How to Have a Stress-Free Mealtime with a Picky Eater

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I have a question about mealtimes. I know that you believe in allowing kids to suffer natural consequences. When it comes to offering kids new foods and they refuse, would the natural consequence just be missing that meal? – Erica, Honolulu, Hawaii

Erica,

Thanks for the question. This is how I deal with mealtimes no matter what I am serving. It does not involve anger, threats or lectures and I never try to control that which I cannot control. I do most of the cooking in my home and I try to serve varied items for nutritional reasons and so that it is more likely that my daughter will like and eat at least some part of the meal.

We join our hero (that’s me) as I am sitting down to dinner with Kid. At no time do I stop enjoying my meal during this conversation and I wait to answer questions until I have finished chewing each delicious bite.

Kid: What in the world is this garbage?

Kid Whisperer: It’s couscous, broccoli and barley salad. I also made lentils and corn chowder.

Kid: I’m not eating this. It looks like something the cat already ate.

Kid Whisperer: Probably so. This is what we’re having tonight.

Kid: I saw pie on the counter.

Kid Whisperer: I serve pie to people who finish their broccoli-centric salad.

Kid: Are you talking about this vomit food right here?

Kid Whisperer: Yep.

Kid: But I don’t want to eat this.

Kid Whisperer: Fair enough.

Kid: What if I don’t eat it?

Kid Whisperer: I don’t know.

Kid: Can I have something else?

Kid Whisperer: Well, what did I say we were having tonight?

Kid: This vomit food?

Kid Whisperer: Yep.

Kid: Can I have something else?

Kid Whisperer: What did I say we were having tonight?

Kid: Vomit garbage.

Kid Whisperer: Yep. Vomit garbage.

Kid: BUT I DON’T WANT TO EAT THIS.

Kid Whisperer: Fair enough.

Kid: I’m just going to eat pie!

Kid Whisperer: Who did I say I serve pie to?

Kid: BUT I DON’T WANT THIS STUFF! I’M GOING TO STARVE TO DEATH!!!!!!!!

Kid Whisperer: I hope not. You will have another chance to eat at breakfast tomorrow. Maybe you will find some food you like then.

Kid: I hate this family and all of its members and you just had kids so that you could make them miserable and I hate that you took that hippie cooking class and I hate YOU!

(Kid runs off to his room)

The next day I make a nice big breakfast. Kid is likely to eat it.

Note: Healthy children without blood sugar issues, diabetes, etc. can miss a meal. If you have a child with these issues or you just can’t bring yourself to let your kid be hungry, you can offer bland food that takes little to no time to prepare. Plain bread, an apple and white skim milk come to mind. Just know that doing this will be less effective in getting your kid to eat what is put in front of them in the future. If you do have a kid with a health issue, talk to a pediatrician about what easy alternatives you can offer. When you start preparing special, gourmet foods to accommodate your kid at every meal, you are no longer parenting, you are serving. –The Kid Whisperer