I'd Rather Go to Bed.....

Updated on February 20, 2011
M.B. asks from Metamora, IL
21 answers

Just wondering, but I have a 3 year old and am having a hard time with eating dinner.. she says she wants to go to bed instead. When she spends over an hour picking her food, and staring down at the table, its only 7 oclock! what is a better way to approach this type of behavior?

I guess I didnt specify enough... She goes to bed around 8:30 every night because if she goes to bed any earlier then she is wide awake at 3 or 4 in the morning waking the rest of the house up. I pick her up at daycare around 5:30 every night. She takes a nap there every day for normally over 2 hours in the after noon then has a snack at 3:30ish. I feed her dinner at 6 every night. She says she wants to go to bed instead of eat her dinner, but she sits in her room till she gets sleepy, sometimes 2 hours later. I know she isn't tired when she says this. She just doesn't seem to want to eat and feels strongly enough about it that she would rather go to bed then eat.

Our schedule isnt really based on the same time patterns as most normal families... so saying eating earlier doesnt really mean anything when the time between the snacks and dinner are the same. She doesn't go long without food, i keep the intervals of food very close together because I do understand that a childs metabolism requires it.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Try having dinner for her at 6:00 or even 5:00. Then move bedtime earlier, too. Sounds like she's really tired if she's asking for bed. (But then I gave birth to a night owl, so maybe I'm just not used to this :-)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

don't fight it
give her a lighter dinner/snack at 6:30, if she eats it fine, if not, fine. Let her go to bed at 7. Then put a cup of milk and a granola bar or cereal or something nutritious that is easy for her to get herself out where she can get it and take care of herself.
Make rules about when she can make noise and enforce those rules.

I bet after a few days of 7 pm bedtime you will find that she sleeps in till 6 soon.

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answers from Honolulu on

She is tired.
When my kids are tired, they CANNOT eat, even if they are hungry.
Let her go to bed.

AND try having dinner Earlier, for her.
7:00pm for dinner, is late for a young child.

Does she nap during the day?

Your Daughter is not being "naughty." She is tired. And she is smart enough to say so...instead of being Fussy and grumpy about it.
Approach 'this behavior' by having dinner for her earlier.
A child, needs sleep.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Reno on

Eat earlier.

I'm not sure about everyone else, but when my kids were that age, we ate at 5-5:30pm, bath was from 6-7pm and bedtime was 7-7:30pm. If my husband and I wanted a "grown-up" dinner, we'd feed the boys and then eat after they were in bed. Worked out beautifully.

Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

i would start dinner at like 5, then give her a set amount of time - say, thirty minutes. if she's not done, dinner is over. then bed at 8, or even 7, or 7 thirty. it's unusual for a 3 year old to say she's tired and wants to go to bed - she must really be tired!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Kids can't wait that long for dinner. She might just be BEYOND hungry.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

7 seems late for dinner. My kids 5 and 8 eat around 5:30 - we are ready for bed by 7 (go to sleep around 8).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

By letting her go to bed.

These things come in phases, usually in line with growth spurts (physical or mental) or changes in their activity levels during the day. Just feed her earlier and enjoy a nice adult/ 1:1 dinner with your partner (or curl up with a book/ movie/ phone a friend/ take a bath/ etc. if you're single or on your own after she's in bed).

You also probably be pleasantly surprised. Most kids are "backwards". The earlier you put them to bed, the longer they sleep (inverse is true as well).

Just like when ill... when a person is very tired, their body "shuts off" their digestive systems to conserve energy. NOTHING you can do will make her hungry if she's tired.

Fun physiology mini-lesson (well... fun for me;)

((Our digestive systems are the 2nd biggest 'drain' on our energy on a daily basis. 1= remaining upright (instead of prone/ puddle... think what a person looks like if they get zapped with a tazer or faint... all the muscles used to remain *not* a puddle on the floor we don't usually notice until our infants are *straining* to roll over/ sit up/ etc.). 2 = Digestion. 3 = Daily Movement (walking, talking, sitting, exercising. VERY few people spend more energy exercising than the do digesting their food. If you eat fewer than 4000 calories per meal/ 12k -20k per day in order NOT to lose weight, you are not one of those people). When we're sick, our body FIRST makes us "tired" so that we lay down and don't use energy keeping ourselves upright (clinical term: lethargic). Second it shuts off our digestive response. Our body instead shunts all that energy to our immune systems. When we're tired, the same process happens. In children the (not quite accurate, but close) phrase is that they "grow while asleep". Growing kids need a lot of food and a lot of rest. But their bodies will shut off digestion when they get tired. ((Ever seen a kid fall asleep in their plate, even though they're starving? Their nervous system "won". Sleep trumps all. ))

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answers from Redding on

Kids will eat if they are truly hungry. I don't think 2-1/2 hours in between snack and dinner is too long, but that's just me.
I have two kids, a nephew and did daycare, sometimes kids just aren't interested in food and it can be followed by a growth spurt.
If she'd rather go to bed or go in her room than eat, let her.
Don't offer things as bribes.
My mom cooked some pretty bizarre stuff when I was a kid and although I would eat any fruit and vegetable, I would rather go to bed than have dinner any night she made scrambled eggs and oysters and God forbid....liver and onions.
I chose bed every single time!

Just keep offering her the same food everyone else has and she'll either it it or she won't. She won't go without eating for too long.
Make sure she isn't having too much at snack time.
I think she'll be all right.
As moms, we always want our kids to eat. It make US feel better. But, sometimes, they just go through weird phases.

