Why I Gave Up Mealtime Battles


See that boy? The boy with the empty plate (save for some peas) and the brand new car napkin? He and his sister were driving me absolutely mad at mealtimes, and in fact, most of their meltdowns were occurring right at the table. I’ve had an epiphany this weekend, and it’s like I’ve got brand new kids.

I don’t think I’m the first parent to have mealtime battles with my kids, but I’m not sure how frequently other parents go through the same thing.

B battles me for:

-His bib (can only be the brown one)

-His napkin (can only be the car napkin)

-His plate color (the one above, purple – otherwise orange)

-His spoon (big spoon)

-Who put him in his chair (me) and WHEN I can do it (after he gets his straps set up)

-Washing his hands in the sink

And of course, this doesn’t factor in his food desires!

B currently doesn’t like:

-Meat of any sort


-Basic fruits and vegetables he’s liked all his life until like, yesterday.

-Sweet things


C battles me for:

-Her spoon (little)

-Who puts her in her chair (Daddy)

-Who gets her food (she scoops her own cereal out on the weekends from the box)

-Her hair going in a ponytail so it’s not in her food

For her, the issues are more food related than anything else. She doesn’t like:

-Meat of any sort

-Cheese and peanut butter, except when she absolutely loves cheese and peanut butter


-Tomato sauce (except on pizza)

She would eat everything unhealthy in the world, plus every vegetable and fruit that exists. But rice? NO.

So each and every night (and lunch on the weekends), I was battling. Again and again. Screaming from C with big crocodile tears while her brother laughed (“B, crying is NOT. FUNNY!!!!”), chair rocking, head rolling from B with occasional hitting. It’s been a disaster.

Most meals went in this fashion: I’d give them something they like, but then when they were finished, they’d meltdown because the only options left were things they didn’t like. OR, I’d make them something new thinking they would love it, but they won’t even taste it, won’t even try it, and then I’d have nothing for them for dinner but some veggies (and only their current favorites, of course). I found myself growing angry when I put C in her chair and she screamed because she wanted Daddy. When I’d give B his choices and he’d scream, “No, those are NOT the options!!!” My husband and I were stressed and frustrated every night.

Except this weekend.

This weekend, I tried something new. If I already knew what they like and prefer – that’s what I gave them.

B only likes the car napkin. Out of all those nice ones I made, he’ll only use that one. If it’s dirty, I was previously making him choose from the rest of the pile. He refused to do it.

But this weekend, I said, “Your car napkin is dirty. You can either have one I made you or a white paper napkin.” He chose white.

He didn’t want to wash his hands in the sink. He got the choice of the sink or a hand wipe. He chose wipe.

I WAITED for him to fix his straps the way he wanted – not hurrying him along or attempting to do it myself.

If he didn’t want milk, he didn’t have milk.

C likes the little spoon – and I knew that already. Why was I asking her what she wanted if I already knew? Little spoon is on the table at the start, and that issue is solved.

As for food? My kids have eaten GREAT this whole weekend. WHY?

Before, I would give them one thing they liked, and a few they might not have. B has stopped liking peppers and green beans (though they are two of his favorites – I think it’s a temporary boycott). Why was I continuing to put them on his plate?

Now, I’m giving them 95% of what I know they like. B likes salad, C doesn’t. C gets cucumber when B gets salad. B likes pasta with sauce or cheese, C likes it plain. So that’s what C gets.

Do I think some of their food choices are gross and weird? Yes. I can’t get them to try ketchup to save their life, so dipping meat is just out of the question. Why am I still trying??

I’ve given up.

I know what they like, and most of what I’m giving them is just that. No more hoping they’ll suddenly take a liking to meatloaf – it’s not happening. They still eat veggies, they still eat bread and pasta, they still eat cheese.

It feels spectacular. My stress level at lunch and dinner is just about gone. We’ve started enjoying each other’s company at the table, laughing and talking. I know what they like, and I’m done fighting it. They’re getting what they like (within reason), and a little tiny bit on their plates that they don’t like. If they try it, great. If they don’t – next time.

This is all temporary, right? So they say. I’m willing to wave the white flag and let them eat what they’ll eat. Happy twins = happy parents.




6 thoughts on “Why I Gave Up Mealtime Battles

  1. Amber says:

    Getting littles to eat what parents want is so tough! I gave up too. I’ve started having mine set the table and serving our meal family style where they tell me what they want. Everything is out so I don’t have to get up and I don’t give them anything they don’t want so there’s less frustration for all.

    • futuresoccermom says:

      Wow! Amazing – could you tell me more about this? How does it work where your quads tell you what they want, without you having to cook a million different things? Or do they choose from a few choices? I would like to try this I think – thank you so much for the suggestion!

  2. Amber says:

    I haven’t written about this yet, but I’m drafting it in my head 😉 I’m about to write about how we are re thinking meals and snacks! Basically, I make whatever I have planned for dinner, no catering to the kids. Everything goes on the table and one of them sets the table with empty plates and utensils. When it’s time to eat, I go to each of the meal components and ask each child if they want any. If they do, they get a serving, if not, no serving. In addition to the meal, they can always choose fresh fruit or veggies or yogurt. It cuts down on drama and waste big time! For ex, last night we had chicken with gravy, rice, and green beans. Everyone had rice, some had the chicken and two had green beans. They all ate yogurt on the side. I’d prefer they all ate the whole meal, but even if I put it on their plate, begged, and bribed, I couldn’t get them to eat something they didn’t want. I only threw a few uneaten green beans away and it was relatively drama free.

  3. Kathy says:

    I agree with you 100%. Once I gave up the food battle mealtimes are so much easier. My 2 year old twins don’t like the same things and they would eat all junk food if I let them. Funny how they are always hungry for any kind of snack food. They just started dipping things in ketchup which has been fun to watch. I find that foods they once liked and ate with ease, now they don’t like. Right now it’s always a guessing game. Thanks for your post!

  4. randomsqueaks says:

    You poor thing. Food battles are tough and ours are getting tough again. I’ve stuck firm with “you’re getting what we’re eating and either eating it or going hungry”. So some meals they eat one bite and then go hungry, even though I try to always give them something they like. I’ve bribed eating a couple bites to get “dessert” (fruit) but I hate doing that. That’s probably why they gorged on applesauce and string cheese at my in-laws house after refusing to eat more than three bites of dinner at my house. Oh, except V was happy to eat the last several bites of soup from my bowl. I guess it tastes better in Mommy’s lap, from Mommy’s bowl, with Mommy’s spoon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s