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AIBU to force my son to eat school dinners?

(202 Posts)
TakeawayAgain Sat 16-Sep-17 13:33:33

Hi all, I apologise if this gets long.

Backstory, my DS (5) is a very fussy eater. Having started on home made Annabel Karmel recipes from weaning, he will now only eat Birdseye chicken fingers and potato waffles for dinner, cheese, strawberries, grapes, banana at a push. No other meats, no veg, no pasta. He will eat chocolate and haribo of course!

We met a child dietician 6 months ago and we have a follow up booked for 18th October but not much has improved in that time, he will now try a new food, albeit the tiniest little mouthful, without making himself throw up but will very quickly decide that he doesn't like and sticks firm with that decision.

He started Reception two weeks ago and we decided that we would try to encourage him to eat food available at school (not have a packed lunch as he did in pre school) and would review this at half term having got feedback from the school and the dietician. We thought that at 5 he is old enough to understand that there are lots of different foods out there to try and that he could try to do with new friends eating theirs. This hasn't gone particularly well but not poorly enough for me to consider packed lunches earlier than half term. However, due to a very early hospital appointment, my DM took my DS to school yesterday and when it came to choosing lunch, he threw himself on the floor and a proper tantrum (for info, he is not this kind of child and has never done this with me). The school have mentioned that they don't think he is eating enough during the day (although he is eating crackers at afternoon break so there are some carbs going in), he has breakfast before school everyday and then his delightful chicken and waffle in the evenings.

I feel that the school are going to try to push us into switching to packed lunches asap but DH and I feel that this would be giving into DS' fussy eating and letting him regain control. I feel trapped in the middle because DH feels very strongly about this and I suspect he will think I've given in if I start to make packed lunches. However, I don't know if the school are right instead.

Would I be unreasonable to ask the school to continue supporting our decision on this until half term when we will review the situation? Funnily enough we had a huge breakthrough this week when DS sat with DH and ate an impressive amount of plain pasta so perhaps that's making this decision harder as there is a glimmer of progress.

If you made it to this point, thank you for reading! AIBU and what would you do?

VimFuego101 Sat 16-Sep-17 13:35:54

I would speak to your dietician before doing this. For whatever reason he struggles with new foods and this sounds like it might just be overwhelming to him.

OvO Sat 16-Sep-17 13:40:34

I'd give him a packed lunch.

I say that as I have a chicken and waffle DS (literally those exact foods!) and we tried pushing school dinners and he was eating practically nothing. Not good for concentrating in the afternoons.

Im concentrating on getting him to eat more things at dinner time, or as a snack. Hes actually eaten a few new foods lately - all his own decision, he actually asked me to buy them!

Lovingmybear2 Sat 16-Sep-17 13:41:24

Hi op. Ignore the dietician. We met loads and none sensible or helpful. As long as your ds is healthy that's fine.

We had 4 like this it's a bloody nightmare and you will get lots saying 'they will eat if they are hungry' and 'try this recipie' they won't and they don't.

but mine all gradually started eating more things as peer pressure and peer comments started around 7 and now as grown ups my older 3 eat anything but also are very healthy eaters. 4 is still fussy but hey so bloody what. She's healthy and happy.

Food isn't important enough to have Battles over. It just isn't. Let him have packed lunches and he will gradually get better.

HPandBaconSandwiches Sat 16-Sep-17 13:45:52

In my experience there are fussy eaters and fussy eaters.
DD has strong preferences and will do the whole "I don't like that..." but in the end will eat.
DS on the other hand would actually starve. He cannot tolerate the texture and smells of some foods and will gag and become extremely distressed. If we went for the standard approach of put the food in front of them, they'll eat if they're hungry, he would still starve. Did it for 3 days when he was younger, never again

So I will say YABU, though I suspect most will disagree. Do lots of cooking together, let him feel the food. Go for close things to the food he likes - home made chicken nuggets/home made fish fingers (he can make these), home made pizza so he chooses his toppings. Bake muffins together. Try wierd stuff you wouldn't think he'd like too, DS loves olives.

