I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

One Mom's Cure for Ending the Dinner-Time Battle

"Why does mommy never eat french toast dunkers? They're sooooo good!"

Came the innocent inquiry at the dinner table.

As I sat there munching on a tuna sandwich while everyone else gorged themselves on maple syrup-laden sticks of french toast, I pondered...

Yes, why DO I get to opt out of eating Dunkers? Why do I get a free pass from eating something I absolutely hate?!

It doesn't take a genius to figure out the obvious but unfair answer...Because, I'm the MOM...the cook...the person in charge of planning the meals...and I get to choose what we eat and what we don't!

But here's the GOOD and the BAD of that truth...In this particular case with this particular meal, no one really cared whether Mom ate it or didn't, because they ALL looooooved it. They didn't worry about the unfair-ness of it all.


What about those meals that I love and cook but they hate...chicken scallopini, biscuits and gravy, sweet potato casserole, fried okra, black-eyed peas...(Yes, I know these aren't the healthiest of choices, but stay with me here...)

The truth is, as children, they don't always get a choice in what is set out on the table. I buy the food, I make the menu, and for the most part, I cook the meals.

Up until recently my husband and I have had a "you have to eat everything that is on your plate" kind of mentality. We tried the "at least eat X number of bites" plan for a few weeks early on in our parenting and realized that all that did was breed "negotiations" and unnecessary whining, at least in our children, anyway. So, we dug our heels in and insisted that plates must be cleaned in order to be excused from the table. While this certainly did curb the negotiations, it didn't always foster gratitude for the food that was laid out. Outwardly, my children ate their food. But inwardly, they ate begrudgingly and sometimes with a sour attitude.

Now don't get me wrong. I believe whole-heartedly that as a mom, I should be able to serve food that was paid for by a hardworking husband and expect that my children eat it without complaint. The truth is, there are certainly children in this world who would give anything to be served "gross" food just to be able to eat food...ANY food. However, as a Christian mom, I choose to parent with truth and grace.

The truth says, "I am the parent and you are the child." The grace says, "You are a child, but you are a unique child with likes and dislikes."


Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (Ephesians 6:1)


Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

For us, the grace part came that night while everyone else was eating french toast dunkers. The grace came after examining a bit more of the truth.

And the truth of the matter is, I've been served french toast all my life...and I have HATED french toast ALL MY LIFE. There's nothing you can say or do--no tweaks to the recipe that you can make--that will ever make me like it. I hate it, plain and simple.

My kids are the same way. Take my middle son for instance. That child has hated apple sauce from the very first time I ever served it to him. HATED IT! I think it is safe to assume that he may always hate it. When he is an adult, he will obviously have the luxury of avoiding it, but up until this point in our family, he had to eat it. END OF STORY.

That night, the Hubs and I sat all the kids down and offered them some luxury. We gave them the option of picking one "pass" food that they never had to eat under our roof. (Eating at other people's homes is a different story as we should all learn to be gracious and grateful guests.)

Once each person's "pass" was selected, it became a permanent "pass". In other words, he/she couldn't suddenly choose a new "pass" at each new meal. In a few years, we might revisit the "pass" list and make necessary revisions should the need arise. But for now, the "pass" list looks like this...

  • The Hubs - any soups or stews with large chunks of tomatoes in it
  • Me - french toast dunkers
  • Sweetie Pea - peas
  • Super Boy - plain brown rice
  • Blonde Warrior - apple sauce
  • Greased Lightning - mashed potatoes
  • The Newbie - too early to tell

Although I still serve all of the foods on this list, I only expect six out of seven mouths to eat all of them. The added benefit of affording a "pass" at the dinner table has been a change in attitude. While I can't see into my children's hearts, I have noticed what appears to be a much better attitude about having to eat everything on their plates.

I've found that they are much more willing to eat "gross" foods with a smile simply because we've given them the opportunity to avoid those food items that they have deemed "REEEEEAAAAAALLY gross".

We've chosen to parent with TRUTH.
But, we've also chosen to parent with GRACE.


