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How do you handle it when your preschooler refuses to eat dinner?

My daughter is 4 and dinner has always been a struggle but it seems to be getting worse these days.. We always have the excuse she needs to use the bathroom, or she has a tummy ache or she isn't hungry...this only happens when I don't make her favorites ( hot dog, mac n cheese, grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, fish sticks ect)

How do you handle this? Take a toy away? Early Bed? Do you get angry/annoyed with them? We are at our wits end..we usually send her to bed..without dinner...PLSE NO HARSH COMMENTS~!

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Asked by mommytobrooke at 8:48 PM on May. 24, 2010 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Level 14 (1,672 Credits)
Answers (30)
  • I don't do anything. I let her sit there while we eat and if she does not want to eat than I put it away for tomorrow or if she wants a snack before bed. That is all no biggie!

    Answer by delilahsmom1177 at 8:52 PM on May. 24, 2010

  • I just say fine, and I don't give anything else to eat for the rest of the evening. I don't punish, but I don't reward either. Sometimes I think my kids just aren't hungry. Eventually she will catch on that what you serve is all she's going to get and she'll either eat it or eat nothing. ;o)


    Answer by Morgain at 8:54 PM on May. 24, 2010

  • My son is still only two but what I do with him is I always make him take at a least a few bites of the new food, then I will give him something he likes so he won't be hungry. Over time, since he is required to at least taste the non-preferred food, he ends up liking it after I've made him try it several times. You could try this method, it might work for your daughter even better since she is older. Just tell her she has to take at least two bites and then she can have a hot dog or whatever. Then try again a few days later with the same new food. Eventually, once she gets used to it, she may start liking it and stop refusing it. I think it just takes time to broaden the palette of the picky eater.

    Answer by moniquinha at 8:58 PM on May. 24, 2010

  • Our daughter is this way too. We tried EVERYTHING. So now she has to sit and wait til we are all done (usually having to wait she will take a few bites) if she refuses still to eat when all of us are done she gets down and goes to bed. without dinner. she is slowly learning she has to eat. Just stay strong and good luck!

    Answer by MomofTwins07 at 8:59 PM on May. 24, 2010

  • Put the plate in the fridge and offer it for every meal until she eats it. When she gets hungry enough, she will eat it. Don't give her anything else until she eats whatever you have offered her for dinner.

    Answer by NannyB. at 9:03 PM on May. 24, 2010

  • My son went through a similair phase. I just made it his choice- he can eat his dinner or go to bed. Of course then he'd just sit there so I ended up using a timer for how long he had to eat his dinner too (20-30 minutes depending on the meal). Regardless, he didn't get other food from me unless he cleaned (or nearly cleaned) his plate.

    Answer by IrishMommaC at 9:04 PM on May. 24, 2010

  • Put the plate in the fridge and offer it for every meal until she eats it. When she gets hungry enough, she will eat it. Don't give her anything else until she eats whatever you have offered her for dinner. nannyb

    This is also something else our pedi said to do. It does work.

    Answer by MomofTwins07 at 9:06 PM on May. 24, 2010

  • My children remain at the table until dinner is over. That is family time, we eat together even if they choose not to eat. If they do not eat enough of their dinner, it goes in the fridge. If the tell me they're hungry later- that is what they get. :-) I don't give it back for breakfast, I know some that do... but if it is still good, it makes a great lunch the next day too. :-)

    I don't struggle with food. Not a fight I want to have. They know the rules and know what to expect, I don't yell or scream or punish because of their choice not to eat. I am not a short order cook, however, and what I serve is what they get. lol

    Answer by HistoryMamaX3 at 9:24 PM on May. 24, 2010

  • Mine aren't picky, they simply eat what is for supper, because they know that is all they are going to get.

    NannyB had it right. It works. That simple.

    Answer by ObbyDobbie at 9:31 PM on May. 24, 2010

  • Uhm?? this doesnt hurt anyone? does it? so why argue? if she doesnt want to eat dont worry about it HOWEVER aside from a potty break I'd tell her she must sit at the dinner table with the family irrespective of if she eats or not--- sit for 15 minutes with her family everyday -- also if she is asking for food later it would be like an apple and a glass of water something healthy and simple but youre her mom you served her dinner she choose not to eat thats her problem-- give her a quick healthy snack with NO alternative

    Answer by MELRN at 11:19 PM on May. 24, 2010

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