Why Always a Fight over Food?

Updated on September 16, 2010
F.W. asks from Flagstaff, AZ
11 answers

My son is 4-1/2 and is a picky eater. Months ago we started requiring him to try two bites of our food. This was going fine until a month ago. He started leaving the table, screaming about how he doesn't want it, and we wind up badgering him to eat. Furthermore, now it has moved to the food he wants like chicken nuggets and him under eating and we have to badger him there too! We are at a loss. Advice please?

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So What Happened?

I got some great advice and will discuss it with my husband but no more fighting sounds good to me. The only drawback is that he'll wake up hungry in the middle of the night. This is a raw spot because I tell my husband no way does he get food but he gives in. Very frustrating. Personnally I don't give him anything and tell him he should have eaten more before bed. I'm definately going to give the advice I had a try. Anything is better than what has been happenning. Thank you all so very much!

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answers from Erie on

Aside from the other good advice here, he's also old enough to become a part of planning and making meals. Children who are involved in the process often WANT to try whatever they helped create. It's worth a shot, in addition to what everyone else here said. Stop fighting with him over it. You are the parent, you don't have to argue or yell at him, a matter-of-fact "this is dinner, eat it or not" attitude will work. But the positive reinforcement of having him help might be a good addition to this method. He can be taught to snap off the ends of green beans, to cut up an apple with an apple slicer, to mix items in a bowl together, to break an egg, to stir a pot on the stove, even to pick out items from each food group for dinner and shop for them, etc...

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answers from Seattle on

Stop badgering. God, I was TOTALLY in your position!! it was a nightly fight, me getting mad, son crying...bleh...awful. So, I just stopped. I told my son, "I am not feeding you posion. This is dinner. This is ALL you will get. You may choose to eat it or not. If you do NOT eat it you will not get fed until the next meal." And then I ate my dinner. IF your child decides not to eat then they will be hungry. But NO child has ever died or got sick by missing a meal. You have the option of offering him his food that he originally declined or telling him that he is not eating again until...breakfast. THEN STICK TO IT! I don't understand the whole, try two bites thing. That seems wierd to me.
My eldest son, the one that was so trying, is a fabulous eater. My younger one is just as good. But, I can tell you there are some meals that they don't eat all of, and they know darn good and well that THAT was their dinner. I am not a short order cook, and I am not going to make myself miserable every night cajoling my kid to eat.
He's 4 1/2....PLENTY old enough to understand cause and effect. leave him alone, let him figure it out, he may be hungry, but he WILL eat.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

My friend is a nurse in a specialized pediatricians office (dealing with "sensitive" children). Anyways, her and I were having the same exact conversation the other day about food and picky eaters. She stated that the Dr. that she works for always tell the parents that children this age do not know how to be bullemic or have food issues/problems (not that I am saying your kid is bullemic or food issues, just this was part of our conversation). Anyways, she added that kids don't know how to "starve themselves" and that eventually they will eat what is offered to them and that the parents shouldn't give in to their demands.

Not sure if you want to believe it or not, but like I said she is a nurse and this is what the Dr. she works for tells his patients.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Please stop forcing him to try the food. Do not make eating a battle. Meals should be a time to enjoy each others company.

Instead offer him very small amounts of what you prepare and IF he eats it, you can give him another small portion, no comments.. If he chooses not to eat, that is fine, just let him know there will be no snacks or dessert till the next meal.

Children are told how to do everything and food is the last thing he needs to battle.
He should have the option of not eating it.

Remember childrens taste buds are very different from ours.. They are still very sensitive and what taste good to me and you, can taste very different to children..Black pepper and onions can be very spicy to a child. Tomatoes can taste acidic rather than sweet.

Also their sense of smell is still very sensitive, so odors can be overwhelming, especially when his face is as close to the plate than your is..

Also the size of the portions can make the food look overwhelming.

Some children do not like to not being able to tell the difference in their foods.. They like spaghetti, but want the control of dipping it into the sauce.

It is your home, so you have to decide how to handle meals.. In our home, I made one meal. I placed a very small portion on our daughters plate. Salad, was a piece of lettuce, some baby carrots, some cucumber slices and some tomato slices. She did not want salad dressing.

If we had tacos, there was some little spiced ground meat, cheese and half of a tortilla folded in half.

She refused casseroles. So I would keep some of the cooked ingredients separate .
The pasta was plain, the chicken was plain, the veggies, plain.. It was healthier food in the long run, because she could not stand cream of anything..

As she got older everybody in the family had the option of a bowl of unsweetened cereal if they did not want was served for the meal.. Sometimes, I did not want to eat what I had prepared.. You know how it is when in the morning you plan something and after cooking it , it is just not what you are in the mood for?

I remember being forced to eat foods when I was a child. My father would scream and yell if we did not" just taste".. I would be sick to my stomach when dinner was about to begin, I knew it was going to be like torture.. One night he insisted I eat something, I kept telling him I did not like the taste, he kept telling me to just taste it and swallow it.. When I did swallow it I vomited on the table. I was so humiliated, because I was not a good girl and should have liked the foods everyone else ate..

