How to Avoid the Dinner Time Fight

Everyone is born with an internal control that signals the body to hunger and satiety cues, but outside environmental factors may trigger us to ignore these signals. As a parent, you have the ability to teach your kids to listen to these cues and to grow up to be healthy eaters. 

According to Ellyn Satter, a pioneer in feeding relationships, it is your job as a parent to determine the what, when and where of eating, but it is up to your child to decide whether they eat and how much they eat. Dinner time is often stressful especially if you have a “picky eater” who often rejects fruits and vegetables. It is often instinctual to offer a reward to your children if they eat all of the less desirable foods. This practice will only lead to an increase in your child’s desire for these reward foods and a decrease in his or her desire for the required foods. Adults report disliking the foods that they were coerced into eating by their parents.

Do not restrict the food or food groups that you offer to your child. In the long run, placing restrictions on foods will only increase your child’s desire for these forbidden foods and will increase the amount of the restricted food eaten regardless of whether he or she is actually hungry.

What can you do to ensure that your child is a healthy eater who has a varied diet? Be a positive role model. There are strong similarities between your eating habits and your child’s eating habits. Your child is more likely to try and accept a new food after watching you eat an unfamiliar food. If you want your child to eat more fruits and vegetables, you will want to role model making food choices that include fruits and vegetables.

When introducing new foods at a meal make sure that you serve at least 1-2 familiar foods and encourage the one bite rule that your child must try it, but don’t force any more if they reject it.  Don’t give up! A child may need to be exposed to a new food 10-16 times before it is accepted.

By following these feeding practices you can alleviate the stress of dinner time meals and raise a healthy eater who eats a varied diet.


Leah Fedrizzi RD- Cornell Cooperative Extension of Wayne County


Ellyn Satter Institute, The Feeding and Eating Experts.