Navigating the inevitable situations where we disagree about how to feed the kids with a friend, family member, teacher, or care provider can be so challenging—and emotional. I’ve been there, so today I wanted to share some advice for how we can handle it with ease and understanding. See also: Boundaries!

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One of the most common questions I’ve gotten over the past few months is whether I prepare the food that my kids eat when they are at their dad’s house. And related, how do I handle it if/when their dad feeds them differently than I do.

Which always catches me a little off guard because both of those are loaded with so many assumptions. But mainly, it shows just how much we struggle to agree about feeding kids with the people in our lives. (I decided to send this today since I know many of us will be spending time with family over the upcoming long weekend.)

Realizing that we may approach food differently than those around us can be extremely liberating when we’re on our own…but it can be so incredibly challenging when kids are involved. Below are three reader questions from parents (moms) asking what to do when they disagree about feeding the kids in a specific situation.

I chose these three because I’ve been in each of these situations in my life as a mom, too. And while it has gotten easier to deal with random comments about what the kids are and are not eating (or how they are eating), it still can be so jarring. Here’s help.

Fruit and nut bars wrapped individually in plastic wrap.

My husband doesn’t believe we should have any food with added sugars or processed ingredients in the house, but I don’t find that to be remotely realistic. And I just don’t have the time to make everything from scratch. We keep arguing about it and trying to convince each other that each of us is right. Ugh!

Lindsay, mom of 2 in Austin

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  1. Thank you for this article. I am wondering if you have suggestions for how to handle the case where it is actually the parents that are disagreeing! My husband and I aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on how to feed our ~1.5 year old and it is causing stress for both of us.

    I’m of the “everything in moderation”/intuitive eating philosophy and he is trying to optimize his health (avoiding saturated fats and most animal products, etc.) because he wants to live forever. Given we eat a bit differently from one another, perhaps it isn’t a surprise that we both think our daughter should eat more like ourselves and less like the other. I’d be thankful for any thoughts or resources you have that might help us navigate this.

    1. I think there is a lot of context you’ll have to look at to figure out the best way to proceed.
      (And just want to point out that you, too, with your intuitive eating approach, are trying to “optimize your health”:). The book How to Raise an Intuitive Eater is a great book with all of the context if he is open to reading it. If not, you could maybe sit down and meal plan together to try to strike a balance of what you’re offering throughout the week. It will likely be stressful to disagree in the moment at meal times, so perhaps trying to agree on basics (what happens if she asks for something else, what happens if she wants more of something, etc) so you don’t confuse your daughter would help too. I hope that helps some, I know this is hard.

  2. Thank you very much for a very useful article! We are currently spending the holidays with our family and my sister keeps telling my 18 months old toddler things like “yucky, you have broccoli for dinner!”, “you are eating fish, fish is disgusting!” while he’s eating. He is such a good eater, but I’m worried my sister’s comments will affect him and make him a picky eater. He has actually disliked his food the last couple of days. I have asked my sister to stop making such comments, but she keeps saying them. I would appreciate any ideas on how to handle this situation.

    1. I’m so sorry this is happening and I know it can be stressful. I’d try to ask her to refrain from commenting on his food away from mealtime so it’s not in the moment and maybe interrupt her if she starts at the table by saying something like, “He’s doing fine with his food. Tell me about XX” to get her talking about an unrelated topic. I hope she’ll hear you that this is unhelpful soon so you can enjoy your holiday! (And remember that the environment he’s in most days is the one that matters. A few days around the holidays will not make him a picky eater, even if it seems so in the moment. Hang in there!)