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Miserable Mealtimes and Grumpy Mornings

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: My three kids and my husband all whine and complain at mealtime. Everyone likes something different, and some are so picky they eat only a few foods. I feel as if I'm going to battle every meal. I offer this and then that and then something else. Everyone eats eventually, but it's miserable. Help me quickly! -- Lost

Dear Lost: Your family is playing you, and you are losing the game. Dealing with picky eaters is a challenge. But you are creating monsters by making and offering so many options at every meal. Save yourself and your sanity by ending this practice today.

Instead of acting like a short-order cook, have each member of the house make a list of the foods he or she enjoys eating. Surely, there are some commonalities among your family members. Plan at every meal to have at least one item each person eats. Choose the rest of the meal as you see fit. At every meal, make sure to offer some new options or ones that you aren't certain will be eaten. Let the family know there will be no substitutions.

Don't worry about who eats what. Offer the food, and let them know it is up to each of them to decide what to eat. They will most likely ask, "So I don't have to eat this?" Explain again that you don't care what they eat. Then ignore all complaints about your food. Just let it go. With the pressure off, kids might actually expand their diet on their own. It can take 20 to 30 exposures for a picky eater to decide to give a new food a try. Don't give up. Be patient, as it takes time for eating habits to change.

Dear Family Coach: My son is not a morning person. From the moment he comes down the stairs in the morning until he leaves on the bus, he is very irritable, cranky and sour. His negative energy affects all of us. I'm so tired of nagging him to do what he has to do. How can I get him moving without the irritability? -- Struggling

Dear Struggling: As you said, your son isn't a morning person. Accept that fact and you will all enjoy the mornings more. Some people need time to greet the day. Give him the time and space to do just that. If you push him and make too many demands, it only makes the situation worse.

Address your son as little as necessary. Don't try to make conversation. Don't ask too many questions. Save that for other times of the day. Allow the morning to be more of a quiet time for him. If the other kids are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, then chitchat with them. But leave your son out of it.

Planning the night before can also help alleviate morning drama. Pick out clothing ahead of the morning. Make sure his backpack is packed and ready to go by the door. When your son does make it to breakfast, have him put his shoes on before eating. Then all he has to do is grab his bag and head to the bus. There should be no yelling, nagging or rushing.


Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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