""No" is one of the most character-building words in the English language. Say it often, and mean it. "

Miserable Meal Times


Our son makes mealtime miserable by yelling, complaining, and making a huge production out of eating what we serve. He also whines, begs, and screams about wanting us to "help him" eat his dinner - aka he wants us to feed him (he's 5.5 years old). How do we stop this behavior?


Stop feeding him.

I nearly ended my answer there, but realize that I might be accused of advocating neglect, which I most certainly am not. However, your son makes a "huge production out of eating" because he's not had to suffer any consequences for doing so. Now, I don't have a lot to go on, but my educated guess is that you're probably cajoling, reasoning, pleading, etc., with your son to stop his behavior without any luck at all. I also bet that every mealtime, you can barely choke down your own food because your son has the entire family in an uproar.

So I stick by my first answer: stop feeding him dinner when you eat. If he was my son, I would make dinner early, put a literal teaspoon of everything you'll be serving on a plate, and call him to the table to eat by himself. Tell him that since he can't manage to behave himself at the table with the rest of the family, he'll be eating by himself early.

Then plop the plate down and walk away. I guarantee that he'll start the same nonsense as before, in which case, you ignore him entirely. Set the timer for 10 minutes, then check on him. If he's managed to eat everything on his plate, he may have seconds of anything that was served. If he has not--and I suspect he will not eat and will probably even throw the plate on the floor--then he's excused and put directly to bed, lights out.

Keep this course and he will probably shape up soon. When he starts behaving himself at the table solo, he can be given a chance to sit and eat with the rest of the family. And if he ends up missing a few meals, he won't starve. Going to bed early and a little hungry a couple of nights won't hurt him at all.

Let me know how it goes, and hang in there!

Sarah Hamaker, Certified Leadership Parenting Coach
Author of Ending Sibling Rivalry

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