Try something new every day, but don't withhold food he likes nor reward with chocolate. Whatever you do, do not let it become a battle, for you will lose.

He'll get there eventually. DS has made massive strides over the last few years, but there's no quick fix imo. Good luck.

PinkHeart5913 Sat 16-Sep-17 13:45:55

I think I'd give a packed lunch.

His obviously got his reasons for avoiding so many foods and I wouldn't force him to eat school dinners becuase dc are stubborn and he just won't eat at lunch and I'd hate to think of my child eating no lunch

Why battle over food with him? Most fussy ( although with what you've written I'm not sure his just fussy as you've written such limited foods) dc do grow out of it in there own time

noblegiraffe Sat 16-Sep-17 13:46:20

I think starting school is such a big deal and so draining for little children, that adding the the prospect of being expected to eat disliked food at lunchtime would be a bit unfair, and would possibly cast school in a negative light for your DS which isn't what you want at all.

I'd switch to packed lunch. You can always try hot dinners again when he is more established and comfortable at school.

TheGoodWife16 Sat 16-Sep-17 13:47:14

This isn't the school's battle to have with him daily (they don't really have the time or staffing) and it may lead to him struggling with everything school related if you continue.

Deal with his food issues outside of school and let him find his own way, which he will do eventually.

My 15yo DD was a breaded chicken and waffle child but now eats a varied diet, willing to try new things albeit managed carefully due to food allergies.

Good luck.

rookiemere Sat 16-Sep-17 13:47:20

Honestly just give him pack lunches OP.

DS was a fussy eater - still is to be fair. I've told him that we'll try to work round it as much as we can, but when he goes to friends he needs to either eat stuff or say he isn't hungry if it isn't something he likes.

He's actually getting a lot better now, finally age 11. Still doesn't like sauces on things, but tried prawns on holiday and declared them ok and ate pretty much everything that was offered when we went to a friends house last weekend.

Do keep trying him with new stuff, but at that age, surely it's more important that he enjoys being at school, rather than building up a phobia because of school lunches.

I may be biased here because our school lunches were in fact truly disgusting. But at the moment this is a battle and it doesn't need to be, focus on his learning and enjoyment of school, rather than what he eats in the middle of the day.

Lovingmybear2 Sat 16-Sep-17 13:47:36

Yes plain pasta and cheese!!! Lots of those meals.

Mine were quite capable of just not eating anyithung all day if they would have been offered school dinners.

Rhubarbie Sat 16-Sep-17 13:47:59

If he doesn't have ASD sensory issues I would continue with school dinners and let him have a packed lunch of his choosing each Friday.

noblegiraffe Sat 16-Sep-17 13:49:16

Many children with ASD or sensory issues won't have been diagnosed by the time they start school.

Ummmmgogo Sat 16-Sep-17 13:49:24

give him school dinners my daughter is naughty and fussy at home but slightly better at school, he might start eating them you won't know till you try. and they are free!

Ummmmgogo Sat 16-Sep-17 13:50:20

noo Friday is chips day! best day for school dinners. I would send packed lunch on neat free Monday if I had to pick a day.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Sat 16-Sep-17 13:51:03

How much is he eating at school?

And what does he eat in his packed lunch?

I also have a child who won't eat and will starve himself rather than give in.

Areyoufree Sat 16-Sep-17 13:51:41

I agree with HP (apart from the username, which is just wrong). I have two exactly the same, and my son would absolutely starve rather than eat something that upsets him (which can be anything, depending on the day).

BirdInTheRoom Sat 16-Sep-17 13:52:40

I agree with the lovingmybear completely. I was an extremely fussy eating child - I used to really worry about being given food I didn't like or that was unfamiliar, and was extremely sensitive to taste. The thought of school dinners made me physically sick.

