How to Get your Child to Eat, or NOT


“This food looks like it came from the sewer!” my youngest spat, looking at the baked vegetable pasta dish sitting in front of him.

Few parenting issues drive me crazier than food problems with my kids. And, boy, have they been numerous over the last nine years. My oldest refused to eat table food for the longest time. He ate yogurt, applesauce, and continued to eat baby food until he was at least two. Yes, I said baby food. How mortifying is that to have to admit? He would gag and throw up regular vegetables, so it was the only way I could get the nutrients in him.

I cannot express how much I despise web sites that profess to have kid-friendly recipes. Apparently, I do not have anywhere near normal children when it comes to eating. Honestly, I don’t know where I went wrong.

Let me make a confession to you. There have been brief moments I wished we were poor or lived in a foreign country where food was scarce. This is an absolutely horrible thought to entertain. People in those situations would think me delusional. Yet, I’m pretty sure the parents of children in those circumstances don’t have to bribe their kids to eat or have these words escape from their lips, “Just four more bites.” I truly don’t intend to make light of hunger, but I have felt desperate at times. I want my kids to value the ability to eat…anything. Wouldn’t they have a greater appreciation for eating if food was limited? In reality, I hope I never know.

I have done the research. You can bet I’ve experimented with different recipes, foods, methods, punishments, threats, rewards, etc. Somehow, my boys manage to thrive and be fairly healthy in spite of their poor diet.

Our most effective strategy is this: if they don’t like what they have in front of them, they may get carrots from the fridge and eat those instead, but no snacks or sweets for the rest of the evening. This has helped with the fights during dinner.

The sad thing? This is entirely pay back. I was a horrendous eater as a kid. My parents spanked me very rarely, but I vividly remember one particular time. I wouldn’t eat my dinner. In exasperation, my dad sent me to my room. I’m pretty sure there were beets on my plate. I hated beets with a passion and they would force me to eat them. (My mom hated bananas. She wouldn’t have eaten one for anything, but somehow it was necessary for me to choke down the offensive beets.)

Stomping into my room, I slammed my door. My lamp fell off of my dresser and crashed to the floor. What kind of curse words do 5-year-olds use? Whatever they are, I’m pretty sure I used them in that moment.

Well, let me tell you, my little fit was a big mistake. Insult was added to injury—or the other way around. I wonder if I ate better the next meal. Doubtful.

So, now I continually pay the price for my poor eating habits as a child. The past has come back to haunt me…twofold.

I see many of my friends post on Facebook about similar problems, so I know I’m not alone. The only reason I’m writing this is to encourage you if you are experiencing the same problems. I’m so very sorry if you are. I won’t judge you for whatever methods you use to get your child’s belly full.

We actually went to McDonald’s the other day as a family. That rarely happens. My boys were ecstatic. Both of them thanked us profusely afterwards. Maybe I should just give in, feed my children crud, and get their award for parent of the year.

Some messes we simply must endure. Here’s to cereal for dinner! Who’s with me?

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2 thoughts on “How to Get your Child to Eat, or NOT

  1. Love it Amy! Peas were my hated food item and still are. I will not even cook them at my house and guess what all my kids like them. I have been pretty blessed with my kids eating habits. Not sure how I managed to get kids that will try just about anything once but I am very thankful. My rule at home is you must try it and if you still don’t like it then you can have PB&J.

  2. I HATE the whole no eating thing. As a parent we try so hard, and sometimes those usually sweet little ones just refuse, refuse, refuse… I’ve also thought, “I bet parents in countries with no food never deal with this!” Definitely a first world problem, but a good one to have, I guess.

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