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It’s Not My Job to Make Sure My Kids Eat

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We’ve all been there before: you’ve actually taken an hour — an hour that you don’t have — to cook your kids a delicious, nutritious meal only for them to turn their noses up at it the minute you present it to them. It’s enough to drive you insane, not only because all your effort has gone to waste but because it’s biologically engineered into all parents to not feel contentment if their children have empty stomachs. That’s the real reason why grandmas are always trying to shove food down your throat the minute you walk through their doors. I never saw someone more pleased than my grandma when I asked for seconds and thirds of whatever casserole she had made. That’s why picky eaters are so frustrating. Not only are you angry that you made a dinner someone isn’t touching, but you feel like you aren’t doing your job as a parent and that there very well might be physical repercussions in the form of a malnourished child.

An article on The Huffington Post plays into that fear and offers up some tips on how to get your kids to eat something. I realize many of them are meant to be humorous while some are sincere, like having your kids help prepare the meal and no negotiations over food. Of course the article’s intent is good and I was once a parent who would hungrily land on that article or a million others like it after googling “how do I get my child to eat” but I don’t do that anymore.

You see, I’ve found one surefire way to deal with my kid refusing to eat.

I ignore him.

Don’t eat? Don’t care. You’re the one that will be hungry later but that’s not my problem. Often, when he sees I don’t care, how quickly I’ll sweep his plate away, he eats. Almost as if I’ve called his bluff. But calling a bluff can’t be part of your plan or he’ll realize the game. You need to genuinely not care if he eats or not.

I know it feels wrong to you. You’re the parent! It’s your job to get them to eat, right? Wrong. It’s your job to present them a meal that they can refuse to eat. Once the meal has been presented, your job is done. The eating or refusing is their job. If they want to be hungry that’s their business.

What? Are they going to starve to death? No. As you’ve probably reminded your child when he or she doesn’t eat: there are real starving children in other places — but your kid isn’t one of them.

Image source: Monica Bielanko

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