Feeding Our Kids Without A Net

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Feeding Kids Without a Net

It’s dinner time and mom has rushed to get dinner on the table.  A wholesome home cooked meal.  The children arrive to the table hungry and the complaining begins.  “I don’t like chicken!”  “What’s that green stuff?  Yuck!”  “This food is gross!  I’m not eating it!”

Mom sighs exhausted, gets up from the table and makes peanut butter sandwiches.

Let’s repeat the scenario but instead of immediately making another kid-friendly option, mom starts yelling at the little offenders.  Dad joins in to help mom and now we have a knock-down-drag-out fight over what the kids are going to eat.  The kids finally take a bite or two with much tears and drama.  Later that evening Mom feels guilty that the kids are complaining of being hungry and she feeds them a bowl of cereal.  After all, they can’t go to bed hungry.

Or perhaps this is more familiar.  It’s dinner time and mom, feeling like a sous-chef, is rushing to get dinner on the table. First there’s dinner for her and dad.  Then little Johnny gets his dinner of nuggets and fruit roll-up.  Billy will only eat mac-n-cheese this week.  At least he’ll eat a few spinach leaves.  And here is little Beatrice.  She’s only 20 months old so Mom opens the jar of stewed mystery meat baby food for her.  Exhausted, mom finally gets dinner on the table.  Everyone is happy, except mom who wonders if the kids nutritional needs are actually being met with all those processed foods not to mention she has blown the grocery budget again.

These scenarios are played out across America every day.  Moms and dads trying to do their best to feed their kids well.  And, well, failing miserably and then wondering why their kids won’t eat “grown-up” food.

I like to call all of these approaches “feeding kids with a safety net.”  Think of it as a back up plan for when they don’t like what the adults are eating.  This approach to dinner is sure-fire guaranteed way of creating picky eaters!

What’s a mom or dad to do?

why do they want dinner

First and for most, DO NOT buy into the industrialized food company lies that they know better than you how to feed your children!  “Leave your kids nutrition up to us,”  science and nutrition experts claim.  Processed foods are never more nutritious than what you can make right in your own kitchen!

Second, kids DO NOT need to eat “kid food.”  Seriously.  What is “kid food” anyway?  Typically something highly processed with lot’s of unknown ingredients often times presented in fun colors or shapes.  Stop. It.  More than likely our grandparents, at the very least our great-grandparents NEVER fed any of their kids kid food.  The children sat down at the table and ate the adult food that probably came directly from the garden.  That was eating.

If you don’t want your child to be addicted to white bread, don’t give white bread.

If you don’t want your child to prefer pressed and shaped chicken nuggets over a baked piece of chicken, don’t give chicken nuggets.

If you don’t want your child to prefer American processed cheese food (you know the individually wrapped orange cheese-like slices) over a slice of good ol’ fashioned cheddar, don’t give processed cheese food!

Just don’t ever bring the bad stuff into your home and it will never be an issue.

Honestly, picky eaters are not born that way.  Parents create them by the food they give them right from the first spoonful.  Now look, before anyone gets offended, kids will be picky from time to time as their tastebuds change, but this should be the exception and not the rule.

Third, don’t get emotionally involved in the food tug-o-war.  Don’t scream and yell if your kids don’t want to eat what’s in front of them.  Don’t let them see you get frustrated.  If they’re making a fuss over the food you have made them excuse them from the table.  Gently remind them they are welcome to come back and eat whenever they get hungry.  You will have the same plate ready and waiting.  This isn’t cruel.  I promise they will eat when they get hungry.

I remember one of Daja’s little boys decided he didn’t want to eat his dinner.  Daja excused him from the table and sent him to bed.  The next morning while everyone else was having a lovely breakfast this little boy got his warmed up dinner.  Again he declared he wasn’t hungry.  Daja once again dismissed him from the table.  When lunch came around and that same plate was put in front of him, he ate.  This little scenario never happened again with this son.  He simply had to learn that Daja wasn’t going to make him a special meal or give him something else to fill him up.  He had to eat what everyone else was eating.

If you want to oust the picky eater from your home get rid of the safety net!  Don’t give the kids any options other than what you are eating.

Fourth, teach your kids to eat with gratitude.  In our house we always say grace, thanking God for our food.  No one is allowed to complain after that.  (This applies to picky spouses as well.  *cough, cough*)  How can we possibly eat with gratitude if we are complaining about what has been prepared?

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Sometimes the road will be rough, especially if you have always used the safety net.  So give yourself and your children grace when you remove it.  Have a conversation as a family to explain.  Tell your children you want them to be good and healthy eaters.  Tell them you will no longer be cooking multiple meals.  Tell them you won’t be supplying kid food any longer.  Invite them into the kitchen to cook with you.  And whatever you do, DON’T GIVE UP!  Sometimes change will come slowly, but stay committed and soon the battle will be won and dinner can be joyful for everyone.

 


  1. Celeste - May 22, 2014

    At what age do you start saving the food for the next meal? The reason I ask is that my second son, 21 months old is very picky and always has been. It took him a long time to even want to eat food at all, so I didn’t push it just let him nurse. Now that he is mostly weaned he is still pretty picky. He will not touch any fruits or vegetables, which is so crazy to me since we grow so many and eat lots of them. I don’t make seperate meals for anyone and and have always served healthy homemade food. He does usually like something that is for dinner but occasionally I give in and give him yogurt or something. My worry is that if I put him to bed hungry then he will be up most of the night. Sleeping has been another struggle with him, he has finally been sleeping well all night the last few months.

    • Kristina - May 22, 2014

      Hi Celeste! Oh boy, do I know what it’s like to worry over the little one sleeping! My youngest daughter didn’t sleep through the night until she was two as well. You don’t want to mess with that for sure. I didn’t really enforce the you-have-to-eat-what-I-make rule until my girls were really old enough to understand, so probably around 3 or 4. It seems like it’s around then that all children try to impose their will over what they will eat. In the mean time, keep up the great work of offering fruits and veg and those home cooked meals! He’ll come around.

  2. Very helpful article. I still deal with picky eaters, though it is getting better a teeny, teeny, teeny, teeny bit at a time!

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