Six ways to orchestrate kids' desire to eat what you want them to eat, Part II

Aug 5, 2010 by

This post continues from Six ways to orchestrate kids’ desire to eat what you want them to eat, Part I

Four: Keep them from eating: be out doing something fun. Distract them from eating at times you don’t want them to eat. Take them to the park, the library, anywhere where it will be easy enough to keep them away from food.

Then have a meal prepared ahead of time to serve upon arrival, and they will be too hungry to turn it down.

Marlena’s kids would be foraging in the kitchen all afternoon, after not really eating lunch.  So they would spoil their appetite for dinner, thus perpetuating the cycle. They would need a “second dinner” before bedtime, after refusing dinner, in order to stay asleep all night. She decided the only way to stop them would be to get them out of the house.

I know you can’t do this everyday forever, but it can help break a bad cycle and jumpstart change. If outright laying down the law is too much change all at once, this strategy can get you moving in the right direction more gently.

Five:  Do not give them anything to eat after meals when they haven’t eaten enough. This strategy gets more into the tough love area. Let their hunger teach them. The natural consequence of choosing not to eat is hunger. Let them choose to be hungry if they want, or not to eat if they are not hungry. This technique can be used indefinitely, as needed. But it won’t be needed long. Temporary hunger is a perfect teacher, a speedy teacher.

Six: Let them serve themselves. Say, “Only take it if you are going to eat it. We all want some and we don’t to waste it.” Put the value on food.

Marlena’s kids responded especially well to this shift. They liked being in charge of what they ate–who wouldn’t?  And they ate more and stopped misbehaving at the table. Kids, like the rest of us, respond well to being treated as if we are capable and trustworthy. They are perfectly equipped to regulate their own eating if the situation is properly set up.  Like sheep, they only need to be limited and restricted from the wrong eating. Then the right eating is inevitable.

Related post:

How to Motivate Kids to Eat

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 5 August 2010 / All rights reserved

Anna Migeon
Anna Migeon

Nikki, I'm glad to get your questions! First thing I would say, if your son has been sick, it's normal if he doesn't eat. Maybe more restricting their access to food would be good. I think I would stop them if they are taking more than you think they will eat. I might say, "The last few times you took too much and didn't eat it, so I am not letting you take but tiny bit. If you eat it, and still really want more, you can have a tiny bit more. I don't like throwing away food. It's expensive and the rest of us want to eat it." Pulling food away is generally a good strategy for kids who don't want to eat. You want to switch on the hunger, use their hunger to get them eating, and no other push. Don't push to eat anything, AT ALL, EVER, but keep them from all the eating that is standing in the way of their eating when and what you want them to eat. It's kind of like closing off all the routes but the one you want taken. The kids have their own drive to eat, it just has to be kept from going the wrong direction and then the right direction will be automatic. Are they hungry after dinner when they don't eat much? Do you let them stay hungry? I think that will wake them up after little time, once they see they are hungry when they don't take advantage of their opportunities to eat. Maybe your kids are jerking you around, too. Are they getting your attention and getting you to react emotionally around dinner? It's so important to be nonchalant about their eating. As long as it's your problem they'll tend to use it against you to make you crazy. I can't say how long it might take, but hunger is a quick teacher.


Hi Anna it's me again! :-) Hopefully a quick one this time. Sometimes the kids dish up too much or my son sees his sister taking something and he competes to have the same so piles it on his plate and then doesn't eat it. I'm continuing to say: Dish up as much as your tummy can eat/you can always add more after you've finished if you're still hungry/when we don't finish it is wasted. Tonight my husband really struggled with the fact that the kids were wasting/not eating much. I've said we need to give it time. This is the third night my son hasn't eaten much at supper (he has been a little sick too). This is tough for our family, but I'm still thinking it makes sense-only problem is it is tough on my husband. I think he needs a time frame ;-) to be seeing result-I'm trying to encourage him that it will take time. Any ideas for a time frame? (p.s I'm a questioner-I learn by asking, please forgive if I'm too over analytical ;-)


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