Luckily I had a very understanding mum who never forced me to eat anything or have school dinners. She just gradually offered new foods and eventually I tried them and found I liked them (aged 9+ I would say).

I now eat absolutely everything, but I was still starting to eat new foods into my late 20s and even early 30s which I wouldn't have entertained before!

For me food was never about trying to control my parents, I genuinely used to find the taste,texture and smell of many foods utterly repulsive and I was extremely anxious about being made to eat those things.

Sirzy Sat 16-Sep-17 13:53:09

Don't make food a battle ground. If he wants a packed lunch and that means he will eat then surely that is better than making it a daily worry point for him?

I actually wish DS would have a packed lunch but non of his acceptable foods are packed lunch suitable. 9 days out of 10 he has tuna jacket at school and will eat varying amounts from non to (very rarely) all of it.

It isn't schools battle to have though, and I have made it very clear they aren't to try to make him eat at all. If he doesn't want it he doesn't want it. He has been prescribed build up drinks though so his calories come mainly from them and any extras are a bonus! (He is still underweight though...)

loobybear Sat 16-Sep-17 13:53:10

I work in a school and we have some children like your son. Many bring in packed lunches but some are made to take school dinners and end up ending almost nothing most days. What I tend to suggest to parents is that they send in a packed lunch but that they also try things from the school dinner menu to try to introduce them to new foods but they still have a packed lunch there in case they don't like the school dinner. This is quite easy in our school as most of our pupils are entitled to free school meals so I don't know if that would be an option for you? What I've found is that when the kids have been forced to eat things then they dig their heels in and say they don't like it without even thinking about it but if it's a choice and they don't feel pressured then they are more likely to actually let themselves like new foods.

Ellisandra Sat 16-Sep-17 13:53:55

If I put my daughter on school dinner, she wouldn't eat.

I'm not prepared to turn food into a battle ground, and I want her full during the day.

My compromise with myself is that I have given up feeling guilty about the same lunch every day.

She actually will eat some perfectly healthy food - but not expand it. She has cucumber and carrot every day. The other day she said she was bored with that. I shrugged and said "you need vitamin and minerals - and that's the only things you'll eat with those in. You tell me what you want to swap for". Not meanly, just factually. She's 7 now.

So I'd work out the best packed lunch you can, and just keep making it.

I'm sure you had enough of tips from well meaning strangers wink but a lot of people suggest separating food. That's easier in a packed lunch. Mine will eat grated cheese, and a wrap. Make a grated cheese wrap and she won't touch it hmm

CitySnicker Sat 16-Sep-17 13:54:52

Pack lunches at school, food challenges at home (given that he's not following the pack eating their school dinners at school).

MarthaArthur Sat 16-Sep-17 13:55:14

I was that child OP. I didnt eat. I went for months eating nothing but yorkshire puddings and water. If i didnt like the food i wouldnt eat it i would rather starve. Could you maybe make a fun game with him about different foods and gdt him to them? Like my mom always gave me raw carrots and mentioned rabbits so its one of the only veggies i would eat. Maybe take him.round the shops and make a game of it him helping to pick out new foods for him to try and rewarding him when he does?

Ellisandra Sat 16-Sep-17 13:56:08

Another problem I think with school dinners is the quality.

Some kids wolf down what they're given, some care about what they're eating. The fussy ones care. Have you seen the dinners your school are serving? Because in mine, they look horrid. I think it's a losing battle to get your child to have school dinner, when it isn't even very nice!

MarthaArthur Sat 16-Sep-17 13:57:09

Oops as for your actual question please give him packed lunch. He wont have the energy to learn ic he is stressed and hungry at lunch time.

Lovingmybear2 Sat 16-Sep-17 13:57:49

Thanks Birdin thats so nice to hear from a child's point of view.


This isn't about being naughty you have no idea what you are saying sorry.

This is a much more complicated issue and the child isn't being naughty.

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