What do you think? (children and mealtimes)

Jessica - posted on 04/21/2011 ( 44 moms have responded )

986

20

64

I'm curious as to others' opinions on this. Its a a story my MIL loves to tell about when BIL was a child (6-ish?) and refused to eat his lunch that MIL served him. We all know children go through picky stages in terms of food and sometimes don't want to eat something, just because. I guess she had been having this issue with BIL for some time. Finally one day he refused to eat his lunch, and MIL had had enough. That evening for dinner, she made his very favorite meal in the whole world- and served it to the whole family but not him. She gave BIL his lunch from earlier and told him he had to eat that first before he could have his favorite food- which everyone else was eating in front of him. She said he ate his lunch alright, and cried the entire time. And apparently he never fought her again about not wanting to eat!

What do you think of this tactic? Was it a fair thing to do (and hey, it worked!), or was that pushing the battle too far? What is your approach to mealtimes when your children don't want to cooperate?

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

[deleted account]

Teresa brought up a good point the other day in another thread. Forcing children to eat something they don't like will only create problems, one of those potentially being eating disorders.

Children don't have much say in their day to day when they're younger so with very small children food is one of very few places where THEY can exercise control. We can't force feed them, despite what some parents think, so I believe that by giving them the control to make certain choices we're empowering them and teaching them how to make proper healthy responsible choices when it comes to food.

Anyhow, I'm rambling again...

Johnny - posted on 04/21/2011

8,686

26

322

If I had served a meal that my daughter did not like and she refused to eat it because of that, I wouldn't do it. But some kids just get picky. They love something one day, then not the next, then they want it again on the third day. I used to look after a boy who did that. He was always served foods he liked, but refused to eat what was served and asked for something else. The next day, when he got something different, he'd then ask for what he had refused the day before. In that case, I would definitely do something like this mother did. I think it might be a useful tactic.

I don't believe in forcing children to eat. Nor in trying to make them eat things they hate. But sometimes it's more about "power" than it is about the food. And then mommy needs to show who really is holding the upper hand.

[deleted account]

My mom used that tactic with me and it didn't work. I've always hated liver, still do. She made it for dinner one night when I was like 7 or 8 and I ate everything on my plate except for the liver. She made me sit at the table for what seemed like FOREVER and I still didn't eat it. Next morning, she heated up the liver for my breakfast. Did I mention that I've also always been stubborn? LOL Nope, I didn't eat it for breakfast. I had school lunch that day and then yep, for dinner, liver revisited. I still refused. Again, I ate everything else on my plate but the liver. Again, she made me sit at the table for awhile. Finally, she came in, tossed the liver and made me a sandwich. I've since tried liver again when I got older, still hated it and haven't eaten it since.
I think with kids, you offer them something several times. They may refuse it once, eat it the next two times and then refuse it again. They are learning what they like and don't like and it's actually OK for them to not like some things. I mean, if my son turns out to not like peas, but still eats carrots, green beans, corn, broccoli and all the other veggies I give him? I'm fine with that. He has a right to like or dislike what he wants, based on his tastebuds.

[deleted account]

As much as I dislike supernanny I think she made a good point once about something very similar. This family went out to dinner and they've got this one kid who throws fits and wont eat and such, their other two are well behaved but this one boy is just a hell raiser. So they sit through dinner and the kid was being a brat and after everyone but him had finished their supper the waiter came over and offered dessert which the kids had all been told if they were good during dinner they could have. The mom said no obviously because well she probably just wanted to get the hell out of the restaurant at that point, I would have done the same thing. Supernanny said whoa no why would you punish everyone for the one kid's bad behaviour? If the promise of a treat gets everyone but that one kid through their meal then yes have dessert, right in front of him as mean as that sounds, and maybe next time he will behave through dinner. I gotta say as hard as it is to do it's a good lesson later in life if he doesn't do his work and someone else does, the boss isn't going to deny everyone a promotion just because one guy slacked off. I try to do the same thing with my son if he's going to fit during dinner thats fine but you stay at the table while mommy and daddy finish theirs, if he's allowed to just leave the table and go play then what is he learning? If I've told him we're going to have dessert afterwards if everyone eats their dinner then regardless of his behaviour I'm going to bring that dessert out after dinner is over. If I have to eat my fruit salad infront of him that sucks makes me feel bad but more often than not its enough to get him to finish his dinner in a hurry and then I get to give him his treat. Next dinner goes a lot better :)



