Parents often ask me “How should I respond when my child complains about what I’ve made to eat – or ask for something different?”
There are two magic sentences I tell them to use over and over again – every single time it happens!
I call them ‘magic’ not because they will make your child instantly gobble down the food – let’s be realistic! – but because if you stick to these sentences like super-glue, and never say anything different, the moaning, protests, demands and meltdowns will quickly subside. And mealtimes will be a whole lot nicer already!
So here they are.
MAGIC SENTENCE #1
“That’s okay. It’s up to you if you eat it or not.”
Use this sentence when your child complains about the food (“I don’t like it”, “I don’t want it”, “Yuk”, “Ew”, “It’s disgusting”… ).
Say it in a calm, kind, but clear voice. If you show any irritation, they’re likely to complain more because you’ve shown they’ve provoked you – which gives them a feeling of power! And say it just once and don’t engage with any further protests or demands. If you repeat the sentence, it loses its assertiveness and you’ll be sucked in to a to-and-fro argument about it. They’ve got you again!
And just in case you’re thinking “But I’m not okay with them choosing not eat it!”, be aware that putting zero pressure on your child to actually eat the food is an vital part of the approach you need to take to conquer fussy eating. (Find out why here.)
MAGIC SENTENCE #2
This is what we’re having today.
Use this sentence when your child looks expresses that they want something different to what you’re making or have served them (“But I want pasta with pesto”, “Can I have peanut butter on toast instead”… ).
Again, say it in a calm, kind, but clear voice. And just once! Then don’t engage with any further protests or demands. They will soon accept that alternatives are not available and allow the food or meal to ‘exist’ on their plate, even if they’re not actually eating it – which will make it much easier to expose them to new and different foods. This exposure to foods is a first vital step in making them receptive to the idea of eating them. (You can read why here.)
If you never deviate from these two sentences, you’ll be surprised how quickly they take effect. It’s boring for your child if they get the same old responses every single time! And it depletes them of all their power to provoke you and engage you in an argument! They’ll soon stop bothering.
I even suggest you write these two sentences down and stick them on your fridge (or the inside of a kitchen cupboard if your child can read!). This will keep them firmly in your mind, ready to roll off your tongue when you need them!
The ‘magic sentences’ are effective as part of the whole systematic approach you need to follow to stop fussy eating. Don’t know what that is? Find out here!