Dear David Coleman: My daughter refuses my dinners, and then wants cereal
Q My six-year-old daughter refuses to eat most dinners that I make. She will eat chicken at a push but no other meat or fish. She will eat some vegetables, but mostly raw. This leaves her hungry, asking for cereal in the evening, which I usually agree to as I do not want her to go to bed on an empty stomach. I want to ensure that my daughter has a healthy attitude to food and don't want my constant nagging to cause issues down the line.
David replies: Perhaps you need to pull back entirely from your involvement in what your daughter does or doesn't eat. It sounds like her appetite, or her metabolism, don't necessarily slot into the mealtimes that you set for your family. She may be better off grazing on healthy snacks throughout the day.
You are correct to recognise that if you nag, coerce, cajole or try to persuade her to eat, that you are likely to set up a negative dynamic, that will be based, most likely, on control, rather than on her need/desire for food at any given time.
If you are giving her lots of access to healthy food, then you can let her decide what she wants to eat from those healthy options. The dynamic then becomes about her enjoyment of what she eats, feeling that it fits with her hunger levels, rather than a battle between you and her.
Health & Living