Sometimes you have to be the bad guy in order to be the good guy, it sucks but thats part of being mom. There are different extremes and stuff but for the OP story though I would have done it a little differently I think the main lesson was still intact, maybe 'mean' but still effective.



Edited to add: For my three year old he isn't a picky eater just very strong willed so this only comes up sometimes and when he is refusing dinner all together it's because of a temper thing, if I let it slide the behaviour continues and he wont eat breakfast or lunch either. I'm not big on the clear your plate mentality, I'm happy if he eats his meat and veg and refuses the starch, even if he only eats his pasta at a meal I wont cause a big fuss because the fact that he is eating something works just fine. I was a light eater as a child and physically could not injest everything my mother put on my plate so I'm not a huge stickler about quantity. Also we offer choices if he's got salad, rice, meat, and two kinds of veggies I don't think theres anything wrong with me expecting him to eat something even if its not everything on his plate. I used to be in trouble every mealtime because I didn't like onions and my mother put onions in EVERYTHING don't think thats fair since I genuinely dislike them. If your kid hates broccoli I don't think its fair to punish him for not eating it when he'll eat everything else on his plate, but if he wont eat anything just because he doesn't want to and then demand a cookie later that night then it's time for mom to meanie up and deal with that however she can.

Sarah - posted on 04/21/2011

38

25

3

I wouldn't have made his favorite meal, but if my son refuses to even TRY something, he doesn't get anything else until he does, whether it's 5 min or 5 hours later. He doesn't have to eat all of it, but he has to take one bite of the meal I made before I'll give him another option.

44 Comments

View replies by

Terri - posted on 04/27/2011

287

0

13

Yep thats exactly what I would have done! lol I have 4 kids and dont have time for fussy eaters. My eldest is autistic and he eats practically everything. Doesnt mean they have to like it from the get go, but how are children's taste buds supposed to develop if they dont get a chance to get used to food items?

My autistic son threw up the first time he had brussel sprouts and now they are his favourite food. I read somewhere once that it takes over 50 times before a child will actually like a food.

I have 4 healthy children who eat just about anything I dish up with hearty appetites. Start at a young age giving them a wide variety of food and they learn pretty quickly to enjoy it. If mine get in a mood and dont want to eat what is presented to them, the good old fashioned "you wont get sweets" always works lol :D

Carly - posted on 04/27/2011

110

19

8

Good on her! Tough love works pretty well sometimes, and let's face it - he wasn't hurt by it! I believe that you have to let kids know who is in charge or they walk all over you (as I am sure I did when I was young), so if boundries are set early on life is easier and happier for everyone. Not enough of it any more. And let's face it, your MIL gave him a choice.

Arlene - posted on 04/25/2011

66

28

6

My four year old is the worst eater ever! It is a constant struggle to get him to eat and over the last six months or so he has been sick a lot, so I worry even more about his eating habits. I know everyone says kids won't starve themselves and they go through phases, but he is exceptional, I'm not sure how he has so much energy, he eats so little. I have refused to give my son bedtime snacks to re-offering food to taking away priveledges, and nothing I do makes him sit and eat a meal. He talks so much, and is always saying he's going to be the winner, but only ever eats a few bites and is done. He never ate babyfood when he was a baby and survived somehow off nursing for the first year of life with only little bits of food. If I thought my son had a favorite food I would do what your MIL did. I have however, enjoyed a kit kat bar in front of him after the rest of our family had finished our supper, but all he did was cry and beg us to give him some and didn't eat anymore of his supper, so I don't think that tactic would work for us anyways. Until you've had a child who barely eats and is sick all the time, you don't know what you'd try to get them to eat, within reason...and I think your MIL's tactic was reasonable.

