Isn’t it just the biggest pain in the ass when you’re tired because it’s the end of the day, you muster up the energy to make something relatively healthy for dinner, and your kid doesn’t want to eat it.
I’ve heard about this struggle from tons of moms and I’ve had to deal with it myself with one kid or another at various times.
It’s an exhausting battle and I have some solutions for you.
I want you to look at 3 areas of your meal time experience with your kiddo:
How much contribution are you allowing from your child when it comes to food?
One of the biggest stresses for human beings is having a lack of control. When we ask our kids to help us choose food for our meals it puts some ownership in their pocket and gives them just enough control to put their mind at ease.
This doesn’t look like asking what should we have for dinner tonight? That’s too much responsibility for littles to shoulder.
It can look like offering choices:
Would you prefer rice or noodles with our chicken tonight?
It can look like asking for their help:
Can you help me pick the best carrots for supper?
Not only does this sooth the worried mind about what’s for dinner and will it be yucky, it gives a boost of self confidence because your child contributed meaningfully to the family.
Are you’re kids in control of what they eat and how much?
This doesn’t mean free for all chocolate chip cookies by the plateful for dinner.
Let your children serve themselves from what is offered.
A couple of years ago after kid number four was born my best friend came to stay with me for a while and take over cooking for my family.
She would put all of the food on the table and have everyone served up family style.
Maybe it was hormones or my resistance to change but I hated it.
Now I know the benefits. It gives kids a sense of control over what going on their plate.
Not only that, even if they don’t eat everything available they are still exposed to it and can see the adults and older siblings modeling that this food is good and safe.
If you’re worried about them not eating enough and needing a snack at bedtime, decide with them before dinner what will be available to them for snack. Will it be supper leftovers? Will it be something like peanut butter and apples?
You might offer them some control by saying if you don’t eat with the rest of us I will save you some supper for bedtime snack. Would you like me to save more chicken or more rice?
What is the vibe at your supper table?
I can be super stressful when our kids don’t eat. Fears start to creep in.
They come as what ifs:
- What if she doesn’t get enough nutrition?
- What if he doesn’t learn table manners and ends up being an asshole later in life?
- What if they’re hangry later and I lose my frigging mind?
When we’re feeling all the stress and fear we put that energy out to the rest of the table. Sound a little woo?
Do you recall ever sitting at the table with your pissed off mother? Could you tell she was pissed off even if she didn’t utter a word? It wasn’t easy to enjoy your meal in that environment was it?
Kid’s brains are already sending them signals about the food on the table. It’s our brain’s job to keep us alive so anything new is met with hesitancy and caution. We don’t want to add to that by having the emotional atmosphere be negatively charges as well.
It’s up to us to make our table a place of kindness and belonging. That might mean stuffed animal guests are welcome. Maybe supper turns into a time where you tell stories about when you were little or you ask about the best most exciting part of your child’s day and make that the focus instead of the food.
My friend Christy from Play 4 Life Moms has what she calls banter with her kids. It’s anything from what’s your favorite color? to would you rather have a elephant sized cat or a cat sized elephant? Just chatter with your children.
Change requires consistent repetition.
Practice letting your kiddos contribute, practice making mealtimes feel good, practice handing over a little bit of control.
Celebrate your successes and learn from your mistakes. You can do this.