Food Fight: Mom vs Kid

Sometimes I feel like a server in a restaurant. The establishment is my own home and my kids are my customers. I am the wait staff tasked with delivering the goods.

If you’re a parent, then you likely know the score: you go out of your way to make a nutritious, balanced and (what you think is a) delicious meal only to hear one of the following statements:

– “I don’t like this!”
– “What’s that??”
– “I’m not going to eat it, you can’t make me!”
– “I’m not eating that ‘stuff’ that’s on it!”

If your home truly were a restaurant, you’d do what any server worth his or her salt would do: cater to your customer’s every whim and remove the offending dish. Of course, you’d return with a meal that’s just right, in order to make the customer happy (and to receive a generous tip). Now many of you are likely thinking “but this is not a restaurant, and I’m not acting in the role of my kid’s personal wait staff.”

Aren’t you?

How many times have you given in and made your child something different from what you originally served him or her for breakfast/lunch dinner? In an effort to make sure that your child has eaten something, have you gone back to the drawing board (kitchen) and come back with a whole new meal, something more to their liking?

I’m guilty of this and will admit grudgingly that I do it all the time. I know I shouldn’t but I do. The desire as a parent to assure your child’s health and well-being supersedes any logical thought suggesting that perhaps your child would be better served by learning to eat what was put on his or her plate. No, that maternal urge to protect and nurture is strong, leading us to be our most harsh critic – and taskmaster. And let’s not forget about the guilt. I will go out on a limb and suggest that women in particular are intensely interested – in some cases obsessed – with their kids’ food intake. I may just add myself to this latter class. Yes, of course there is the desire to make sure that our kids are fed and nourished, but is there not a small shred of control that is part of this whole push and pull scenario that we play out with our children? You know: the fact that you have “slaved over a hot stove” to provide your kids with something healthy and the fact that they have the nerve to dismiss it and demand otherwise. That’s pretty nervy, isn’t it?

In so many other instances of parenting, we are able to exert our desires and general control over what our kids do and see, without too much difficulty. Yet food is often the last bastion of struggle where our children actually have a foothold in the duel, as we realize that we are not as strong as we think we are. Food, to many of us, is our Achilles Heel, and our kids know it. And while they say that they don’t like this latest meal that you’ve put in front of them, it is often so much more about what they’re not saying that is the crux of the matter. 

They know we’re weak. 

They know we worry.

They know that as a parent, and a mother in particular, our very being is intricately tied up in our ability to feel that we’ve adequately taken care of their needs at the most primal levels: nourishment and food, at the top of the list, followed by love and shelter. Note that the “L” word is placed third on the list because, as much as we probably don’t want to admit, children can’t live on love alone. More practical needs must be addressed in order for them to survive.

The irony in this situation is that we will return to the kitchen to prepare yet another meal at the request of our kids in order for them to perhaps love us just a little more. This may seem like a stretch but I’m not convinced that the second, third and (heavens forbid) fourth meal/option that is provided to our little ones are solely for the purposes of nourishment. Yes, it’s a component, but isn’t the caving in regarding food about wanting our kids to like or love us more? Do you not give them what they want to make them happy (not just to nourish them), and, in turn, to think that mom is just that much nicer? Because at the end of the day, were insecure about the extent of our kids’ love for us, sadly. It’s just our nature.

So to recap:

  • We want control
  • We want our kids to acknowledge the effort we put into caring for them (and may make them feel guilty in doing so) 
  • We want our kids to love us

And so we continue this game day after day, meal after meal. The frustration doesn’t cease and still we persevere. 

Lets hope that laying it out on the table will turn on a lightbulb in our heads (mine included), and perhaps give us pause the next time we head back to the kitchen to prepare meal #2. We don’t need to make a made-to-order dish for our kids to get them to love us. “Today’s Special” should be good enough.

Do you give in and make your kids’ different meals if they won’t eat the one that you put in front of them? Why or why not? 

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  1. championm2000 says

    At this point, since my two aren't talking enough to voice their displeasure, I usually take it as a sign they don't want it if they throw it over the side of the high chair. Since most meals have 2-3 parts, they usually like at least one thing, so we go with that. If I've cooked it, that's what they get. If they consistently reject a certain food, like eggs, then I stop making that for a while and give them something else. But I bring it back later. I am sure they will get pickier and I will get more accommodating as they get more vocal!

  2. Rick says

    I think it's a good idea to give the kid a little input into the meal, like a choice of a vegetable, or sauce or no sauce. They exert their power because they are presented with a fait accompli and they know we aren't going to force feed them or let them go hungry. That might be less effort than cooking another meal.

  3. Samantha says

    @championm2000Hi Melissa,
    Throwing food over the side is usually a sign, isn't it? 😉
    I've tried as well to rotate the food when they indicate they don't like something. So far, it works sometimes – they'll eat it after a break from having it for a while, but it's not a perfect science. They're onto my tricks and still reject the items all too often, putting me back to the drawing board, and back in the kitchen. Sigh.

  4. Samantha says

    Hi Rick,
    I agree that giving them a choice does seem to work to some degree – after all, we all want to feel like we have some power over our lives. That said, this tactic often doesn't lessen the blow of the fact that they still are expected to eat their brussel sprouts or similar. So those times are when I find myself trying yet again with another meal. It's tiring sometimes…