Becky - posted on 04/24/2011

2,892

44

93

I think that making his favorite meal was going too far, but at the same time, I can understand being frustrated and desperate to find a solution that works. I guess for me, it would depend on why the child was refusing to eat his meal. If it's a new food that he's never had before and he doesn't like it, or it's something you know he doesn't like and you're trying to force him to eat it anyway, then that is totally unfair. But, if it's something he's regularly eaten without complaining in the past and you know he's just being stubborn, then I can see pulling a tactic like she did.
I have 2 rather difficult eaters. The older one is fairly picky - won't eat vegetables or many meats. The younger one will eat most foods, but most days, he barely eats enough to keep him alive! I do save their leftovers and offer them at the next meal sometimes, but that is only when it is something that I know they like but they didn't want to finish. If they just plain didn't like it, I wouldn't try to force them to eat it at a future meal. My husband is stricter with eating than I am and we tend to have more power struggles over meals than I'd like. So I'm trying to find solutions for that that don't feel to him like I'm just letting the kids get away with not eating or like I'm being a short order cook. We do use the dessert as a reward for finishing your food too.

Tshanna Ele - posted on 04/23/2011

51

29

7

i support it. its not like the child is being scarred by having to eat something. we use this tactic for our children. if you aren't hungry now, you can 'save it for later.' obviously, this depends on the circumstance. if they honestly aren't hungry, because they had had a late snack for example, they may not have to eat the whole plate. but its a good idea.

Kimberly - posted on 04/23/2011

376

10

16

oh hell no i would be doing the exact same thing. kids can be extremes and very determind there is times you need to be harsh to nip it in the but. sometimes it works sometimes it doesnt i do have to agree there. but no i would do it just like that lol

[deleted account]

I wouldn't have gone as far as to have made his favouite meal. If lunch had been something he had eaten before and just on this ocassion didn't want to then i sure as hell would have served it for dinner and depending on how long it lasts and if he didn't eat it then i would serve it for breakfast the next day also! I'm lukcy though and my children eat almost anything thats put in front of them so if they don't like something in generally a genuine dislike of the food. My 9 month old refuses to eat Mince/Ground beef in any way shape or form and he also doesn't like rice so i assume its a texture thing and my other 2 went through it also.

Alexis - posted on 04/22/2011

632

21

21

IF my son doesnt eat a plate of food I will save it for the next meal and offer it to him then. I wouldnt go out of my way to make his favorite and feed it to everyone else though. I do it because we try not to waste food and at the same time I don't want to create bad eating habits by forcing him to eat it at lunch time if he doesnt want it. I don't make him something else either, if he comes back and is hungry I offer the same plate of food.

[deleted account]

I think it was a little bit far...but I don't think that children should be raised -too- picky. I'd usually just get Winter to eat anything she left for snack time or something. She loves to have a cookie or two in the afternoon, so she usually gets it then. Lol.

Corena - posted on 04/22/2011

320

43

19

I am having this issue with my 2 year old right now. He never wants to eat dinner with us. Arrgh! For a while, I made seperate meals for him. I don't think that was the right thing to do. Now, he gets what we eat. I don't force him to eat it but if he doesn't eat, he does not get any more food that night. We save his dinner until bedtime and if he eats some then he can have desert if we had it or a snack. I don't make him eat the whole thing at this point though, usually just a few bites. I just want him to be willing to try everything.
As for the OP's story...I don't disagree with the tactic, I sometimes make sure that we have a desert I know he will like and if he does not try the dinner I have made, he does not get the desert. It is slow going right now but I think he is starting to get it.

