The B4FD Project features blog posts from guest writers that explore the far-reaching benefits of family dinner.

Family Dinner Month 2012: Sept 17 -- Oct 29, 2012


Meal Time Dilemmas and The Picky Eater

by Susan Epstein, LCSW

Are meal times a nightmare in your house? Do you feel like a short order cook?

Do you feel disrespected, ineffectual and helpless in feeding your kids?

Parents everywhere are having this problem. In our attempt to encourage and give our kids every opportunity to be independent and make choices, we have lost our edge.

Parents ask when they should be commanding, give choices when none are necessary and put up with their kids treating them with contempt.

Children need rules, structure and few choices. It is too much to ask a child, “What do you want for breakfast?” You know exactly what happens.

You put the waffle down and he refuses to eat it, saying he really wanted the bagel, so then you make the bagel and he doesn’t want that either!

Thirty minutes later, you have prepared numerous breakfasts and he hasn’t eaten a thing and you are at the end of your rope ready to start and probably already screaming at him. You decide that he is a picky eater and it’s all about him.

But that is a myth…

So let’s say, you make the waffle for breakfast. You don’t ask him what he wants; you just serve the waffle. He either eats it or doesn’t but that is the only choice he gets. He says, “I don’t want a waffle!”

You respond:

‘This is what is for breakfast. If you don’t want to eat it that’s okay, but there are no other choices and you’ll have to wait for snack at school to eat again.”


If he persists, stand firm, repeating your new mantra, “This is what is for breakfast.”

Do not yell, do not get frustrated. If he doesn’t eat, he will learn by his growling belly at school.

“But, Susan, if he doesn’t eat breakfast and goes to school on an empty stomach, he’ll be uncomfortable and all good parents make sure their kids eat breakfast!”

All good parents provide their kids with food.
You cannot make your child eat.


Believe me, he won’t go hungry! You will have created a morning that runs smoothly, with no stress. He will learn that eating is between him and his belly not between him and you. In addition, you will be providing him with the structure that he wants and needs. He really doesn’t want to have to make difficult choices.

He wants you to decide.

This is one more way that you are commanding respect.

You need to be on 100%. So pick a day that you are rested and in fairly good spirits, have someone you can call for support if you feel yourself caving…and carry on COMMANDING RESPECT.

You deserve it! Don’t you?

Susan P. Epstein, LCSW and Parent Coach, practiced Psychotherapy and Child Play Therapy for 28 years before founding Parenting Powers in 2007 (www.ParentingPowers.com) a Parent Coaching company that provides tele-coaching, tele-classes and in-home parent coaching programs. Susan is a speaker/trainer for CMI Education She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley School of Social Welfare and trained with the Coaches Training Institute.

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