  1. Very creative approach! I have one child in particular who really doesn't like to eat much - at all. He gags on most things. So, we give him VERY small amounts of everything and pray that he'll eventually eat. Hahaha! But even my husband is fairly particular about what he does and doesn't like. He'll eat whatever, but really doesn't like some things. It's hard for me to understand because I will eat all foods and enjoy most of them - especially if someone else makes the meal for me! :)

    1. Your house sounds sooooooo much like mine. I have a gagger too. Small amounts ARE always good. And, I'm definitely the family goat...except for french toast. That's where I draw the line! I've learned that no one can appreciate eating out quite like a mom...no meal to make and no dishes to do.

    2. Ha! A goat - good comparison! Yes, I do appreciate eating out WAY more than anyone else in my family. :)

  2. Interesting idea........ Now I'm trying to think what my kids would pass on.

  3. Definitely going to apply this in our house! Thank you so much for the blog post, it put things in a different perspective for me.

  4. We have a slightly different approach. As parents, we understand that the kids don't always enjoy everything that is served. We don't always enjoy what is served either, to be honest. So we do a few things...

    I don't give the kids huge helpings if I know they don't enjoy it. My youngest always gets one small spoon of guacamole on his taco salad. He's resigned to it because it means he doesn't get a huge spoonful of it.

    We don't waste food in our house. I will not force my kids to eat everything on their plate in one sitting, but if they are not eating it because they simply don't like it, it will be their next meal and their next meal, and sometimes their third next meal, until it is gone*. We've done this with all the kids, and now, at 7. 9, and 11, they marvel that their friends don't eat this or that. My kids will eat and enjoy nearly anything. It's takes dedication to let your palate learn to enjoy new foods, but it's worth it.

    I'm not a mean mom either though, so I do try to prepare foods that are diverse but enjoyable for all/most. When there's a doozy that no one really enjoys, we don't revisit that option. But we all tried.

    *The only child that held out for three meals was my youngest. He did not want that steak. He finally ate it for dinner the next night. He was very happy to have his normal cereal for breakfast the next day.

    1. That's how we handle it. Nobody is made to clean their plate. We have always taught our kids to listen to their bodies and stop eating when they are hungry. But if they aren't eating something on their plate just because they don't want to try it or they think they won't like it, I wrap it up and it's the next meal they have. So, we don't make them eat but when they do eat they eat what we say. (although I do like the pass food idea)

    2. We do still save it for the next day, they just get to choose which meal they eat it for. No waste that way. But yes, this way the regulate how much goes in at a meal.

    3. I think...as you said...it is important to serve a variety including things you know they like. Portion size is also helpful. I'd much rather serve less and give seconds if they would like more than give a huge portion of something they might end up not liking.

  5. Very creative idea. We may have to try this at our house.

  6. I have 2 autistic sons, both with sensory processing disorder, both with countless severe food allergies, 1 with celiac! Picky eaters is a term we laugh at :) There was lots of crying, bribing, and fighting over eating when they were little. They are turned off by smell, by texture, by color.....fast forward a few years and now we have learned their eating preferences. Although we do not cater to them wanting only what they want, by grace alone, we have adjusted our menus. We do not bring junk food into the house, so snacks are fruit and dehydrated crackers. I have adjusted my style of cooking and learned to prepare the main course at dinner in different ways that are more appealing to them. Dinner is mainly stress free. As we understand that trying 1 bite is better than fighting and crying any day trying to get them to finish their plates :)

    1. It sounds like your situation requires much GRACE. It also sounds like you're doing a great job giving it.

  7. I love the idea of parenting with truth AND grace and I also love the pass food idea but beyond that I have to disagree with you. Making your kids eat everything on their plate sets them up for a lifetime of bad habits regarding food. God made us to know when we are hungry and when we are not and making your children eat everything in front of them teaches them to ignore those hunger cues. It teaches them to continue eating regardless of how hungry they are (which leads to an unhealthy weight and to other food issues) and that will be a habit that is very, very hard to break.

    1. While I agree with you in some aspects (obesity/over eating runs in my family), I think there are MANY factors you have to look at besides just "cleaning the plate." I don't let my children graze on food all day. We have two small snacks (fruit, cheese, lightly salted popcorn, raisins) and three meals, every day. So at meal times they all come to the table saying they are hungry. I serve them each very small portions of everything to start. So, cleaning your plate usually only requires a few bites of three different things as opposed to a huge plate of things. (I realize the portion in the picture was not small, but that was actually my plate. My son's gyro was already cut up into small bites and didn't make for a very appealing picture.) I'm CONFIDENT that in our home, it is not a question of hunger cues but a question of "I just don't want to eat it because I just don't like it."

