How To End Mealtime Struggles


This conversation about what’s for dinner is a struggle for most parents, especially with young children. We tell our children where to go, when to go to bed, what the next activity is, when to brush their teeth and everything in between. Food is one of the few things that kids can control. Kids know they can say yes or no to a food and there is little we, as parents, can do to change that. Choosing to eat a food is up to the child, but deciding what’s for dinner is up to us.

By dinnertime, most of us are tired and don’t feel like fighting (me included!). So, it’s easy to give in to your child’s whims and desires about dinner. While this may work for the evening, it makes it hard to raise a child who isn’t picky when we are letting our kids be in total control. Follow these steps to raise a healthy (less picky) eater. While it may feel like a battle at first, in the long run, your child will be a better eater and there will be less mealtime struggles:

  1. Avoid open ended, unlimited choice questions such as: What do you want for dinner? While we want to give kids choices, too many choices is overwhelming for a child.

  2. Give your child 2 choices at mealtimes. Do you want eggs or pancakes? Do you want meatballs or chicken fingers? This allows children some choice so they can feel in control, but still gives you, the parent, authority to pick the choices.

  3. Don’t ignore your child’s request. Children need to feel like they are being heard, but that doesn’t mean you need to give in right now. When your child asks for a choice other than what is offered, acknowledge your child. I know you want mac ‘n cheese instead, but that is not on the menu tonight. Would you like to have that tomorrow? Or, would you like to put that on the menu for next week? This allows your child to have some say, but not be in charge.

  4. Make sure 1 choice is something your child likes. Both choices don’t always have to be their favorite foods, but offering 2 foods your child has never tried is overwhelming. Allow your child to get comfortable with you offering an unknown food. This is part of the process of raising a better eater.

    Have other questions about feeding your child? Message me on instagram @greengrownmeals.