How does it feel when your stepchild doesn’t want to eat what you make? At very least, you probably feel irritated. You spent a lot of time shopping with them in mind and cooking what you think they will like. It’s hard not to take it personally, so you might even feel rejected, insulted, disrespected.
If saying no to your grilled cheese sandwich isn’t bad enough, how about when they will eat the exact same thing if their dad made it for them? What does he put in his peanut butter sandwich that’s not in yours?
You might think this child just manipulating you and dad!
I would argue that it might not be as simple as that. I don’t think it’s manipulation, and it’s not a reflection of your parenting skills. It’s actually not about you at all. It’s about dad, whether he’s in the room or not.
Food is a representation of care from their dad, of what they need from him that they are not getting, for whatever reason. Food is an important part of the parent-child relationship, and wanting the food to come from dad is a sign of something they feel is missing in their connection with him.
Here’s an example that might hit home for you:
Imagine that you are dating your future husband, and you are hoping that he’s going to ask you to marry him.
One day you visit him at his parents’ home, and his mother surprises you with an engagement ring that she picked out for you. She says it’s high time you two got married and she’s tired of waiting for her son to pop the question. He stands behind her and says “Well, yes…of course I want you to marry me. Will you marry me?”
That would pretty much suck as a proposal, am I right?
Here’s the thing – your future mother-in-law wants the same thing that you want, and she spent a long time looking for the perfect ring for you. It fits and it’s actually pretty nice. Your boyfriend has now proposed, and you’re engaged, so what’s the problem?
Well, it’s obvious to you (but not at all to your mother-in-law) that the ring needs to come from him! It’s an exchange that is supposed to happen between the two of you. It doesn’t matter that you now have a ring, and you’re engaged – it didn’t come from the right person! It doesn’t fill the emotional need you have around that object at all.
This is what it’s like for kids, even big kids, to want dad to cook for them. It’s reasonable for them to want dad to make the food, at least some of the time. It’s also a clue that he needs to give them more attention, the kind of attention that is focused on what they want to tell him or to do with him. It’s not about you, it’s about their relationship with dad and when they feel better about that, your whole family will feel lighter and easier.
My husband’s kids love it when their dad makes french toast for breakfast, or makes pizza from scratch. It’s like a big warm hug from him, and they don’t actually need that from me!
I’m feel lucky that my step kids ate pretty much everything I ever made for them, with the exception of a few loser meals that I didn’t even want to eat myself! On the other hand, any time I have ever tried to reproduce dad’s special noodles in butter and soy sauce, they let me know that I will never get it just right.
And the french toast? That’s my dad’s french toast that my husband tries to duplicate and he’ll never get that one to taste the same as when my dad makes it!
If you’re interested learning about helping your stepkids to eat more nutritious food, grab my free download of tips and recipes called “Let Them Eat Cake”. It even comes with 6 videos to help you let go of suppertime drama and make relationships a priority on your way to healthier eating.