My almost 7 year old step daughter is one of the fussiest eaters ever and her dad and myself have become very strict with her when it comes to dinner time. She is not allowed to leave the table until she finishes her meal and we will not cook something especially for her. We believe this is the only way to get her to eat normally. With that being said, we are struggling with it. What I am wondering is what to do when she pushes her plate away from her and simply will not eat? After her sitting there for about half an hour after everyone else has already left the table, we both get fed up and decide it's time for a timeout. She then proceeds to scream and wail and we tell her that her timeout doesn't begin until she can sit quietly. It is very difficult tostand our ground. Any tips? Thanks


Michelle - posted on 07/22/2012




This is a battle of wills she is using her dinner time to exert her independence because it is a way to get your attention and a way to be in control. What you need to do is make dinner and if she won't eat it, tell her she won't get anything else until she eats her dinner. Then walk away, if she chooses to get up and not eat then save it for her, my daughter used to do this and still does sometimes but now about an hour or so later she comes back says she is hungry and is ready to eat her dinner. Punishing her for not eating is giving attention therefore she is getting what she wants, stop the battle of wills flat out tell her that this is it til morning and stand your ground no time outs eventually she will realize you are not going to give in and she will start eating.

Jennifer - posted on 07/22/2012




Time out doesn't really work in this situation. Natural consequences may. You don't eat = you are hungry

Does she have any sensory issues? Sometimes, kids can have trouble with textures or temperatures.

Is she eating other meals? If so, are they balanced enough that dinner won't matter that much? Some kids are irregular and are not hungry at "normal" times. She may just not be hungry. Forcing a kid to eat when they are not hungry can lead to eating disorders in the future because they learn not to trust their bodies to tell them what they need and when they are full.

We keep a "snack box" in the fridge for our 5-year-old. Her dinner wasn't always getting eaten either. It is full of healthy choices she can choose from throughout the day. The only restriction is that we don't let her get something right before a meal. Sometimes that rule is suspended and the snack is counted as part of her meal.

We also have an unexciting alternative in the case she just doesn't like it. She is required to try it, and gets a "high five for trying". However, if it just isn't her thing (and we can tell), she can have the other.

Honestly, as long as they get the nutrition, it doesn't matter what time of day. I know that makes mealtimes difficult, but maybe she could just join you for conversation and maybe a drink of water.

Your job is to offer her good, nutritious food. Her job is to decide whether or not to eat it. It is VERY hard to "sit on your hands", but it will work out in the end. Best of luck!


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Lindsay - posted on 07/22/2012




Okay Dove, I understand where you're coming from but maybe I should have been more clear. She is a very healthy eater and does have a balanced diet, for example, she will choose a plate of raw veggies ( no dip ) over a plate of cookies or bowl of chips any day. The reason why we insist she eat is because she IS hungry when dinner time rolls around and we know this because she usually says "I'm huuungry" within the half hour before hand. Not only that, but the meals that she puts up a fuss about are meals that she does in fact like. In the case of her trying something new, we don't have the same expectations. We just ask her to at least try it, sometimes she does and sometimes she doesn't. If she does try it, we are sure to let her know we are proud of her for doing so and if not then we say "that's okay :), maybe next time". I don't think that's unreasonable.

Dove - posted on 07/22/2012




If she doesn't eat after a half an hour..... let the poor child up and let her be. If she's hungry, she'll eat. If she doesn't eat... wrap up the food and save it for later. If she's hungry before bedtime she can have her dinner.

You don't have to offer her anything other than her dinner until breakfast time the next day, but you can not and should not force a child to eat or punish them if they don't. You make and offer the food... she chooses whether or not she eats it. Stop fighting with her about it.

I, personally, don't fight with my kids over food at all. I'm not a short order cook, but I respect that different people have different taste buds. I wouldn't stand for someone trying to force me to eat something I don't like, so I give my children that same respect. We always have easy, healthy options available on the rare occasion that one of my kids doesn't like something that I've made (we all like pretty much the same things with slight variations).

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