Wednesday, November 12, 2008

To eat or not can be all the control a child has

For some children they feel that all they control is if they eat and where they go bathroom. Getting your child to eat or use the toilet can become a battle of wills that no one wins and often results in anger and frustration for all involved. Children will resist having their control taken way just as strongly or even more so then adults. And that is completely understandable, if what you put into your mouth or where you went potty was the only things you controlled in your life you would fight to keep that control.

It can be incredibly frustrating trying to get kids to eat, especially when food is limited or you went out of your way to make sure things your child loves in on their plate. I have been there. We have accepted that our kids will not always eat and have learned to deal with it in different ways.

When ever possible we include them in our food and meal decisions. We find out what they would like for dinner and if possible we provide it. Our kids are learning that it is not always possible for us to give them what they want. Also it has to be “real food” not treats and candy. You don’t want to know how often we have cereal, hot dogs or soup for dinner these days.

Portion size. We have reduced the portions we put on our kids plates. They get a spoonful of each item. They have to have at least the number of bites equal to their age of each thing on the plate. Though we tend to be a little lenient when out of no where the kids suddenly decide that they don’t like something anymore, one bite to try and then eat the other things on the plate.

If our kids will not eat, then that is fine, at five and three they understand the consequences. No treat, or dessert unless they eat their “real” food first. If they are to full too eat anymore then they are too full for dessert. Does it go smoothly, no way! We have a screaming child demanding that they get a cookie instead of the soup they asked for. Answer, “No, you eat your dinner first or leave the table and get nothing.” Often you will hear, “We are not a restaurant, you eat what we give you.” (Keeping in mind that they were involved in the meal decisions in the first place.) If the negative behavior continues food is removed from the table and they are done. If they are hungry later (and not at bedtime) they can have their dinner, not the treat or dessert. However at all time the child in question always controls if they eat or not, that is up to them. We cannot force them to eat all we do is give them the option to eat and don’t deny them the food when they are hungry.

Kids will not starve themselves, if they are hungry they will eat. It is just not worth the battle to try and make them eat. Just don’t give in on the candy, treats and desserts, they have to eat real food first. Also don’t force your child to eat something they hate unless it is all you have to give them.


  1. Some great tips here on feeding the young ones. One thing I have also found over the years is when dealing with headstrong toddlers, let them feed themselves if they want to, even if it is messy. They copy what they see you doing, they want to feel a part of the process. Of course, putting things on their plate they like will certainly help. And, as you say, if they are not wanting to eat, let it go until later. You are right, they will not starve themselve. Trying to keep to a schedule and limiting snacks also helps. It is a challenge, for sure.

  2. We've been having this battle wih our 2 1/2 year old lately. Refuses to eat dinner, regardless of the fare. But the moment her head hits her pillow, it's "I'm hung-y Mommy!" *facepalm*

  3. Don't let them drink before dinner, or at dinner. They fill up on the drink. We learned that the hard way.

  4. I gave birth to the most finicky eaters, today my 15 year old who has always maintained that he doesn't like French Toast (not that he's ever had it), actualy ate two pieces of French Toast! Good post!