Strategies for Helping Kids Eat Their Dinner Already

Strategies for Helping Kids Eat Their Dinner Already | HSLDA Blog

Some parenting struggles, I see why it’s an issue. Potty training: that’s hard on the mother, but I can see why a kid wouldn’t want to learn it. Proper tooth brushing, going to bed on time, wearing appropriate clothes out of doors, those are all things an immature human might object to, yes. (Wanting naps is a sign of maturity.)

But why wouldn’t you want to eat your meals? Aren’t you hungry? At our house, it’s not even that the girls don’t like the food I prepared; they are perfectly capable of ignoring pizza. And then of course they’re hungry and cranky an hour later. Apparently, they are just at a life stage where food doesn’t matter? This is mystifying to me. Kate is a toddler and Meg is, bless her bones, what is commonly known as a strong-willed child. I cannot – CAN NOT – force either of them to eat. There are things a man can do, and things a man can’t do. Savvy?

Strategies for Helping Kids Eat Their Dinner Already | HSLDA Blog

I’m amused by a mommy meme I heard the other day, to the effect that parenting is 70% putting cheese on things to get your children to eat them, and the other 30% is adding ketchup. I know some people choose not to fight over dinner and are fine with their kids choosing cereal instead every night, but I’m actually not. Dinner is when I serve adult food with nutrients that cannot be found in chicken nuggets, not even dino nuggets with ketchup. They’re going to learn to eat and like it, and furthermore they’re part of the family and they’ve simply got to have some.

So I’m working with them on this. We have kind of boring strategies and fun strategies.

Strategies for Helping Kids Eat Their Dinner Already | HSLDA Blog

The boring ones first:

  • PARLAY. I remind the daughter in question, gently, inexorably, that there will be no dessert, snacks, or seconds on mashed potatoes unless she eats a good dinner. This actually works better now than it used to – it depends on how badly she wants dessert, because she does believe the consequence will happen. (Yay for consistent parenting.)
  • GUIDELINES. We discuss the importance of eating different kinds of food at your meal. There’s a Super Why episode about that, so it’s not just me telling them.
  • AN ACCORD. If there’s a particular problem food that I really do want her to eat, if for instance the doctor says she has to drink a certain amount of water per day, I make her sit in her chair until it’s all gone—into her stomach. Sometimes this works.
  • PARSNIP? If it’s a new or weird food, she needs to take a “polite bite.” This is a strategy from Nana, and actually works pretty well, if I’m okay with her only taking one or two bites.

And for the more fun ways:

  • SPIRITUALITY. I let Meg be the good example for her sister. Kate, not surprisingly, does what Meg does. The girls will often rise to the occasion to a rather astounding degree – Meg has entire lectures on how good and wise I am that she gives Kate, and Kate seems to believe them. Sometimes Meg persuades both of them to eat their dinners. Um, okay!
  • ECUMENICALLY. Make a song and dance routine. Meg has a knack for making up new words to old songs, so we sing about our dinner and eat it all up. And oh yes, there is chair dancing. (This strategy also applies to troublesome workbook pages. I sang about math this very day.)
  • GRAMMATICALLY. We cheer. The girls take turns taking a bite and cheering for one another. YAHOO! YAY! She was brave and ate broccoli! Whee!

Strategies for Helping Kids Eat Their Dinner Already | HSLDA Blog

So I’m curious. How do you help your kids eat their meals?

Carolyn signature Montez font

Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; All other images by Carolyn Bales.

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