Battling Over Meals

By Dr Charles Fay

Have your kids ever twisted-up their faces and proclaimed something like, “I’m not eating that!” or “Yuck! I want something else!”? If your children are like most, you’ve experienced at least some challenges getting them to eat what you’d like them to eat. In many families, these challenges turn into a full-fledged war, turning meal times into epic battles.

Please don’t fight with your kids over eating. It’s a battle none of us can win, and it’s a battle that can continue in their subconscious minds far into adulthood. Possibly, you know someone who is still fighting with his or her parents over food issues and is struggling with significant over- or under-eating problems.

In my DVD, Painless Parenting for the Preschool Years, I teach an approach that applies to children of all ages:

  • Model good eating habits (of course, this is the hardest part).
  • Provide healthy meals.
  • When your kids complain about the meal or refuse to eat, say, “Dinner will be on the table until 6:30. You may either eat it or see if you like what’s served for breakfast a little better.”
  • Resist the urge to nag, remind or warn.
  • With great empathy, allow them to be hungry until the next meal.

With most children this approach works great. Sometimes they eat a lot, sometimes they eat a bit, and sometimes they eat nothing. Overall, they learn to eat what their bodies need to stay healthy. If you have any reservations about applying this approach with your child, share it with your pediatrician and get his or her advice.

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