Food Fight! Dealing With Control Issues at the Table

We’ve all had those days, right? The ones where our little one is having control issues, on a mission to battle us on everything from wearing bunny slippers instead of shoes, shorts in winter, this toy instead of that one, getting in the car seat … right up to what’s for lunch. The whole time, shouting a resounding chorus of “Me do it!”

Those lunch time battles right now? They have nothing to do with food and everything to do with your little ones newfound independence. Fortunately we can deal with it much the same as all the other battles.

• Offer two choices, both healthy, and give your kid control over what he wants to eat

• Remove all the bad food choices from your house to eliminate the battle. It’s not like the two-year-old is going to drive to the store for a six pack of soda!

• Serve the healthy stuff when your child is at her hungriest, but don’t wait so long that “hungry” becomes a melt down.

Older kids want control, too. For some this means making a request for you to cook separate meals. Avoid this! It’s hard enough for us parents to get one meal on the table. Try engaging your kids in the process instead.

• Have your child begin to help choose healthy foods, recipe and to prepare those items with you. Engage them in the whole process, while educating them about why healthy foods are so important.

• Take a “family vote” approach to your menu, by giving your child a say in foods he does and does not like, you can work together to find recipes that work for everyone — and defuse the conflict.

• Try growing herbs or a few vegetables with your kids. Kids are more likely to try new foods they have helped grow or prepare.

• Make kids responsible for helping with the family meal, things like helping with the dishes and setting the table help them understand your efforts and they should be less likely to treat you like a short order cook.

• Finally, don’t force bites or hold back dessert for a ransom in green beans. This approach just makes the healthy food less desirable and the desserts more so. Enjoy your food, model healthy eating and keep your eye on the long-term goal of a healthy family.

What’s your best tip for avoiding food fights? How do you approach the issue at home?

Published on: April 27, 2011
About the Author
Photo of Beth Bader

Beth Bader is the coauthor with Ali Benjamin of the acclaimed book, The Cleaner Plate Club, designed to help parents understand picky eating behaviors; where they originate, and how to deal with them creatively to get kids to eat better.

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