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Ending mealtime battles

Updated: Jul 14, 2022

How can I get my child to eat?

This week has been a reality check for me.

I thought we were done with all the food battles. My eldest, who was our 'fussy' eater when little, will eat pretty much anything except carrot sticks (and he'll even eat them if we're at a friend's house and he's offered them!)

My eldest has a preference for summer vegetables, my middle child prefers winter ones, but there's a fair amount of tolerance in there. Mealtimes are a place for conversation, sharing what we've been up to in the day, and, more often than not, some friendly banter.

Or rather they were. Until 10 days ago. When it was my youngest's turn to be 'chef for the week' and she suddenly decided she hated pretty much everything that wasn't plain pasta/rice.

Round 1: I said she 'had' to eat the soup. Her dad said she didn't. Round 1 to her ;-)

Round 2: "I 'hate' cooked carrots". "Well, that's what there is for vegetables tonight. You need to eat vegetables. It's winter, we are all sick, we need extra vitamins and nutrition" Negotiations ensue about exactly how many she needs to eat. Round 2 to her, when I realise I've forgotten ALL the lessons I learned and put in place when they were little.

Round 3: Again, refusing to eat the vegetables at lunchtime (when of course she'd had a morning snack). And then mid-afternoon, she asks for a second portion of cake (she's hungry, of course she's hungry).

Now, I think we eat a relatively healthy diet - we're vegetarian as a family, we have an organic veggie box once a week, and the sacrosanct French 'gouter' is always fruit + something (in this case, a yummy chocolate cake I'd just made with my eldest).

But, because we're vegetarian, I think our diet is probably higher in carbohydrates than most families, especially over winter, when our veggie box consists of carrots, potatoes, and some form of squash.

And if your meal is carbohydrate + vegetable, and they've decided they 'don't like' the vegetable in question (even though of course they ate it last week/year/at school), their diet can quickly turn in to a LOT of starch.

But, I'm not a nutritionist, I'm a parenting coach, so let's get back to that.

My responsibility as a parent is to provide a BALANCED, healthy range of foods for my child to eat. Their responsibility is to choose what they eat

I need to be careful of my language around food (not labelling chocolate cake/sweets as bad (I learnt this wisdom from Lynn Burns, who is a wise and lovely nutritionist ).

Some things that have worked for us in the past are

  • doing a list of all the foods they DO like (because it is always MUCH longer than I think it is!)

  • menu planning with my children

  • getting them involved in meal prep, cooking, and serving

  • taking responsibility for all the food that comes in to the house (what we shop for)

  • problem solving together as a family to find solutions that work for us

  • remembering not to sweat the small stuff, and focussing on having relaxed mealtime conversations

  • not 'rescuing' by providing extra snacks in-between meals.

I think I'm going to start with that list - I'll let you know how we get on. (and thank you C for the lovely picture of your child meal prepping..)

Next Steps

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