Dinner time. The word that has most parents reaching for a glass of wine. The time of day that quite often makes our heart rate increase, our blood pressure rise, and has us fighting an uphill battle.

Or is that just me?

And of course, this all coincides with the witching hour or arsenic hour, depending on your preference of name for this dreaded time of day.

It’s that time when parents are getting home from work, kids are tired and hungry and you’re trying to salvage the situation so it doesn’t escalate to tears. From anyone.

Most parents I’ve spoken to about dinner time, hate it. They dread it too. Particularly those who work.

They rush in the door, frazzled from a day of meetings and deadlines, only to realise they forgot to take meat out to defrost earlier. It then becomes a matter of how quickly can you pull a meal together that everyone or at least most of the family will eat.

But even if you’re a stay at home parent, you are still more than likely to experience the battle of dinner time. Just because you haven’t rushed in the door at 6pm, doesn’t mean you’re immune to this dreaded time of day.

If you have been organised and had meat defrosted, or had a meal half prepared (I love having portions of bolognese sauce in the freezer I can just heat up and serve with fresh cooked pasta), you still haven’t won.

If you have a toddler or preschool aged child, you will more than likely get tears about serving the meal on the wrong colour plate.

Or your children will decide that even though they have previously loved this meal, they no longer like it. And refuse to eat it. Or they tell you peas now apparently taste worse than worms.

Or one child doesn’t like the way their sibling is looking at them and want you to make them stop.

You just want to get everyone fed, bathed and ready for that much nicer time of day – stories and cuddles before bed.

I’m not sure about you, but we experience battles at dinner time most nights. We’ve tried every approach we can think of.

The “throw stuff and see what sticks” approach, when you serve up a selection of different foods and see what they will eat.

Cooking separate meals for kids.

Serving them the same meal as us.

Feeding them earlier.

Hiding vegetables. They’re happy to eat the meal as they can’t see any vegetables, and you’re happy, as you know they’re eating vegetables. The trick with this one is to make sure you don’t smile too much when they’re eating the food, or they get suspicious and catch on to what you’re doing.

Each night is different. Each child is different.

I think the main thing as a parent, is to realise that if you have battles at dinner time, you’re not alone. We all go through it. Some of us only for a while, others for years.

We just have to do the best we can, and not get too stressed about it. Enjoy a glass of wine. Know that if they are really hungry, they will eat dinner. Our eldest has decided to not eat his dinner many times, so he has gone to bed hungry. I try to not get worked up about it. He eats enough at other times. He isn’t the only child ever to do this.

Persevere in serving different foods. Experts say that most children need to be served a food at least ten times before they will happily eat it. Try to make dinner time more about just being able to sit down together, rather than getting everyone to eat everything on their plate. That takes some of the pressure off.

I take comfort in the fact that I know by the time my boys are teenagers, they will be eating us out of house and home. Surely by then they would have grown out of this fussy eater stage.

Do you dread dinner time too? What tips and tricks can you share to help others get through dinner time?

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  • My eldest two were fine. My youngest used to stage a protest if what was for dinner wasnt what she wanted. She would say she didnt like it. I knew she was just being controlling so i would say that this was what was for dinner and if she didnt want to eat then that was her choice. My husband would end up throwing a fit because I was allowing the child to starve. He would make her Eggs. My husband and i used have battles over this. Years later she admitted that she would pull her little stunt when ever she decided that she would like eggs instead.


  • How very true, makes a lot of sense.


  • It definitely make you feel better when you know your not alone! Meal times in my household seem to be getting better…fingers crossed it lasts :)


  • I agree with this article. My toddler is very fussy and hard work. But I know it’s not forever.


  • Yes dinner time is a nightmare for us! Especially when we are trying a new food as it’s usually met with the comment “yuck!” Didnt know about the “try the times” though so guess I’ll try that now!!


  • My daughter made me out to be a liar the other night. I have been having battles galore at dinner time well last week we had dinner at my daughters god parents place and of course she ate everything on her plate with no help from me.

    Then asked for more.

    It would have been ok if the food was new to her but she ate food that I had been offering to her for weeks, and she picked that night to eat it all.

    • lol sometimes they just do this sort of stuff hey. amazing


  • Indeed great article thank you for sharing!


  • Great article thank you for sharing


  • I was a single working mum of 3, we had cook ups on the weekend and they all helped and loved it, lasagne, egg & bacon quiches, pies, sausage rolls, froze meals for the week and just add vegies or salad as a side, team work +, 2 of the 3 are now chefs, lol.


  • I am happy to report…..we don’t have any major dinner time hassles. Other than the usual veggie debate :/ Very lucky


  • Organisation is key! Sunday is my ‘cooking’ day where I make a minimum of 3 meals that can be used during the week. If I don’t do that, it’s takeaway or 2 minute noodles.


  • dreaded dinner time


  • oh gosh! so it is not just my kids that cry about the plate or cup issue!
    “but i want that cup” even if both cups are pink and EXACTLY the same!


  • It’s all about being organised. My son often asks me what’s for dinner. He’s a planner and likes to know things! If he expresses dislike, I say too bad that’s what you’re having or I’ll remind him that he actually loved it last time we had it. Sometimes I even get a ‘yum, I love that.’ I also involve my son in the process by asking him what meals he’d like included in the week. Can’t guarantee them, but I can work towards it.


  • Eating isn’t the challenge, no fussy eaters here EVER. Its the seating arrangements. Halfway through, Miss 2 wants to sit on my knee, which she can do once I’ve finished eating. That signals to Master 9 to pinch her chair and either Master 12 or Miss 14 to put their feet up on his chair. Then 75% of days, Miss 2 wants her chair back and its musical chairs again. And then its dishes time (cue dramatic doom and gloom music).


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