Living Loving Learning

Dear Robin

In Dear Robin on Sunday, January 11, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Dear Robin,


I am beginning to dread mealtime at our home because of my finicky 9 year old who eats hardly anything.  If it isn’t some type of fried chicken, pasta, mac/cheese, tacos or pizza, he doesn’t like it.  The only veggie he eats is carrots so he literally eats raw carrots every day.

We’ve tried the whole “you’re gonna eat what I fix or go hungry” and the “if you don’t like what I make, fix it yourself” plan and neither have worked.

I’m at a loss.I know in 10 years it won’t matter because he’ll be on his own, but it’s really starting to get to me.

Any advice?


OK  – you guys are great at this, so help this mom out.  What are your suggestions to her?  (This time, I’ll post my reply to her as an edit tomorrow.)






All you commentors had great suggestions.  Thanks!  I knew you would. 

Here is my reply (taken from 2 separate e-mails)

I know a little about a finicky eater.  I have one and now he is 16.    We still ask him to eat a small portion of good foods, even if he doesn’t like them…or at least one bite.  His eating has improved a bit over the years, but food just isn’t important to him.  He could just as soon NOT eat as eat.  And often he just doesn’t.  (I think he could fast for a week and it wouldn’t even bother him.)


Pray a lot!  Hang in there with him, appeal to him about his health, require small bites of everything and have LOTS of carrots on hand!  LOL



Know that he is who he is….(and all this time I thought we could shape and mold our kids into our likeness!..hahaha)


He’s a great kid, given to a wonderful family, who is going to do mighty things for the Kingdom. 


Food?  Keep feeding him the Word….the rest will take care of itself!


Does that help at all?  I do understand your pain.  Man! This parenting stuff is hard sometimes! 


Love you, friend!


  1. I need help with this too for the “WHOLE FAMILY”.

  2. While my 9 year old pretty much eats what we give him, in the past he has sometimes been a little picky. We have a strict rule that you eat what has been prepared. My pediatrician said once that the child won’t starve to death. If he gets hungry enough, he’ll eat what you fix. I do try to fix things that I know he will eat, and only once in a while will I make something I KNOW he doesn’t like. Even then he has to eat a couple of bites.

    Oh, and make sure he’s not getting treats during the day so that he’s good and hungry for dinner.

    Bribery with those treats later after he does eat what you fix isn’t all that bad, either. : )

    Seriously, just be consistent with whatever you decide.

    Now, if someone will help me with homeschooling Math to a strong-willed 4th grader? : )

  3. We have this issue sometimes too. Our thing is you eat something that I am serving. I always make sure there is SOMETHING on the table the picky eaters will eat. Even if it ends up being rolls and applesauce. I do try to leave things separated so they can pick and choose, like sometimes they just have plain pasta and leave off the good stuff. Or just the rice from the stirfry. Or just a tortilla and cheese from the fajitas. I do not make special dishes for picky eaters at dinnertime, though. I cook for David. Cause he’s the one who loves my food. Maybe they should take a hint!

    Heathahlee-homeschooling math to strong-willed 4th graders is a perfect job for daddy. 😉

  4. Forgot to say, my kids eat really good lunches and they pretty much pick what they want, so that also helps me not stress to much about dinner.

    If you are worried that he’s not getting enough nutrients make him some “junk smoothies” for snacks. I call them junk smoothies because they aren’t ALL healthy, but they pack in milk and fruits. We dump in frozen strawberries or bananas with milk and a few tablespoons of instant vanilla pudding mix into a blender (chocolate pudding is good with the bananas). It’s like ice cream. Sweeter than healthy smoothies, but still very nutrient rich.

  5. I agree with Heathalee…

    In a developmental psych class I took, we had a dietician visit once and told us to “make the plate colorful” and “don’t force them to eat” but eventually they will eat what’s prepared. You are the parent providing the meal and if that’s all that’s given, they will pick eating over starving 🙂 once they learn that’s their only option- eat up they will!

  6. My mom had this problem with my brother and me. The pediatrician told her the same thing as yours. My mom’s rule for me was, “If you don’t eat what I fix, you can eat cheese and crackers.” So, I ate cheese and crackers approximately five nights/week for ten years. My mom’s rule for my brother (nine years later) was, “Eat what you want. I’ll buy your foods, but you must fix them.” So, he ate a bunch of junky, frozen food his whole life. I am now the least pickiest eater you’ll ever meet and my brother is the pickiest. So, I really don’t know if there is a ‘good’ method.

    My rule for my daughter (she stopped being picky around three years old) is that she has to take a bite of everything. If she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t have to eat it. After several times of trying the same dish (only one bite each time) and saying she didn’t like it, she started to like it.

