Ask Maggie: My Kids Hate My Cooking and It's Ruining Family Mealtimes

March 5, 2019

Dear Maggie:

How do I get my elementary school-aged kids to eat dinner without it being a nightly battle? I'm really not a bad cook. It makes me irrationally angry when they gag over the food I make -- which doesn't make for pleasant family dinner times.

Dear Lady Gag-nah!

Are you in my head? Listening to my playlist? I feel like you might be because this particular song appears on my setlist, daily. And has for most of my parenting career.  I like to call it “STINKY BEESAGNA” -- our endearing term for the raging against lasagna and many other NORMAL foods that have occurred in my home.

I currently house kids ages 9, 12, 14, and 15 and only one of them will eat what’s placed in front of them, no questions asked. If you force me to tell you more truths, I will tell you that all three of the difficult inmates are biologically my products. This means that I am somehow responsible for this daily supper table warfare. I am to blame. What I did wrong, where I went wrong? Who the heck knows. I don’t get stuck on that broken record.  

Here's the thing. Not one thing can help you now. It is what it is. They have basic food likes and it’s not going to change. Not until they’re 15 and come home from Skippy’s house all high on happy and tell you all the reasons why Skippy’s house is sooooo much better. How beautiful Skippy’s house is and that she tried avocado BBQ chicken charred guacamole pizza that Skippy’s chef made in their AH-MAZING brick oven pizza. While Skippy’s mom made cotton candy figurines for dessert or something. And can’t WE ever have avocado BBQ chicken charred guacamole pizza?? GAWD MOM YOU’RE THE WORST! (You just wait for that gem to come out of their mouths. I’ll give you a lil’ Pez dispenser nod o’ solidarity when it happens.)

When that time comes, you can grit your teeth, punch a pillow, and bellow evil things about Skippy’s probably almost amazing parents --- while simultaneously taking the opportunity to rally and then build on what Skippy’s parents fed your kid. Then your menu might change for the good. Perhaps there will even be less gagging!  In fact, you’ll begin to send her to their home more often. Hoping and a-praying that she comes home one night LOVING SUSHI! You like how I “roll” huh?  

Until then, I say you do what a seasoned mom of grown children shared with me once. I’ve never let this go. She made the kids (when they were younger) dinner at a certain time. A dinner fit for insurgents. Then later she sat down with her love and had a peaceful dinner that SHE wanted to eat and in turn, share with someone who was enjoying her company and not ... well … gagging.

It may be a wee bit more work, but the end result is a bonus. Everyone's Lady GAGA over your meal selections, and not Lady Gagging.  



P.S. Skippy’s name has been changed to protect my identity.