The dreaded dinner time

eat it or starve

Dinner time. The words that have most parents reaching for a glass of wine. The time of day that quite often makes our heart rate increase, our blood pressure rise, and having us fighting an uphill battle.

Or is that just me? 

And of course, this all coincides with the witching hour or arsenic hour, depending on your preference of name for this dreaded time of day.

When parents are getting home from work, kids are tired and hungry and you’re trying to salvage the situation so it doesn’t escalate to tears. From anyone.

Most parents I’ve spoken to about dinner time, hate it. They dread it too. Particularly those who work. They rush in the door, frazzled from a day of meetings and deadlines, only to realise they forgot to take meat out to defrost earlier. It then becomes a matter of how quickly can you pull a meal together that everyone / most of the family will eat.

But even if you’re a stay at home parent, you are still more than likely to experience the battle of dinner time. Just because you haven’t rushed in the door at 6pm, doesn’t mean you’re immune to this dreaded time of day.

If you have been organised and had meat defrosted, or had a meal half prepared (I love having portions of bolognese sauce in the freezer I can just heat up and serve with fresh cooked pasta), you still haven’t won.

If you have a toddler or preschool aged child, you will more than likely get tears about serving the meal on the wrong colour plate.

Or your children will decide that even though they have previously loved this meal, they no longer like it. And refuse to eat it. Or they tell you peas now apparently taste worse than worms.


Or one child doesn’t like the way their sibling is looking at them and want you to make them stop.

You just want to get everyone fed, bathed and ready for that much nicer time of day – stories and cuddles before bed.

I’m not sure about you, but we experience battles at dinner time most nights. We’ve tried every approach we can think of.

The “throw stuff and see what sticks” approach, when you serve up a selection of different foods and see what they will eat.

Cooking separate meals for kids.

Serving them the same meal as us.

Feeding them earlier.

Hiding vegetables. They’re happy to eat the meal as they can’t see any vegetables, and you’re happy as you know they’re eating vegetables. The trick with this one is to make sure you don’t smile too much when they’re eating the food, or they get suspicious and catch on to what you’re doing.

Each night is different. Each child is different.

I think the main thing as a parent, is to realise that if you have battles at dinner time, you’re not alone. We all go through it. Some of us only for a while, others for years.

We just have to do the best we can, and not get too stressed about it. Enjoy a glass of wine. Know that if they are really hungry, they will eat dinner. Our eldest has decided to not eat his dinner many times, so he has gone to bed hungry. I try to not get worked up about it. He eats enough at other times. He isn’t the only child ever to do this.

Persevere in serving different foods. Experts say that most children need to be served a food at least ten times before they will happily eat it. Try to make dinner time more about just being able to sit down together, rather than getting everyone to eat everything on their plate. That takes some of the pressure off.

I take comfort in the fact that I know by the time my boys are teenagers, they will be eating us out of house and home. Surely by then they would have grown out of this fussy eater stage?

Do you dread dinner time too?

What tips and tricks can you share to help others get through dinner time?

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41 thoughts on “The dreaded dinner time

  1. LOATHE dinner time. I used to love cooking (before kids) and now that passion has become a chore. One thing I’ve learnt is to have some rules around dinner time. I used to let my little rascals dictate but now a few things are non-negotiable. They MUST try everything on their plate. If I know they like it a reasonable amount then they must eat it all. They are allowed to have preferences – we all do, but they must have tried the vegetable in question at least a dozen times before I will believe they really truly don’t like the taste. Ah, cooking dinner – the least favourite part of my day. Where that’s wine???


  2. Yep! But I make food for them during the week in advance for Nana to feed them (and feed them she does!) and they eat every last mouthful. At home it is sometimes yuck (even if it’s the same thing!) but they are getting better with the new routine – eat 10 mouthfuls and you can get down. It doesn’t always work but it has improved my 4 year olds eating so much! I think he likes knowing how many mouthfuls he has to eat before it is acceptable to go back to the lounge to carry on with whatever he was doing before. My 2 year old is pickier but I don’t fight him now, he knows he gets nothing else and eats lots during the day.


  3. Dinner time is the worst. I feel like I end up making five different things because she doesn’t want anything I try to feed her. And let’s not even talk about the mess.


    1. The mess, oh, the mess. Our toddler likes to sweep his whole arm across his highchair tray so everything is thrown on the floor. Every. single. day… It’s a race to quickly take everything off the tray before he starts swinging the arm. At least if we’re too slow, the dogs are happy 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Some days are horrible. I feel like a short order cook. Cooking 4 different meals some days to make everyone happy. Uuuuggghh. How I love Fridays. It’s pizza night!


