Nothing’s worse than feeling like you keep wasting time in the kitchen prepping meals that NOBODY EVEN EATS!! Like seriously, what’s the point? Maybe it’s time to go all Hunger Games on your family… “may the odds ever be in your favour!!” Letting your family fend for themselves for a day or two may seem like bliss, but you need a long term plan. Keep reading to learn my 5 steps to saving meal time and keeping your cool when you’re faced with food refusals.
Keeping calm with food refusals
Tip #1: Bite your tongue
Literally bite it if you feel the momma-rage boiling to the top. Take a breath, fake a smile a smile if you have to. Food refusals ARE NOT personal. Taking a millisecond for a breath to remember this, will hopefully help you regain perspective and keep your cool.
Tip #2: Respond with empathy
You may not understand why your little one is refusing to eat the food you made, but you don’t need to know “why” to know how to respond.
Empathy always wins!
Ways you can respond to food refusals with empathy look something like this:
“You really wish I made noodles tonight…”
“Nothing in the meal is really what you wanted is it?”
“I really like pizza for supper too. How about we put it on the list to make this week?”
Tip #3: Acknowledge and accept they may not eat as much as you want
When your little one is set on not eating what you served, do your absolute best to avoid falling into common traps. Traps of offering bribes, pressuring for bites, or getting up and grabbing them something else to eat. All of these things will eventually backfire, and cause you so much more headaches down the road.
Remember, you did your job of deciding what to serve at meals, and you got the food on the table when your little one should have been hungry. It’s up to them to make sure they are eating enough to fill up their tummy. Even if that means they eat three crackers and peace out.
Tip #4: Remind them of when they can eat next
When they are dead set on leaving the table after only a few bites, their is ONE last thing you can do…. remind them of when they will eat next.
Sometimes just asking your little one if their “tummy is full” is enough to snap them back into eating if they really aren’t ready to leave the table yet.
If they are ready to leave the table then you need to make sure you say in terms they will understand when they can expect to eat next. For example, a two year old likely won’t understand you saying, “we’ll eat lunch in 2 hours.” They will understand “no more food until we get home from the park.”
Pro tip: If your little one ate much less than usual or didn’t fill up on the F2P foods, you might want to bump your next meal or snack.
In general, I usually suggest shifting meals up by a half hour.
Tip #5: Stick to your guns and gentle reminders
Now that you’ve put your foot down and set clear boundaries about when food is available, you need to stick to your guns. Adjusting the timing of meals is fine, but don’t bend over backwards and offer food shortly after you put it away. This my friend is another form of catering.
Remember, no food until supper time means no food until supper time. Expect for these boundaries to be tested, and tested often. Once your little one knows you say what you mean and mean what you say they start anticipating meal times and eating to satisfaction.
If you’re needing more tips on how to feed your 18 month to 4 year old, check out this post.
So the next time you're faced with a meal time refusal remember....
Taking it personally doesn’t help! Diffuse the tension meal time refusals bring by following my five tips. Not only do you leave the table feeling less frustrated because you didn’t engage in a battle, but your little one leaves feels more empowered knowing they have control over how much they eat. Both of which serve your end goal of raising a happy, healthy, intuitive eater.