Jenn - posted on 04/21/2011

675

1

47

Wow...how Mommy Dearest! No, not fair. I don't make food a battle because it can lead to major emotional issues with food later on. If my kids don't want the meal I prepared, I certainly don't send them to bed hungry, they can get their own damn banana or apple...haha.

Bonnie - posted on 04/21/2011

4,813

22

262

Jessica, yes, she paid her and so did her grandmother, sometimes as much as $5 a meal lol. $5 was a lot of money back then and still is for little kids nowadays. I just think it is plain wrong.

Oh and our household loves asparagus as well.

Jessica - posted on 04/21/2011

986

20

64

LOL she paid her?? I wish someone would pay me to eat! But I wouldn't have given a rat's ass as a kid, money wasn't important to me at all like it is as an adult.

Another thing I meant to add, is that I do think that making it a battle of wills will encourage many children to just be more stubborn about it.

And, I wish my kid would eat veggies lol. The only thing he'll really eat is asparagus, and he'll eat a ton of it, he loves it! I love it too and would eat it every day if it weren't so expensive.

Bonnie - posted on 04/21/2011

4,813

22

262

I don't think it is right. Food shouldn't be a punishment. I don't understand it in this situation though. Yes he refused to eat his lunch and she made him eat it for dinner in order to get his favourite dinner afterwards, but I don't see how that would work every time. He wasn't going to be offered his favourite dinner everyday lol. I don't think this would work with many children.

My MIL use to pay my SIL to eat eat sometimes when she was a little kid. I am completely against that. If I ever found out she tried to do that with my kids, I don't think I would leave her alone with them again.

Jessica - posted on 04/21/2011

986

20

64

Yeah, I guess I could understand if she had just kept the leftovers and served him them for the next meal, especially if he had been consistently being picky about eating for a while. Like I said, if my toddler doesn't eat his dinner, we give it to him the next time he's hungry. But cooking his favorite meal and not letting him eat it was, IMO a cruel and unnecessary touch.

I guess I don't want to make it a battle of wills. You're already going to have enough of those as your children grow up, why turn food into another one. As long as you're not letting them get away with eating junk all the time, I think giving children choices and letting them exercise control over what/when they eat, within reason, is fine. And to go out of your way to do something like my MIL did, its almost like stooping to the child's level. They're going to test boundaries and make battles over things- that's what they do. But you're supposed to be the parent, the adult, so there's no reason to choose to engage in that battle if its not neccesary.

Tawny - posted on 04/21/2011

476

0

37

My 3 year old gets the same food as my husband and I and if he doesn't like it I at least have him take a couple of bites and half the time he ends up liking it. But if Im going to fix something like steak or seafood he will get something else to eat he doesnt like those. My problem is that if he asks me for it and lets it sit there and says he wont eat it then Yes I will keep it and give it to him later. He wastes alot of food and food is costing alot more lately, and Im tired of wasting it.... And plus im not a restaurant so Im not going to fix something different every time for dinner.

Elfrieda - posted on 04/21/2011

2,620

0

462

That seems extreme, but I think I'd try it if we had a consistently picky eater. Not just if he didn't like the food one time. Right now it's all theory, since my 16 month old gobbles down everything in front of him. He did go through a phase of absolutely loathing pasta, and I just didn't feed pasta to him, since it's only one thing, and shhh! I don't really like it either.
Well, actually I did pop a piece of macaroni in his mouth just to show my husband the funny faces that boy made! We nearly peed ourselves laughing. :) I wanted to do it again and get the video camera, but it was just too mean.