    She has access ALL day long to ‘her’ foods. She has a shelf in the pantry and a drawer in the fridge. (When we have more children, we will probably use dividers or plastic containers or something to create each child’s ‘own’ food storage.) I fill these places with things I know she’ll eat, but are healthy, too. She’s allowed to grab them whenever she wants…even ten minutes before a meal time. A LOT of people don’t agree with this, but I believe kids have less food issues (picky-ness, obesity, etc.) when they always feel they have control over their own eating habits. So, she can grab fruit (already cleaned and ready to eat), raw veggies, applesauce, string cheese, nuts, etc.

    Kids are more likely to try new foods when they’ve helped make them, as well. My daycare kids are WAY pickier than Addyson ever was. If they get to make their meals, they almost always eat them. NONE of them ate salad until I started putting each ingredient into a different bowl and letting them create their own (much like Deleise said she does with dinners). At the age of nine, he’s old enough to prepare a meal by himself. You could give him 2 or 3 options and let him pick one to prepare (same night every week could be his night to make dinner). Even if it’s something he would never try when you made it, he might actually eat it when he’s proud that he did it.

    If nothing works, he really just may have sensitive taste buds or a sensitive sense of smell. We all take Juice Plus+ and I whole-heartedly believe in it! He would get his fruits and veggies that way, so you wouldn’t have to stress so much about his health.

  7. Elizabeth is right. Andrew’s daughters can sometimes be picky, but on the nights they help cook, they’ll eat whatever it is…our girl that doesn’t like meat even ate a whole PORK CHOP because she helped dump the ingredients during prep time. Sometimes just knowing what’s in something makes kids not so picky.

    We also have a rule that you must try a bite of everything, and if they don’t like it, they don’t have to try it again until they turn the next age (so, for our 6-year-old, we tell her “try a bite and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to try it again until you’re 7).

    I also let them help with the meal planning. They tell me what they like (spaghetti, for example), and I pick the side dishes. That way at least there’s something on their plate that they will eat.

    There are also several cookbooks about ‘sneaking’ veggies and things into meals. Kids have no idea they are there, and they don’t start a fight.

    Good luck!

  8. I am a softie with the whole meal thing. My husband isn’t. Therefore, we have the rule—you eat what mom cooks. No complaining, no excuses.

    What has worked really well is including our children in the menu planning.

    We have one night a week that they cook. They plan the dinner, and cook it. Most of the time it is pita pizza’s or breakfast for dinner.

    Then, I try to plan each child’s favorite something in the menu at least once a week.

    Also, they help me go through magazines, cookbooks, and online recipes.

    In a nutshell I try to include them in the menu planning. This as helped. I guess it makes them feel like they have some say in what they are eating.

    We still have nights (almost every night) where someone isn’t happy. That is fine, but they HAVE TO KEEP IT TO THEMSELVES. (I learned that from Robin 🙂 To get dessert they have to eat 3/4 of their dinner.

  9. After writing my comment I had a thought….this is what has changed the most about dinner at our house. My attitude.

    I have to rehearse over and over to myself. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONAL. It isn’t about me or my cooking. It is about their sin nature wanting to control and have everything their way.

  10. I agree with my wife, Elizabeth, obviously. The rule is they must take a bite of everything. We don’t stress about food. We don’t want our kids to stuff themselves like we have become accustomed to. We do not use food as rewards or punishment. If I have dessert, then so can everyone else.

    Sometimes everything on the plate will be eaten, sometimes it may only be the required bite. We don’t force everything to be eaten. If I am full, I don’t want someone telling me I have to clear my plate. If our children get hungry, then they have healthy foods available all day long like fruit, applesauce, yogurt, string cheese, etc.

    They always say it is better to eat less at once and eat more times throughout the day. So with the healthy snacks available ALL day long, we could care less if they will not eat something prepared…whether they like it or not. They will try a bite…who knows, maybe one day they will realize they actually do like it.

  11. In addition to what I said above….

    By the way, I do agree with the comment above about it being My Attitude. I think if we just have them try different foods prepared and not really force the issue. If they don’t like it…eat what you do like. In the end, who really cares if they like green beans or not?

    I don’t care for every single item prepared at every meal. I keep it to myself with no big deal made, while expecting the same respect shown to the “preparer of the meal” by my kids. Raising them to love God and love others…that is what really matters in life!

  12. “deceptively delicious” by jessica seinfeld is an excellent cookbook, filled with all sorts of tricks to getting fruits and vegetables into dishes without a hint of detection!

  13. I’ve used the “Deceptively Delicious” book, too. But, it is a bit time-consuming. A bit.

    Many would argue with how I deal with my finicky eaters, but I’ll share anyway.

    I cook a meal and serve a small portion to my children. If they like, great. If not, they can have a yogurt and fruit. I don’t cook separate meals for them. I do make them try what I cook, but I don’t force them to eat it all. At least, I know if they don’t like the meal, the yogurt and fruit will provide some decent nutrition.

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