What to do when your child asks for more of something when they’ve still got untouched food on their plate

child with knife and fork

Parents often ask me “Is it okay to give my child extra helpings of something they ask for when there is still food on their plate they haven’t eaten?”

The answer is Yes but … Not straight away!
 
So let’s say they ask “Can I have another Yorkshire pudding?” even though they haven’t touched their chicken, peas, carrots or potatoes.
 
You should say: “Yes, you can. At the end.”
 
By ‘end’, I mean when the meal has come to a natural conclusion and everyone at the table has eaten as much as they are going to. That might be after 15 minutes, it might be after 35, but either way, it feels like there has been a ‘mealtime’.
 
Why is this the best approach?

👍 You’re not saying a harsh “No”

That could lead to battles, tears, tantrums and make the table an unhappy place with negative associations.
 
👍 It gives your child the time and opportunity to eat some of the other, less preferred foods on their plate

It’s up to them of course – but the opportunity is there!

👍 You’re not putting any pressure on them to eat anything

This is vital in the fight against fussy eating. “You can have more Yorkshire pudding if you eat some of your chicken and vegetables first” may get some mouthfuls of chicken and veg into them at that meal, but the likelihood of them eating those foods of their own accord next time they see them will decrease, not increase!

👍 You’re not jumping up and responding to their demands instantly

If you let them be in charge of what food they get and when, their diet will get narrower and narrower until you are only serving their few preferred foods and meals.

👍 It’s the normal social etiquette

If you were eating at a friend’s house, for instance, you wouldn’t eat one of the things on your plate and ask for more of it mid-meal, would you?!

Of course, if your child is eating their meal on their own, it’s trickier. Once they’ve eaten the bits they want and rejected the bits they don’t, that is in essence the ‘end’. In this case, I would suggest you stay there with your child, chatting and engaging them for a while longer. Eating, after all, should be as much a social as a functional human activity!