Tara - posted on 04/21/2011

2,567

14

114

No struggles around food in our house.
I don't usually serve stuff that I know the majority won't eat, that said we have 7 people in our home, so I can't please everybody all of the time.
So if I am making Kale as our veggie and I know 2 kids won't eat it, then I will also make corn or carrots or something I know they will eat.
If they don't want to eat something on their plate, they have to try it. If they don't want it fine. Don't eat it.
But we also have a small portion rule, they put a little of everything on their plate (unless they know they don't like it) if they want more they can get more. Better to get more of something than to end up feeding the dogs tasty bacon wrapped pork tenderloin because you didn't realize it had rosemary on it which you hate. :P
And no one in our house likes to eat anyone else's left over plate food. We all agree that it tastes different than the original from the baking pan etc. even if it hasn't been touched.
Silly, but true and call me weird but I've met many others who say the same thing. It's like the food on another person's plate has been "changed" somehow just by being there, away from the rest of the dish. lol
just rambling now...

[deleted account]

Food is not a battle I choose to fight.

Of course, I have 3 really good eaters, but they have their likes and dislikes (even if they aren't consistent w/ them) just as I do and I respect that. I made something new for dinner last night. My son and I liked it, but neither of the girls did. One ate it just cuz she was hungry. The other took a few bites and made herself something else. :)

[deleted account]

I was never really gone....just lurking! I FINALLY have a day where I don't HAVE to do anything so apparently that means I'm glued to my chair and laptop and staring at a computer screen til my eyes are blurry and burning. But, ya....I'm here!

Mel - posted on 04/21/2011

5,539

58

228

Kaleigh we do that kind of with regard sto the super nanny thing we will eat an ice cream in front of her which generally makes her eat her dinner pretty quick smart or we say no book tonight and she usualy eats

[deleted account]

I think at my daughter's young age (2 1/2) I will do whatever it takes to make sure she gets her proper balanced nutrition. For right now, it's more important that she eat, than proving my point.

Don't get me wrong though, I definitely don't cater to her. I provide her with several different options, all of which I consider to be healthy, and she chooses. She's never really protested and eats very well so....

If I make something for dinner and she doesn't want to eat it, we do our best to encourage or find a way to get her to eat it, but I won't resort to bribing or berating her into doing so.

Mel - posted on 04/21/2011

5,539

58

228

my girl loves her veges :) because she only ate junk food as a baby now she loves the healthy stuff most of the time its great

Medic - posted on 04/21/2011

3,922

19

552

I do like some of the other mothers, I make three meals a day and they get two snacks. Sometimes a snack is a reheated meal if they didn't eat anything. My kids are prettty good at eating most veggies, its the meat that throws us for a loop.

Nikki - posted on 04/21/2011

5,263

41

574

I think it's mean, I wouldn't do it as I am not a big fan of power plays. I only give my daughter healthy choices except for special occasions so I am not fussed what she does and doesn't eat. Generally her first choice will be vegetables so I don't have much to worry about either.

Mel - posted on 04/21/2011

5,539

58

228

my mother did that for me, and Ive been known to threaten it with my 3 yr old once or twice, but havent actually done it yet (ony because my husband forgot and put her dinner in the bin). I think it would be effective like you say.

Tah - posted on 04/21/2011

7,412

22

400

She did what????....next thing I know you'll be telling there were vegetables hidden in there....tell me, how often is he in therapy?..lol

Sarah - posted on 04/21/2011

1,499

10

41

I think that's kinda mean, honestly lol. My son is only 19 months old, but I don't force him to eat if he doesn't want to. When he was younger (9-10 mo) I would stress out SO MUCH trying to feed that kid! He wouldn't eat ANYTHING and I really worried about his weight (he was underweight to begin with.) But, I just had to learn how to calm down. He just wasn't ready for solids, like I thought he was *supposed* to be. We still struggle from time to time with eating, but what kid doesn't? I don't force it, I just keep offering him the food & I figure he'll eat when he's hungry.

