How Do I Manage Mealtime Without the Drama?


Dinner is a mess at my house. The kids won’t eat, they won’t sit, I spend most of the time yelling. It’s not how I want us to end out day. Help!

Mealtime can be tough. As I have spoken with families throughout the years, I have found that there are Four BIG Supper Sabotages: Milk (yup, milk), Snacks, Portions and Boredom. Let’s get into this!


So yes, I can see the squished-up confused faces now. Milk? But milk is so good for kids. Kids and milk go together. Nope! MILK IS BAD!

Ok, so no, milk itself is not bad, But too much of it can fill your child up big time. Add some chocolate to it and it’s close to a meal. If children are drinking 3-4 cups of milk a day, they’re not gonna be hungry for anything else. If milk is consumed right before meal, it’s like giving them a full snack, a bag of pretzels, and a half of a sandwich. You wouldn’t do that minutes before dinner, would you? Pick a time of day for milk, as a snack or meal finisher.

If your kid drinks milk and eats fine, then you’re golden. But if you start to notice that your child isn’t eating meals and isn’t hungry at mealtime, this can be the stealthy culprit.


Like milk, snacks can sabotage meal time. We are all very, very, very, very, VERY afraid of hungry children. I’m not talking kids who haven’t eaten yet and want a real meal, I’m talking about kids who have gone 45 minutes without goldfish or cheese sticks or Pirate’s Booty and are asking for more. As soon as a child mentions food, we are all over it, digging in bags for some kind of snack for our “starving” child.

The problem is snacks are not a meal and they lack proper nutrition. We want our kids to go into meals feeling hungry so they’ll be more likely to fill their bodies with foods that help them grow. If your child says that they are hungry thirty minutes before a meal, have them wait, If they can’t, offer up half an apple or some veggies. If they refuse, they’re not that hungry. Sure they may have a tantrum, but that’s nothing new right? Kids throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want and everything will be okay in just a few.

We want kids to eat healthy meals with a variety of foods. Their bodies are growing, and if they live off of snacks, they won’t get what they truly need in order to thrive. In addition, they won’t learn about healthy eating habits (which, by the way, include pizza night!). It’s not about depriving anyone. It’s about giving kids the opportunity to fill their bodies with fruits, veggies, and proteins. REAL FOOD so they can be the best that they can be!

Portion Size

While a mountain of food is more than welcome on MY plate, it can be overwhelming and daunting on a child’s plate. Think small. Start with less than you think they need, and let them know they can always have more. Think half a chicken breast cut up, or a mini burger from your grill.

As for sides, the general starting point is one tablespoon per year of life (though even that can get to be too much). Start with a tablespoon or so of rice, or a half cup of pasta. Their bodies are small and they don’t need quite as much- hey, more for us! YUM.


I have a secret to tell you: kids can sit at a table. No, really. SIT. They sit at school for 15, 20, 25 minutes. It isn’t ALWAYS seamless, but they sit pretty well. They have people talking to them, their friends, teachers, maybe some music is on. The meal is fun and so they’re patient and engaged.

At home, mealtime can often be rushed. Grown-ups are bouncing up and down, trying to get everything done and on the table. Consequently, so are the kids. The focus is on, “Hurry up and eat!”, rather than involving them in the conversation and having a family meal.

Mealtime is great for families. It’s not always easy, but it’s important to sit together and catch up. When kids see their parents eat, it encourages THEM to eat. Ways to make mealtime fun? Have family members pick music to listen to, talk about the best and most challenging parts of your day, google some funny dinnertime questions. Mealtime doesn’t have to be rushed or serious. In fact, the more serious it is, the more stressed out your child will be and the less likely they are to eat.

There are some tips and tools to make your mealtimes more manageable and fun. What are some tricks that YOU use at mealtime?

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Brandi Davis, ACC, is a professional Parenting Coach, Parent Educator, and Author of O.K. I’m A Parent Now What? She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and be sure to catch her parenting podcasts on iTunes. The goal of Brandi’s practice is to bring respect, calm communication, teamwork, and FUN into the home or classroom. To discover all that Child and Family Coaching can bring to your family stop by

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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