Lunch Time Drama

Eating lunch at school can create all sorts of problems, including a child who doesn’t “like” her lunch. Well-meaning teachers sometimes acerbate the problem by paying more attention to the child. This mom asks how she can help her daughter eat her packed lunch without the teacher’s “help.”

Q: For the past few weeks, my daughter’s teacher informs me that my daughter “didn’t like her lunch.” I did learn a few things about lunch time that I think are contributing to it and would like your advice on any recommendations I can give the teacher. During the summer program, the kids watch movies while eating lunch in the classroom. The teacher has recently started sitting with my daughter to help her “focus” on her lunch instead. I think this is creating the perfect opportunity for my daughter to have someone to complain to about her food so she doesn’t have to eat it and instead watch the movie.

Some kids just can’t multitask at all and it appears that your daughter, at least at this age, is one of them.

This same teacher also informed me that during the school year, my daughter was throwing out her lunches, which was news to us. When she is home, my daughter will not ask for a snack or say she is hungry because she knows she will be served what she previously didn’t finish. What should I do with her uneaten lunches after school? And any recommendations to give her teacher during lunch time?

A: Some kids just can’t multitask at all and it appears that your daughter, at least at this age, is one of them. She simply can’t do two things at the same time, like eat and watch a movie. It’s no surprise which one she chooses, now is it? Of course, she’s going to go for the flashing screen over a boring lunch, right? And combine that with the fact that I’m guessing she doesn’t eat much to begin with (as some kids don’t have big appetites), then you have a recipe for tossed lunches.

A couple of things come to mind. First, start having her pack her own lunch. This can be done the night before and left in the fridge overnight. Second, cut in half the amount of food you’re giving her for now. If you gave her a whole sandwich, she’ll make just a half. Third, stick with protein and fruit for lunch with water to drink, like a PB&J half sandwich or a cheese stick as the protein and a small cut up apple (or half an apple) for the fruit. That’s it.

Third, tell the teacher that your daughter is too distracted by wanting to watch the movie to eat her lunch and ask that she be allowed (or have the entire class) eat lunch for ten minutes before starting the movie. Or just ask the teacher not start the movie until the kids have a chance to eat. I’m sure your daughter’s not the only one not eating her entire lunch.

Also tell the teacher to ignore any lunch complaints—after all, your daughter is the one packing the lunches now, right? And to please stop sitting with your daughter to “focus” her attention on her lunch. This is the same type of thing parents do to get kids to do their homework and it never turns out right.

I think with these suggestions you will be able to help your daughter eat more lunch and take more responsibility for her own lunch too.


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