I never forgot that feeling.

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answers from Dallas on

It's a control issue. Potty and eating are one of the first things they can control. It's a balance. I wouldn't make him eat anything. I think that's not fair. I mean are there some foods that you don't like? Of course. I was a VERY picky eater when I was young. You could say that my mom catered to me. Well I eat everything now! Honest. If it's come to the point where you are having trouble with some of his "favorites" then you need to sit back and take a break on the battle at hand. I think the more you make out of it the bigger the battle well be. Find a ground and stick to it. Be consistent in whatever you choose to do. He won't die of hunger. Hang in there mom ")
Best Regards,

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answers from Honolulu on

My son, has been a UBER picky child, since 6 months old when he started solids.
I do not fight about it nor about his pickiness nor about his eating.

He is now, 4 years old, and has NATURALLY expanded his palate.

I do not punish for eating or not, I do not expect him to eat like me nor to like the same things as me, I don't count how many bites he takes, I don't micromanage his eating, I don't fight about it, I don't nag about it, I don't give treats or rewards for his eating.
I do not want to make 'eating' a hang-up.
I do not fight about food... I rather my son know about his body's cues... ie: Knowing when he is full, when he is hungry etc.
He does eat with us at the table, I cook as I cook not just catering to him and its fine.

My son is healthy, grows like a weed, and is very not lacking anything.

I ALSO know that my son is a 'grazer.' Meaning he does not eat all at one sitting. My daughter on the other hand, does eat heartily all at one sitting.
So, I know, my kids and their eating styles.

He also cooks with me, helps me grocery shop and enjoys it.
But I do not fight with him about eating.
I choose, not to.
And, my son has no tantrums at the dinner table nor any issues. He eats what he can.

Also, kids tastes WILL change. As does, older children, Pre-Teens, Teens, College Kids, Adults and Elderly.
I personally, do NOT know of any grown-up... that has eaten the same way or had the same food preferences as they did when they were a toddler. Food preferences is NOT static. It changes.

all the best,

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answers from Flagstaff on

At one time or another, food becomes a challenge for most children. What I've suggested to parents of students in my classes, as well as what we do for our children is to just make one meal. Explain to your son before hand that you are going to set a timer. He has to stay at the table the whole time, he can not get up. Once the timer has beeped, calmly remove his plate and save it. The next time it's either snack, or dinner, etc... pull out the same plate. He will eat when he is hungry, or he will figure out that this is what is going to happen. Do not make him his own meal. Having you and your husband get upset with him doesn't help matters either, but it's also a way for him to win. He won't starve, I promise! Good luck!

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answers from Johnstown on

Don't give any other options for food. Tell him he eats what's put infront of him or he waits until morning to have anything else. My hubby was raised w/ this philosophy and is using it on our children as well. Surprisingly, it's working :) Even got to use it tonight. Our one daughter wanted to bargain over a dessert. Hubby told her if she wanted that, she would eat all of her main supper first. Daughter wanted to throw a fit, hubby said no problem, but no dessert until the meal is eaten. Daughter pouted for 25 mins, and then finally got the point, ate supper and was served requested dessert after. Good luck!

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answers from Dallas on

Make your child what he wants for dinner as long as it is somewhat healthy. If he likes mac and cheese, give him mac and cheese and also place a small amt of the other dinner food on his plate. If he only wants treats then I would say no, but if it is a hotdog, mac and cheese or some kind of dinner item then give in. I know sometimes I just dont feel like chicken so I make something else. If you let him eat what he wants and offer the other for a few weeks then food will not be such a big deal and he may try the other foods.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

There should not be a "our food" and "his food". There needs to be one family meal that everyone eats. He can help plan meals. Tell him you need to have a veggie, main dish, etc. Give him some choices. Have him help make the meals (he can help make salad, wash fruits and veggies, etc). If he says he is full, take away his food and save it. If he wants a snack, give him his food that you saved for him. After a while he will realize that he can't push you over. Make sure he is not snacking right before meals to fill up either. We never told our kids to clean their plates. Tell them to listen to their stomachs. Our kids refuse to order off a kids menu. They'd rather order an appetizer of shrimp cocktail w/ ketchup and a salad than chicken nuggets. Try new foods at home that the whole family will be trying at the same time, not just him. Good luck, it's a tough issue.

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answers from Flagstaff on

Hi, if he's turning down the food he likes he could be testing the water to see how far he can push you.
Kids will NOT starve themselves when he runs away don't chase him. Put his food "away". He won't know what to do and might throw a tantrum out of confusion. It won't take to long before he realized he's actually hungry and will come ask for his food. You might consider putting the grown up food on the plate alone tiny bites then he can have his dinner. If he runs away on a full stomach he's not coming back.
I have nephews that hate the food that's good for them. I'm sending a Jr. Betty Crocker cookbook to them because grama doesn't eat her fruits and veggies. they should help her cook and eat with her to make sure she eats her fruits and veggies to stay strong. We'll see how it works.
good luck 8 >)

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