6 Ways to Get Your Kid to Eat His Dinner Without Bribing Him with Dessert

Getting your picky little eater to clean his plate can be a tricky task. In the end, you might cave and tell him he can have a bowl of ice cream or a cupcake if he finishes everything on his plate, effectively bribing him to eat the healthier parts of dinner. Next time he tests you by not eating those green beans, try these tips for getting him to eat his dinner without angling the promise of dessert before him.

1. Turn It Into A Game Kids love to play games, so why not turn dinner into a game? True, the saying goes, “Didn’t your mother ever teach you not to play with your food?” but if the food is getting eaten in the process, then what’s the harm?

For the baby, there’s always the train, the airplane and making yummy noises. The older child, on the other hand, who knows he does not want what’s on his plate, is a different story altogether. For his more complex mind, you need a more complex game.

You don’t want to go overboard with something like “who can fit the most food in their mouth” because that can lead to choking or spitting the food out, and no one wants to touch it after that. Instead, consider something along the lines of “for every bite Johnny takes, Sally needs to take two” and then reverse it for the next portion of food so it’s fair. Johnny will want to see Sally having to take two bites and vice versa. Your kids are playing a game, and next thing you know, their food is disappearing, and not into a napkin in their laps.

2. If You Do It, I’ll Do It Another fun way to encourage your kids to clean their plates is to combine your plate with theirs. Say she doesn’t like eating her peas; maybe you should eat her peas with her. Sit next to each other with enough food for both of you, then say something along the lines of “If you eat a pea, I’ll eat one, too,” or whatever version of that works best for you. It might take some finesse, but you’ll figure it out as you go.

3. Reheat It Sometimes in their desire not to eat the food, your kids may let the food sit on their plate for an extended period of time. Now it’s cold and disgusting. Forcing them to eat the rest of the chicken is torture for them because the chicken is now getting a little slimy or has dried out and is cold; instead of forcing them to eat it at its current temperature, nuke it in the microwave so that it’s deliciously warm again. Do not make them sit at the table until they finish it all and then walk out of the room. That is how food ends up in the napkin and therefore in the trash instead of in your child’s stomach.

4. Leave It Be Kids can be stubborn. Everyone knows that. So, sometimes, their plates may just go uneaten, and that’s okay! While this is not a great solution in the long run because no one wants to starve their children, it can be a good solution for a short term problem. As long as you don’t give in to giving them dessert, they will probably become hungry again later in the night and ask for a bowl of popcorn or a slice of cake. Instead of giving in and allowing them to eat that dessert, offer them the reheated plate they left on the dinner table. If they still don’t want it, then they just won’t have anything else that night.

5. Ask Them to Save You Some Because It’s Your Favorite This might only work with strangers kids or if you have grandkids now instead of your own young ones. But, it’s worth a shot anyway. It’s that whole reverse psychology thing that can either work like a charm or fail dismally. If your child does not want to eat her potatoes, try asking her to save you some because it’s your favorite. She might just devour the rest of those potatoes, saving you not a scrap.

6. Finish Your Plate It is impossible to convince a child he should clear his plate when you haven’t even cleared yours. If it’s allergies that keeps you from eating all your dinner, then try to explain that to your child in a way that makes him see that it’s not just an excuse to get out of eating that broccoli. If, however, you do not finish your dinner because you’re not hungry or you don’t actually like the food, but you know it’s healthy for your child, be sure he does not see that you did not finish it. If he sees that your plate still has food, he will use whatever excuse you use for not clearing it, and he will know that you’ll have no solid argument against it.

Good luck parents!

Reposted with permission from ParttimeNanny.org

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