  5. I admit a full time working mum I used to sometimes make what I knew they’d eat. I am so not a ‘eat everything on your plate’ person because that caused me to be incredibly stressed about eating. We are all different and whilst I dont think we should be ‘short order’ cooks sometimes we need to allow some slack. I was always a ‘meals in the freezer’ ready as much as I could be. Denyse


  6. I’ve pretty much given up on dinner time. I’ve done all of the things ‘experts’ suggest and it just doesn’t work so I just do what I can and most of the time he ends up eating a bowl of porridge with mashed banana. It’s certainly better than nothing.


  7. We just do what works on the day! Takes the pressure off big time! One night dinner was noodles, yoghurt and banana (I had burnt dinner in the slow cooker). My toddler was over the moon! A tired toddler is the worst dinner companion though!!!


  8. Does my head in! And I just can’t see the end in sight. One minute they love lasagne, next time they hate it! They fight and don’t stay in their seats and if I want master four to eat I have to spoon feed him like a baby. Urghh… Pass the wine! Xx


  9. My boys aren’t too bad.
    Mr 4 went through a “I don’t like pasta” phase. I did not enjoy that one! So I faced it off with pasta every night. It is my utter favourite and such a great fall back that I was not letting that ‘fad’ stick. I won that battle pretty quickly 🙂
    Sadly I didn’t win the roast chicken battle. He will eat chicken if I bread it and serve it as chicken fingers, he will eat it inside dumplings, in soup, with noodles and cold in a sandwich. But you serve a roast chicken and he just flatly refuses to eat it. He would rather have an extra spoonful of carrots than eat the chicken!!!
    Then there was the time that I caught him trying to eat butter whilst I was making sandwiches. But when he came to eat the sandwiches we had hysterics because he “hated butter”.
    They are fickle so and soes at times!!!!
    Regardless of what I serve them, whether it is their favourite or something new I always have a glass of wine in hand!!!!! Cheers 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I don’t want to rain on your parade but the boys will grow into teenagers and then they will grow into man babies and then when their wife serves them vegetables they will say “I don’t really care for that.” True story! (The veggie smuggling never ends…)


    1. Haha! I once joked to my husband, after a particularly long day with the kids, that if he made any comments about not wanting to eat the vegetables or say he didn’t like the dinner, I’d kick him in the nuts under the table. He was a wise man and did not call my bluff!


  11. Love the photo you started with… “Making whatever the hell I want with a side of eat it or starve”. Occasionally I’ll ask the fam what they want, but the majority of the time it’s “here’s what I made, eat it or not.” I love cooking. Even for our fussy 4 year old who has to have the polka dotted plate and not the stripey plate. I consider it a win if he eats what I make 🙂 Hilarious post!


  12. Related so much to this. For years people have been telling me that your child won’t starve themselves to death but that isn’t exactly true…especially with kids on the spectrum who are exceptionally “fussy”.
    Finally, after taking my daughter to specialists all her life and being told that she’s still on the same trajectory, she was referred to a gastroenterologist and had an endoscopy. I was convinced she had coeliac disease and was all psyched up to deal with that when that came back negative but he mentioned that he’d still found some food in her stomach. This seemingly simple scenario wasn’t good news either and she has delayed gastric emptying or a slow digestive tract. She gets heartburn, reflux and tummy pains and wasn’t eating much at all and was really faint and unwell. She’s been put on a tablet and the chemist put me onto a meal replacement drink and she’s gained some weight. Not a magic bullet but much better.
    In terms of food my kids struggle with, mushrooms are top of the list. I’d thought this was a taste thing but it was the texture and they’ll eat them when they’ve been finely sliced or pulverised.


  13. I particularly love the emphatic “YUCK!” before the meal has even hit the table. Sigh.
    Our strategy is to load The Little One up with lots of nutritious food during the day so that if dinner is rejected, then it’s no biggie. May the Dinner Gods smile on you 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Dinner time is extremely unpredictable in our house! One night it can be smooth sailing and the next, utter chaos! It’s reassuring that other parents go through the same thing 🙂


  15. Thank you for sharing! My kids will not eat anything I cook and I can make a decent meal! We have just decided that it is what it is and if they want peanut butter over a nice warm meal then so be it 🙂


  16. Every meal time in our house is hard. My 2 year old is uninterested in food (she’d survive on books and throwing rocks if she could), so I spend every meal reading to her while spooning food into her mouth to get her to eat at all. The things we do!


  17. I know it can be hard at times. I find it easier with my son that it used to be. Like you, I am in a believer, if they don’t eat it, they don’t get anything else. My son eats pretty much everything I put in front of him now, because of that rule (I think anyway). I do love cooking, so I think it helps make dinner time easier. So I make sure there is always meals in the freezer, and if not, I get my son to help me cook. I only have one child, so I could imagine it would be a lot more hellish if I had two!


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