Why do (some) children eat for others but not their parents?

You have been asking “why does my child eat for others at daycare, school, friends’ houses… but not at home for me?”

I noticed this myself while working one to one with some extremely selective eaters with a huge anxiety around new food. I worked with them for 3 years and over that time some of the children would go home and eat more of the food that I’d got them eating with me but others would go home and refuse to eat it! One of the parents joked that I would need to go to their house at dinner times while others asked “why does my child eat for others but not for me?” When I set up this business I decided that it was very important that I trained parents in how to teach their children to eat instead of just doing it for them.

There are several reasons why some children eat at daycare or school but not at home. Obviously, there are others that will not eat at school no matter what you pack, we’ll talk about them another day.

  • Daycares, childminders and schools are amazing opportunities for encouraging kids to eat, purely by having other kids eating. They want to be the same as their friends.

One great example is when my daughter’s friend came to play. She’s a challenging eater and just seeing my daughter, her best friend eating was enough that she “stole” (her words not mine) the bowl of apple slices I gave them to share. Her mum was astonished she was so keen to eat it here!

  • They feel comfortable to be themselves with you.

How many times have you struggled at bedtime? Yet when the babysitter comes she just says “bedtime” and they skip off to brush their teeth! It’s the same with food. With you, they feel comfortable to say no and be themselves. With other people, they spend a lot of effort to go through with putting that food in their mouth. It’s great that they’re getting that opportunity to try new food (remember it takes 10-16 tries before a child’s taste buds decide if they like a new food) but can be really frustrating as a parent when you ave to keep asking “why does my child eat for others?”

  •  Pressure.

At dinner time with a challenging eater, the pressure is on, it’s just you and them and you’re often focused on how much and what they’re eating. At school there’s no one right there saying anything about it, there’s less pressure.

  •  They’ve had a long day and now they’re tired.

They already ate something new or different and had a long day playing and learning. When kids are tired they struggle more so check what time you eat; are you eating too late? Maybe prepare something healthy and snacky while they wait, or eat earlier – if it’s not possible to make dinner faster, can you prepare parts the night before so they just need heated or cooked?

  •  They’re in the routine of not eating a big dinner.

If they’re in the routine of not eating much at dinner then their little tummies won’t feel hungry at that time. They’re used to eating their big meal at lunchtime and to have little bits in the evening. Our whole philosophy is starting small, taking small steps and little bites. Start small and build up.

We have some amazing strategies for all challenging eaters from those that flat out refuse to try new food right up to getting those new foods into their daily diet. Book a free telephone consultation to see what Little Bites can do for your challenging eater!