family and marriage (adjusting to not being a wage-earner), and I was projecting this all onto their relationships. Anyway, long story short, I am now of the mindset that how dh phrases something is going to have very little effect on the kids' happiness and mental health and even their relationships. If something big comes up, I'll bring it up to dh, but I also am trying to be much, much more open to his suggestions, even if I think his rules are pointless and wouldn't choose to enforce them.

Anyway, not saying you're having this issue, but I do think that spending too much time on the GD board can sometimes distort the relevance/importance/weight of discipline issues.

Thanks for this... I think this is really good for me to hear, too.
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#22 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 07:37 PM
 
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lilgreen, do you have a sense of where your husband is coming from in his choices about how to treat food? Is it possible for you to explain to him that you are not comfortable with this way of going about it and would like to change it?

Are there sources or authorities (besides you, of course) that he would respect?
It does sound like your son needs to eat what he likes, and to not be pressured, threatened or forced to eat what he does not like. I imagine your husband has real concerns that drive his approach to discipline around the issue of food, and I would think that the place to start is by talking with him and actively listening to those concerns. Is he worried your son isn't eating enough? And also worried that by allowing your son to eat something different you'd be setting up undesirable eating habits down the road? Are there ways you can allay any fears he may have, or address his concerns with information? Can you approach this not as an "I'm right and you're wrong" thing, and more as a "we're learning together, here's what I read and what I think, what do you think? What do you say we try this and see what happens?" kind of thing?

Is there a way you can approach the food issue that addresses your concerns, and your husband's, and your son's? Some creative solution?

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I feel so often like h is screwing up our kids. How do you come to terms with that feeling?
I've felt this way in the past. For me, it helps to remember that there isn't one single, correct way of parenting. And more importantly, it helps to remember that my partner is human, and he's doing what he does out of genuine concern for his children and he's doing the best he can at the moment. Just like me. We're both bound to make mistakes, and kids are resilient. There hasn't been a kid born yet who had perfect parents.

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Anyway, not saying you're having this issue, but I do think that spending too much time on the GD board can sometimes distort the relevance/importance/weight of discipline issues.
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#23 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 08:03 PM
 
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For us, I don't cook 2 separate meals -- I try to choose meals that are family-friendly, but occasionally there'll be a main course that I'm pretty certain DS will only eat 1 or 2 bites of, and on those nights I'll give him an extra side dish (something like apple sauce or cheese cubes) to make up the caloric difference.

If he at least tries everything on his plate and truly doesn't like anything (which is very rare), he's welcome to have a bowl of cereal instead -- I chose cereal for his alternate-dinner option because it's something he likes enough that he'll eat a good amount of it if he's truly hungry, but it's not something that he loves enough to choose it over dinner every night.

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#24 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 08:21 PM
 
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I think for us what works is plain old compromise. I accept (albeit reluctantly!) that my almost 4yo is one of those kids who likes his food plain.

And he accepts that on occasion, in exchange for not having to eat mommy's yummy casserole he has to have a few bites of plain steamed broccoli and plain rice noodles (or whatever) instead.
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#25 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 08:28 PM
 
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I ask my 6 year old to eat some of everything. Most of the time she finds she likes it even if it looked like she wouldn't. I do tell her that while it's okay if she doesn't care for something, it's not okay to be all "OMG EWWWW YUCK GROSS" because it hurts my feelings. If she doesn't want to eat after eating a few bites, then she's welcome to have some carrots or an apple, but I don't make multiple meals.
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#26 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 08:56 PM
 
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Possible solution: Is your child interested in learning to cook. My 7 year old started a homeschool cooking club. She and her 3 year old sister made tortillas for dinner tonight and are grating cheese near me right now to put on top of them. .....

Maybe your husband and child could cook together? Might be a way for them to come together on food?
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#27 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 09:01 PM
 
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I like chfriend's idea of having your child cook, or help cook.

Also, what about involving your child in meal planning? That can help ensure that there's always something he likes.

And I think Maya has posted before about Ellyn Satter's (spelling?) books about helping kids eat. IIRC, she had some great ideas about fixing meals that included at least one nutritious thing each person likes. Also, one of her books (I read one, but can't remember which) talked about the importance of not forcing food. Might be a good resource for you. I think one is called something like "How to Get Your Child to Eat, But Not Too Much." And maybe one is called "Child of Mine"?
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#28 of 109 Old 01-25-2008, 11:23 PM
 
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I try to make some things that everyone will like. We do carrot and celery sticks every night so I know the kids will eat something.
Being rude is another matter. They can be polite and say no thank you. If they're rude, the older two get to do dishes that night. The youngest eats anything so that hasn't been a problem with him.
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#29 of 109 Old 01-26-2008, 01:07 AM
 
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Originally Posted by mytwogirls View Post
Here is the rule at our house: You eat what is put on the table, as much or as little as you want. I do not cook anything special; this is not a restaurant. If you don't like it, then get down from the table and go without. That has been the rule from day one. It was the rule when I was little. I do make exceptions when they are sick (duh!) but I don't cook two different meals. I cook things I know EVERYONE will like and 99 percent of the time it works. My oldest is 22 months and she has never starved. There have been nights when she ate just a bite or nothing at all, but she knows she won't get anything else. Your kids will eat if they are hungry enough. Hope I don't like a bi*ch about it, but that is one of my pet peeves at our house. Good luck mama!
Yes, but what can be done when a child makes the choice not to eat dinner, but then is so hungry that they won't sleep? Dinner is right before bedtime at our house, so a bedtime snack isn't really reasonable. All allowing someone to not eat anything at the dinnertable does for us is ensure a crappy night of sleep for all.

I don't think the "8 more bites" thing is very healthy in the long run, but we also do what some previous posters have said---have at least one thing that kiddo loves, but he gets one serving of everything, then can have seconds when a reasonable effort has been made at the meal. The other night this meant olive bread---he could have a second piece of bread once he worked on his chicken, green beans and quinoa for a while. He truly didn't like the quinoa so we let it drop, but were pleasantly surprised when he actually took seconds of the green beans on his own, before he even got more bread.

Mama to DS 3/05 and DD 1/08
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#30 of 109 Old 01-26-2008, 01:29 AM
 
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It always bums me out to hear the "they won't starve" talk here. No, they probably won't, but "not starving" my kids isn't much of a goal. I want to *nourish* them--physically, mentally, emotionally. Nice meals together are a wonderful way to do that. Punishing kids with food seems like a really bad idea to foster an attached relationship.

My parents used to take away my chair and make me stand to endlessly chew on meat that made me want to wretch. What a surprise that I have food issues. And so do many Americans--it's not because we've been a culture raised on freedom and choice surrounding food.

I read someone here compare it to morning sickness, and that made a light bulb go off for me. Trying to eat something that is making you feel sick is bad enough. Knowing that you're going to be in trouble for not choking it down is worse. Going to bed hungry when you know your parents could have prevented that is a shitty, shitty feeling.

La Leche League has a book by a Dr. Garcia that talks about how kids are generally going to eat as much as they need to. And that giving them grief or pressuring them or punishing them is not going to result in them eating any more food. It's just going to mess things up. So you ought to just trust them to eat what they need and not mess things up.

:

Oh, and regarding husbands/partners....I'm finding that my kids have their own relationship with my husband. They tend to treat him just as he treats them.
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