Help! My daughter (11) does not eat her plate empty

Well… what if your child doesn‘t eat his or her plate? Do you have to push the broccoli stumps in person or is it wiser to let it run its course just a little bit? This is what WOMEN reader Freya (39) wonders. For her daughter (11) is not the easiest eater.

My daughter (11) leaves something over for dinner every day. One evening she takes three bites, the other evening she only takes three. There’s no level to be raised, but the amount she works in during dinner is more often minimal than generous. What am I supposed to do with this? I think it‘s important that she gets enough nutrients, but I don’t want to force her to do anything either

Negative association

Indeed, coercion is just about the least effective solution, agrees children’s poet Dominique Flink. Putting dinner in, against your child‘s will, is always counterproductive. In fact, it can make your child develop a negative association with food and only increase resistance at the table. Moreover, it is easier to get into arguments and create a negative atmosphere at the table. You don’t want that

It is better to make clear agreements about food. First of all, as a parent, you still determine what your child eats. So don’t prepare four kinds of vegetables because one doesn’t like cauliflower and the other hates string beans. Do specific vegetables cause problems at the table time after time? If so, you can agree with your child that he or she can, for example, select five vegetables that will not be on the table for the time being. In this way, you can make your child promise that these are the only vegetables that are allowed to remain on the table, and also give him/her the feeling that he/she has a certain degree of control

Full plate

Also try to find out why your child leaves dinner. Maybe there is a simple reason and your child has eaten and drunk enough during the day and is less hungry at night? In such a case, a full plate of dinner can be quite a challenge that he/she can only face if pushed. There may be a panic reaction as a result of which he/she will only eat even less

That’s why, for example, scooping food onto a smaller plate, or scooping it into smaller portions, can help. You can also choose to make agreements about quantities. Freya’s daughter is 11; she can, for example, ask her to eat as many carrots as her age. Or set limits: 1 tablespoon of rice is the minimum amount needed for a child, stress that that’s what you at least expect

Eating behaviour

By the way, it also helps not to make a ‘thing’ out of food. Does your child eat badly? Then make sure that that is not the subject of conversation! You will see that your child eats more easily. Even if you have several children and only focus on the bad eater, this will not only affect the bad eater, but also the rest of the children

Rewarding can and should be done, but pay attention to how you do it. If dessert is the family’s fixed eating moment, I would advise against denying it to your child if he/she eats badly – especially if it is often a nutritious, healthy dessert such as yoghurt. It’s better to say: ‘If you eat well all week, you can go to bed an hour later at the weekend’. Finally, I recommend that you compliment your child on good eating behaviour; positive motivation can work wonders