Jenni - posted on 04/21/2011

5,928

34

393

lmao! But Sharon! Don't you feel you're deceiving and lying to your child??? He'll lose all trust in you! I just *hope* you're not hiding any 'veggies' in there. :O *gasp*

[deleted account]

I don't force my son to eat foods he does not like, BUT I do require him to try 3-4 bites before I tell him he doesn't have to eat it. I think the MIL tactic is sad and hurtful, IMO. Food is not a tool to be negotiated or Bargained for. Food is a basic need. Of course I'll meet my son's basic needs, but not at teh expense of embarrising or hurting him. Lately, I'm finding that anything I make can be rolled up in a tortilla and "disguised". My son eats it up, then I tell him what it was!

Louise - posted on 04/21/2011

5,429

69

2322

My daughter is two and a half and I offer her her lunch and leave her an hour to eat it which she normally does without any fuss. What is left is thrown away or left for her to eat when she gets up from her afternoon nap.

Dinner times on the other hand are a bit of a battle at times. She likes to eat food with a fork but will not touch rice or pasta which is a family favourite. I leave her meal on the table for an hour and then I remove it and just before bed I will give her some fruit or malt loaf. I am not really bothered if she refuses food that she has not tried before as long as she has tasted it before refusing it. There is no point in forcing to a child to eat. A child does not not eat to spite you, there is always a reason.

All I can say is that I would not of sat and ate that childs meal in front of him whilst he was so upset. Worked or not this is not how to raise a child by using food as a weapon of disciplin.

Jenni - posted on 04/21/2011

5,928

34

393

No. I don't push my children to eat foods they don't like or turn it into something negative. My son was/is extremely picky but he's come a long way. I offer him whatever we're eating. He likes to stick mainly to his veggies. I'm ok with that. ;) I encourage him to try new foods "just try one bite". Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I don't make a big deal about him refusing certain foods. I think if you get into a battle of wills about it, it only makes it worse. It makes them more resistant to trying new foods or eating what's on their plate.



I give my children a couple healthy choices. If they refuse to eat it (which happens pretty much never now) I take it away when we're done eating and they have to wait until their next meal. I offer 3 meals a day and 2 snacks so they never go hungry. ;) Like I said, my son especially use to refuse to eat nearly everything and I was constantly stressed he wasn't eating enough. Now for an almost 3 year old he still has his strong likes and dislikes but for the most part he does really well at mealtimes.



Edit to add: I also give him a few small choices when available to give him some level of 'control' over what he eats. Do you want carrots or corn (if both are being offered at a meal). I think a lot of refusing comes down to a control issue. So giving them a little leeway satisfies their need for independence.

Jessica - posted on 04/21/2011

986

20

64

Personally, I think that's a little too mean for me to do! I mean, making him watch everyone eat his favorite food and telling him he can't have any? I don't know. MIL like I said loves to tell this story, and last night she made a comment insinuating that I will do the same thing/something similar when my children are older. I told her I wasn't going to do that, lol. A little too mean, making it into a bigger battle than it probably needs to be.

Granted, I don't want to fall into the other extreme, which my mom has done with my little brother (now 10). He has always been a picky eater- I know, because I used to babysit him when I was younger and my mom was in school. He'd beg for something specific to eat, then when you get it for him he'd refuse to eat it and ask for something else. At dinner, he'd push his food around on his plate and say he's not hungry. Then 10 minutes later he'd ask for cookies or something. And my mom just gives in and gives him whatever he wants! It always drove me nuts lol.

My older son is only 22 months, so I know we're just at the beginning of the picky eating phase, but my personal theory at this point is, take it or leave it. I serve him what the rest of us are eating, I don't make anything special for him. He does not have to clean his plate- we encourage him to eat but if he's not hungry we're not going to force it. However, if he doesn;t eat anything or only eats 2 bites of something, and in an hour is hungry, then we reheat his dinner and give him some. At that point its more of a nutritional thing- I want him to eat something healthy/balanced before he has a snack. Its worked pretty well so far. He's a pretty good eater anyway.

Join Circle of Moms

Sign up for Circle of Moms and be a part of this community! Membership is just one click away.

Join Circle of Moms