      I think they are two separate issues.

  8. I am so glad to see I am not the only mom who does this! My children are generally not picky, but they each have foods they dislike.

    As a child, I had to clean my plate. My mom made a really good meal (boiled dinner, which you are familiar with if you're from New England lol) but she always put caraway in it. Caraway literally makes me ill. Even the smell of caraway (i.e. rye bread, pumpernickel bread, etc...) can make me nauseated.

    It ruined the meal for me and my parents would make me sit there in front of this plate stinking of caraway until I ate it.

    Finally, my mom stopped putting caraway in the meal, out of pity for so many times of my having to sit at the table in front of a cold plate.

    We also had to eat at specific times. Hungry or not, we had to clean our plates; and vice versa, if we were hungry and it wasn't "time to eat", we had to wait.

    My husband had similar experiences, particularly with clearing his plate.

    So we decided on the following: the children can eat when they are hungry (within reason); they do not have to eat foods they dislike as long as they are getting proper nutrition (for instance, my son hates potatoes, so he doesn't have to eat them. He gets rice instead. My daughter will eat any veggie put in front of her, except green beans or cooked carrots. She eats so many veggies I am not concerned when she skips a few beans.); they are given small portions, as they can get more if they are still hungry but it doesn't waste food if they aren't terribly hungry.

    On the other hand, I don't cook only "kid meals". I cook what I wish to cook and what we can eat (three of us are gluten intolerant) and they eat it. They never were fed "kid food" - as babies I pureed what I made for my husband and I and fed it to them - so they are not accustomed to eating things like chicken nuggets, etc... . They eat whatever we eat...except potatoes lol

  9. At our house you get what get. We don't exactly make our 4 kids eat what we give them, but if you don't eat it then you don't eat. If you don't eat your meal, you also must forgo any snacks until the next meal. If that snack happens to be a desert, than your really out of luck.

    1. Yes, I think it's is important to find a balance. I am not a short-order cook. I can not make seven different meals for seven different people every night. So yes, you get what you get.

  10. I like this idea A LOT! I think some in my house would have trouble coming up with only ONE food too pass on...mainly my hubby...the veggie hater. He has been a not so great influence on the kids when it comes to eating what you're given. Also I have one with milk and peanut allergies, so we've gotten used to having a few options available for meals (though she ends up eating very similar things for most meals.) We very often end up saving things for the following meal for a couple of my girls, and they tire of having to eat their leftover food, especially when the next meal is something they like a lot. I've recently started using Jessica Seinfeld's book, Deceptively Delicious, in which she "hides" veggie and fruit purees in more common "kid foods" for nutritional value. :) As long as hubby doesn't watch me cook it, it seems to be working! LOL!

    1. I can relate. My Hubs only likes certain veggies. Although since instituting the "pass", he's gotten a lot more brave when it comes to eating greens that aren't his fave.

  11. Hi there, I just found your You Tube and blog since I am looking into homeschooling my preschooler- thank you for sharing so much! So gosh, I don't like that my first comment will be negative :( I realize you have your beliefs and personal thoughts, etc but I implore you to rethink your "clean your plate" rule. Without trying to sound holier than thou or pompous, my background is in health education and all of the research points to the "clean your plate" requirement setting up a very unhealthy precedent. I know a previous reader commented on this, and your reply makes sense- however the portions your children are served won't always be a few bites. As they get older, eat out, eat at other peoples homes, go off to college, live with other people, etc those portions will change but their brains will be wired to "clean my plate." Even when their stomachs tell them to stop their brains will override the physiological cues. Asking them to finish their meal the best they can (and saving the leftovers for if they get hungry later) makes sense, but requiring them to have a clean plate before they can be "done" is a different thing. I strongly encourage you to look into the research, when you get a moment of course :) So there is some gentle pressure from a complete stranger to start your weekend! Take care.

    1. I think that is where teaching your child common sense plays in. I was brought up in a "clean your plate" home and I am neither overweight nor an overeater. I think there are many factors at play with overeating as an adult.