The ‘No thank you’ plate – good or bad idea?

pink plate

Several parents have mentioned to me recently that they they give their child a “No thank you” plate with their meal – somewhere for them to put the foods they don’t want to eat.

The idea behind it is that:

1. It stops the child throwing unwanted food on the floor (or putting it onto the table or your plate).
2. It removes all pressure on the child to eat anything (in keeping with the ‘Division of Responsibility’ approach).

Seems like a good idea, right?

NO!

Let’s think about the psychology of it a little more deeply.

👎 EXPOSURE to a food on their plate (seeing, smelling, even playing with it…) is a vital first step to a child becoming FAMILIAR AND COMFORTABLE with a food – and gradually receptive to the idea of actually eating it. If the child simply removes it from their plate, they are not getting this exposure – or the opportunity to one day decide to take a bite! They have simply ‘banished’ that food onto the “No thank you” plate.

👎 It shows your child you are EXPECTING them to not want or like some of their meal – and CHILDREN LIVE UP TO EXPECTATIONS! The (unspoken) message you want to give your child is that all food is good – why wouldn’t you want to eat it?!

👎 A “No thank you” plate COULD stop food throwing with some children, but it may well have the opposite effect! The reason a child throws food is to get a REACTION from you! A “No thank you” plate shows your child you don’t like or want them throwing food – so they may do it more to provoke you! You’re inadvertently inviting them to a power battle!

SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO INSTEAD?

When your child complains they don’t like or want a food, you say:

“THAT’S OKAY. IT’S UP TO YOU IF YOU EAT IT.”

If you say this one sentence every single time kindly and calmly, your child will soon allow the food to ‘exist’ on their plate. And then they are getting the exposure!

As for food throwing, the way to stop this is to utterly and entirely IGNORE IT and show no reaction whatsover! Easier said than done, I know, but it works – as long as you are 100% CONSISTENT with the ignoring and NEVER do or say anything else!