You Can’t Make Me Eat it!

This is a guest post by Dr. Dina R. Rose

Your kids don’t understand why they should ever eat something other than what they want to eat.

That is the source of your control struggle. And parents don’t generally do a good job convincing kids otherwise.

Your kids also don’t understand why:

  • They got to eat pasta yesterday, but they have to eat chicken today.
  • You always let them decide what they want for breakfast but you never let them decide what they want for dinner.
  • Sometimes they can have a snack and sometimes they can’t.

To your kids, food decisions seem arbitrary.

  • If food choices are arbitrary, they can be changed.
  • If decisions are made because of what you want, why can’t they be made because of what I want? 

Your children don’t think these thoughts literally, of course, but these are their sentiments. They are also the source of your control struggle.

In an arbitrary environment, every decision is up for grabs.

How many bites of broccoli do I have to eat before I can have a brownie? Let the bidding begin. Read Raising Lawyers.

Give your children a clear decision-making principle and the food fight diminishes.


  • Kids learn how decisions are made and start making the right choices themselves.
  • Parents implement clear decision-making principles more consistently. Kids love consistency.

I’m not saying that parents don’t try to explain their thinking to their children; most parents do. But there’s no one underlying theory or principle that parents can give their children for serving pasta one night and chicken the next, or for why their kids can sometimes have a snack but other times they can’t.

Unless, of course, you teach your kids these three principles:

  • Variety: We eat different things from day-to-day.
  • Proportion: We eat healthier foods more frequently than treat foods.
  • Moderation: We only eat when we are hungry, and we stop when we’re full.

Teach these principles with The Big Fix.

It will change how you and your kids interact around food, and that will change how your kids eat.

Dr. Dina Rose is a sociologist, foodie and mom. In It’s NOT About Nutrition: The Art & Science of Teaching Kids to Eat Right, Dina combines her professional expertise on socialization, her knowledge about nutrition, parenting and food psychology research, with the practical skills she has gained from talking to, interviewing and coaching hundreds of parents.

  • Dan Ingram

    Great article! We raised five kids and consistency is key! I think chilldren need some extra help with the feeling hungry/feeling full concept. Those signals are sometimes hard to recognize even for an adult. Thanks for the lesson.

  • Steph

    I enjoyed this so much, I went to check out your blog. Lots of great information, even for use with my teens. I can’t wait for your book to come out!

  • DarrylM

    Keep it simple. Three things. Thanks!

  • trixietime

    So beautifully written!! I explained why we’re eating the way we eat, at an early age, to my daughter. I continued to educate her as we cooked and shopped. She didn’t always make the best choices once she was old enough to eat out at friend’s homes, and in restaurants without me, but she at least knew WHY eating snack cakes and soda weren’t good for her. She’s now 22, and recently embraced what I’d been teaching all along, and is quite the healthy cook. She knew all along the other stuff was a bad choice, but kids don’t always have the means to choose the carrots over the carrot cake. Lots of parents are trying a Bento box style of getting their kids to eat healthier foods, because of the novelty and variety.