Two magic sentences to say to your kids at mealtimes!

Siblings waiting for their meal in the kitchen

Parents often ask me “What should I say to my child when they complain they don’t like or want what I’ve made to eat – or ask for something different?”

There are two magic sentences I tell them to use over and over again – every single time it happens!

I call them ‘magic’ not because they will make your child instantly gobble down the food – let’s be realistic! – but because if you stick to these sentences like super-glue, the moaning, protests, demands and meltdowns will quickly subside. And mealtimes will be a whole lot nicer already!

So here they are.


When your child says “I don’t like it”,  “I don’t want it”,  “Yuk”, “Ew”, “It’s disgusting”…  You reply:

That’s okay. It’s up to you if you eat it or not.

Say it in a calm, kind, but clear voice. If you show any irritation, they’ll say it more because it gives them attention and power for saying it! And say it just once. If you repeat it, it loses its assertiveness and invites them to argue with you. They heard you the first time! Now don’t engage with any further protests or demands. It is really important that you put zero pressure on your child to actually eat the food (a big part of the Getting the Little Blighters to Eat approach. Find out why here.)


When your child looks at what you’ve given them and says “I want something else”, “But I wanted pasta with pesto”, “Can I have peanut butter on toast instead”… You reply:

This is what we’re having today.

Again, calm, kind, but clear. And just once! Then don’t engage with any further protests or demands. They will soon accept that alternatives are not available and allow the food or meal to ‘exist’ on their plate, even if they’re not actually eating it – which will make it much easier to expose them to new and different foods. (Exposure is another vital part of the Getting the Little Blighters to Eat approach. Read why here.)

If you never deviate from these two sentences, you’ll be surprised how quickly they take effect. If you have very young children who can’t read yet, I even suggest you write them down and stick them on your fridge to keep them firmly in your mind and teetering on the tip of tongue!

But worried about your child going to bed hungry? Read this!