Best wishes.



answers from Chicago on

My daughter (6 yrs old) has a very small stomach and if she has a big snack after school (3:30) there is no way she is going to eat a good dinner- she has always been these way- my boys, of course, could graze all day and have a snack while I am preparing dinner and still eat a good dinner! LOL! If I want my daughter to eat well at dinner time the after school snack has to be small like a yogurt or a string cheese and some grapes- maybe try a smaller snack at 3:30 to ramp up her appetite.


answers from Portland on

does she only say she wants to go to bed or if you offer her food or play would she choose play? if she would play then let her play..if whe would sleep let her sleep...as long as she is not dropping lbs and staying healthy, i would just offer her food and store it for later if she doesn't take it.


answers from Bloomington on

I agree with earlier dinner...we eat at 5:30 and bed at 8:00 for my 3 1/2 y.o.



answers from Chicago on

I find your schedule very normal, especially for working parents. If you don't already do so, you could try involving your daughter in choosing the menu and helping out with some of cooking too. I find that this helps with my son. Another thought is that your daughter might need a little time to relax after coming home from daycare (I know that I do when I get home from the office) before immediately sitting down to dinner. Could you push back dinner until 6:30-7pm and still make your 8:30 bedtime? Just a thought.


answers from Topeka on

Have dinner earlier.



answers from Chicago on

frankly, dinner in our house has never been a big meal w/the kids. they just are done eating for the day, it seems. if dinner is not eaten at dinner time, but my kid is bugging me for a snack an hour later, i offer to re-heat the meal or he may have milk-yogurt-fruit, etc.

My pediatrician also emphasized w/a picky eater - offer quality foods all the time, as you don't want the time that they are finally hungry and ready to chow down the time you offer the cheetos :) but joking aside, think about consumption over a weeks time, and not just a day. So she didn't have any meat/veggies or whatever at dinner?!? Make sure she gets them at another meal or snack time, its all the same...

and you might find that if you try an earlier bedtime, she'll actually have better quality sleep and not wake up so early. Seems counterintuitive, but its actually how kids operate. But again, is she getting 11-12 hours of total sleep in a 24 hour period with night sleep and naps? If not, then moving the bedtime earlier should eventually accomplish this. Find the book Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child by Weissbluth.


answers from New York on

I have a hard time getting my five yr old to eat dinner, doesnt matter what time it is. sometimes he'll even be enthusiastic about what we're having then eat a bite, talk , play, get up, I beg and scold and talk he eats another bite....etc etc its not fun. He eats a Very small dinner, if he eats a small dinner a few bites of everything, then he gets small desert, then takes a shower, then gets a healthy snack. If he doesnt eat dinner he doesnt get desert but still gets the healthy snack. he'll usually eat a very good snack right before bed, in his room. Usually it's fruits and a carrot or few cherry tomatos or celery and peanut butter, I'll give him nuts if I think he needs more protein, or a peanut butter cracker, or spoon full of peanut butter, whole wheat crackers if I think he's really hungry but usually fruit.



answers from Columbus on

I don't have an answer but I can sympathize! My daughter is 2 1/2 and has turned dinner time in to hell! She won't eat, bribes of dessert have no effect, time outs mean nothing...she will sit and cry and push her plate across the table! I have made her sit in her room before b/c I tell her I'm not going to listen to her cry. I assume she will eat when she is hungry enough.
My kids go to day care full time and eat their snack around 3 as well. I can tell you they are hungry when they get home but I make dinner as soon as possible and we don't typically eat dinner until almost 7 every night. That's what you deal with when you work full time.
I eliminated the immediate snack when we got home, thinking she was not hungry for dinner but that doesn't really seem to make any difference. Foods she used to "love," are pushed aside now...
I'm not worrying about it too much other then her being disruptive to the rest of the family!!
Good Luck. I figure, like everything else...this is a phase and it to shall pass!



answers from Chicago on

I think your schedule is normal - it's pretty close to ours and I stay home. I wouldn't push food on her. If she does not want to eat, she must not be hungry, so I'd let her excuse herself from the table. Instead of going to bed maybe she can just relax in another room and wait for the rest of the family to finish. To keep her sleep schedule consistent, I wouldn't let her go "sleep" in her room until it's bedtime.

When my kids decided not to eat dinner, I leave their plate on the counter until they have gone to bed. If they decide later in the evening they are hungry, then they get their dinner warmed up for them.

Just be careful that she isn't skipping a healthy dinner only to receive snacks later or that her next meal is not healthy. I think providing them healthy meals consistently is good enough. Just like us, they aren't always hungry.



answers from Kansas City on

I didn't read the other posts so I apologize if this is repeat information. I actually think that at 3 years old, 2.5 hours between snack and dinner might not be long enough! When my 3yo eats a snack at three or three thirty, he is not always hungry at 6. Sometimes he is, but more often than not, he waits until 7 or 730 (which works for our schedules, thank goodness!).

See if daycare will limit the serving size of the snack and see if that makes a difference in her eating behavior.


answers from Austin on

My opinion is that she's at that age when she realizes how to manipulate a situation. For my daughter, this phase started when she was 3, and it involved being a picky eater.

So you don't want to force her to eat (because food/dinner becomes a power play) but you also don't want to fortify her resolve and manipulation. For my daughter, I told her "3 bites to be polite" meaning 3 bites of every item on her plate (3 bites of meat, 3 bites of vegetable, etc) and then she was excused... But then I would say, "I was going to give you 1 jelly belli as dessert for eating a good dinner. But since you didn't eat much..." I'm not a big fan of candy but I figured 1 jelly bean wouldnt amount to much. And it did help nip the picky eater issues in the bud.

By the way, I'm a working mom too and dinner at 7pm isn't strange. If your a SAHM, sure you can start making dinner at 4:30 and eat by 5pm. But FT working parents have a different cooking and dinner schedule.

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