Your child would not eat? Just do not worry


Your child stopped eating dinner, just started eating less than normal or suddenly became quite picky? Well, just do not worry and accept her behavior as it is.

I do not talk here, of course, about medical conditions that could be a reason for undereating, so if you have serious concerns or your child is underweight check with your doctor first.

In all other cases it is better for everybody that you stay calm. Just work with your anxiety first and only then approach your child.


If you are anxious and your child feels it, she can become anxious around food as well, which will not do any good. Or your child naturally could use your anxiety as her power and sooner than you notice you can be caught in power struggles. Your child will have clear advantage here as you cannot literally force your child to eat.

When being anxious parents tend to force their children to eat which does not foster children’s understanding of their internal sense and start relying on external cues. When you are using rewards for eating, such as “if you eat your dinner, I will allow you to watch a movie” or even “if you finish your dinner, you will get a dessert”, you are teaching your child to rely on external cues for eating, not her internal sense about how full she is. This strategy may work in a short time but is worthless in a long time. The same goes with various types of coercion (“just one more bite”), bribes and punishments.

In the end of the day, parents are responsible for what they put on the table and children are responsible for what and how much they eat.

What to do instead?

First, check the reality. How could it be that my child is not hungry? Does she get too many snacks in between meals? Too many sugary drinks?

Guide your child to rely on inner sensation, such as asking “Are you still hungry? Are you already full?”

Some useful strategies

Put into the plate only a little portion of food that you offer. You will be so happy when your child will ask for more!

When your child refuses to eat a main meal and whines for a dessert, you may try to put on the table both a main meal and a dessert and let your child choose which food to eat first. This choice empowers children and removes the importance of the question what to eat. You may present a dessert in portions. The hope is, of course, that a child decides herself to eat some of her main meal.

Have at least some schedule for your meals. When your child does not eat lunch, it means waiting at least several hours for another meal or snack, but not giving her snacks when everybody just finished eating.

When your child does not want a new type of food, do not force her to eat it but keep suggesting this new food every time you eat it. You may need to offer a new type of food up until 15 times until your child finally accepts this food.

Cook with your child together! She will be more eager to eat what she has cooked herself.

More resources

If you want to really dig into the topic on how to encourage children eat healthily, you could use Maryann Jacobsen’s wisdom on her website and in her books. (