If Mealtime Is Always A Fight, Here’s How To Finally Get Your Kids To Eat Better

You’ve come to dread having a meal with your kids or even just getting them to eat a snack.

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Because no matter how much thought or effort you put into it, they’re guaranteed to turn their noses up.

Maybe you’ve made meal plans and menus, and concoct all sorts of recipe ideas only to have them push their food around their plate and ask for a cheese stick.

Maybe they won’t touch anything green yet chown down happily on cookies and chips.

You vacillate between anger and worry.

You hate having to coerce, prod, and push. And you want to have a peaceful meal, too!

On the other hand, you’re afraid your kid will be malnourished, maybe even stunted in their growth.

You’re worried your kid’s too skinny, or too heavy. Either way, you’ve got to get some healthier food into this child. But how?

The Fundamental Truth About The Parent-Child Relationship

It’s the sobering reality:

When we are desperate, our children are often inclined to do the opposite of what we’re asking.

And if you’re honest with yourself, then you know the same goes for you.

Whenever someone comes AT you with something, your natural urge is to dig your heels in or go the other way.

It’s just human nature, and especially more so in children who are trying to establish a sense of independence and autonomy.

The more you push and plead with them to eat the healthy foods you lay before them, the less likely they will do so.

This is where you, as the adult, need to be smarter. Instead of coming AT them, I teach parents to come ALONGSIDE their child.

Here’s how this works in terms of getting your child to eat healthier.

The Attitude And Approach That Makes Kids More Receptive

Think about how you’re being when you’re hellbent on getting your kids to eat better. Maybe you plead, or you negotiate, or you try to reason with them.

None of them work, because all of them create that aforementioned desperate vibe that kids will resist.

So now let’s picture what you’d be like if you were the opposite of this.

You’d be much more relaxed. You wouldn’t be broadcasting the idea that it’s absolutely imperative for your child to eat a certain way, or else.

The second element that can entice your child is to let go of your preconceived ideas of what, when, and how meals should look like.

We all have these fixed ideas, and they’re often rooted in our childhoods. Or we believe we have to keep our kids on a routine or schedule.

You think that you’re a bad parent if you let your child have dessert before dinner. But what if you allowed that to happen on one special night each week?

Changing Things Up Often Changes The Response You Get

When you combine a relaxed attitude with a creative, more flexible approach, you’ll probably start to experience much more peace at mealtimes.

Let’s see what this looks like in action:

  • Be less needy. Present the food in a friendly way—“Hey guys, here’s some hummus and pita bread!” and then get busy doing something else. If they are hungry enough, they’ll eat. Don’t try to “sell” them what you’ve made. If your kids sense your neediness, they’ll be less inclined to eat the foods you’ve offered.
  • Mix it up. While some kids insist on eating the same foods every day, most children enjoy a little variety. Smoothies one day, mini-sandwiches the next. And think outside the box. No reason they can’t have scrambled eggs or oatmeal for an afternoon snack!
  • Turn them into chefs. Kids love to be creative, so try hosting your own family cooking show, with each child given the same ingredients and then challenged to make something tasty and unique.
  • Presentation, presentation, presentation. Involve your kids in artfully arranging the chips around the guacamole, or making funny faces with nuts and raisins in the bowl of yogurt. Encourage them to associate snack time as a chance to get creative.
  • Come together. Sit down with your kids when it’s time to refuel. Children who normally refuse to snack on what’s been offered often become hearty eaters when snack-time turns into a chance to spend time telling jokes or goofing around together.

Enjoy More Peace In Every Area Of Your Relationship With Your Child

It’s so exhausting to be fighting with your kid all day long about this and that.

And the more this happens, the more you’re likely to “lose it”—which then makes you feel guilty. All the while, your kid still isn’t doing what you want.

There’s a much better way.

In my program Parenting Without Bargains, Battles or Bribes, I’ll teach you many more ways to come ALONGSIDE your child—whether it’s getting them to finish their homework, take a bath, stop talking back at you.

Coming alongside has benefits for both of you—the more you use it, the more they’ll cooperate, which means it will be less likely you’ll get to that point where you blow your fuse and yell so loudly you scare yourself.

Eating meals and snacking happens so often every day that it’s a perfect chance to practice coming alongside your child. But there’s no shortage of opportunities.

Some parents will get triggered more during mealtimes, while others feel their blood pressure rising in other moments—such as when the clock is ticking and your kid still hasn’t put his shoes on after you’ve asked five times.

Throughout the program, you’ll get clear on your particular triggers and how to guide your child so that small stuff doesn’t end up erupting into big fights.

And if you look at my suggestions for eating healthier above, you’ll see many of them are geared toward strengthening the parent-child connection.

There’s good reason for this. Most of the time, defiant behavior has to do with the bond between you and your child.

Strengthen the bond, and the troublesome behavior often drops away on its own.

More Peace At All Times


Susan Stiffelman

P.S. When parents come to me with troublesome behavior, they’re often surprised by my advice. Initially, I tell them to ignore the behavior and focus on strengthening the connection they have with their child, even if they think they have a solid bond to begin with.

Here’s why:

Turning Around Troublesome Behavior

Parent Without Yelling, Power Struggles and Guilt

  • Critical skills to raise happy, healthy kids
  • Make parenting the most fun you’ve ever had
  • Ensure your kids feel loved, accepted and understood
  • Co-parenting secrets to help your kids thrive
  • Common parenting mistakes you must avoid
  • Less tantrums and tears, more snuggles and laughter

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