What Should I Do When My Tween Won’t Eat Breakfast?

I was never one of those mums who got  too worked up when their toddlers wouldn’t eat. And just as well too as all four of them went through fussy periods and refused to sit up at the table and eat dinner at the ‘proper’ times. They preferred to snack little and often and I found myself to be pretty much okay with this as I truly believe that small children won’t let themselves starve.

Sure enough, once they started school, and lost the opportunity to eat when they feel like, they all settled down to eat well at ‘meal times’. I know this is more convenient for adults but I’m not sure it’s actually better for the kids. Anyhow, my point is that I made a choice early on to try not to turn the dinner table into a battle ground.

This doesn’t mean I don’t get p*ssed off when my kids won’t eat whatever I’ve lovingly prepared for them, especially when it’s something healthier than their preferred fare of pizza, pasta or something with chips. But I try not to show how annoyed I am when no one will even try the beef casserole that has been simmering in the slow cooker all day, and settle for telling them that they can make themselves a sandwich instead.

But lately something has been happening that worries me a whole lot more than non eating toddlers ever did.

My newly 11 year old DD1 has started refusing to eat breakfast. At first it was just ‘I don’t feel like it’ now and again and I managed to persuade her to eat something. Gradually it’s become more and more common until now pretty nearly everyday we have a breakfast battle.

She’s tall and skinny, and she seems to be eating normally at other times of the day, but she  has started to make comments about having fat legs ( she doesn’t) and wanting to be skinny ( she is).  Of course I’m  panicking that she’s going to develop an eating disorder but I’m willing to be told I’m over reacting.

How should I deal with this? Should I be insisting she eats something or should I trust her to eat what she needs, the way I trusted my children as toddlers? It just seems a lot more serious at this age.

Has anyone else had this problem? Does anyone have any words of wisdom for me?

staring at plate


10 comments on “What Should I Do When My Tween Won’t Eat Breakfast?

  1. I don’t usually feel hungry until I’ve been up for an hour or two, so it might just be that she’s not feeling it. Could she make herself a little snack pot to eat at her first break in school or something? Healthwise, breakfast is really important so it might be worth pointing her in the direction of some research. People who have a decent breakfast are slimmer as well, but I doubt you want to stress that aspect 😉

    • I might get some bars in that I know she’ll eat but then all of them will want this special treatment.
      She’s been ill and eating very little the last three days, and her delight in this fact has made me very uneasy 🙁

  2. Hmmm. I don’t know.
    Maybe she isn’t a morning eater as Jo suggests. Could she manage a smoothy?
    How do you know if she’s developing issues or just parroting the crap she hears on the tele?
    On the other hand my instinct would – as with toddlers – not to make a battle out of it. Teetering on the brink of hormones there is bound to be stroppiness about.
    My eldest boy (13) suffers from moodiness related to low blood sugar and when it happens he doesn’t know he’s hungry. I make him drink OJ until he’s rational again. Just a thought.

    • I think you are completely right about not making a battle of it but I don’t want to just ‘leave’ it either. If she did go on to develop issues then I’d feel so guilty 🙁

  3. I’m never hungry until mid-morning, so I agree with the snack pots/bars – is there any way you can pop them in her bag ‘between you both’ so the others don’t see? Mine is a fair bit older (15) and gap betw siblings is much more so I don’t know if it would work with you, but eldest and me do have some ‘between us’ stuff and it does make for a nice close relationship where we can have private talks if needed etc. Fruit juices and smoothies are definately favoured over breakfast foods here, although I did come downstairs to see her eating noodles and (tinned) meatballs at 6.30 this morning that she’d made herself because she was hungry and she fancied them!! She’ll also make the odd omlette occasionally, but mainly grabs a drink of orange and a bag of crisps ‘for dinner’ on her way out of the door! I make a decent tea for everyone and she usually eats that, so I don’t fuss too much about the rest of the day. It’s hard but you have to try to be relaxed about it (or at least pretend you are??) – does she like cooking or shopping for food? Jo often goes with Steve to do the weekly food shop and I tell them to buy whatever they find and I’ll (help?) cook it! (as long as it’s on offer so doesn’t cost a fortune is the rule!)

    • Thanks for that. I will have a good talk to he about what she feels like eating. I want her to know that I want my children to eat properly, but at her age she can probably decide if she will last until lunch or not. They can take fruit for a mind morning snack but nothing else.

  4. Ruby has always been a late breakfaster (is that a word?!) Before she started school we used to drop Alexander at school and then she’d come back and eat loads but of course, now she is at school she doesn’t have that freedom. I have written a list of breakfast foods she can have/I am willing to make to make the decision making easier as she just doesn’t function well in the morning. On our list we have fruit, cereal bar, scrambled egg, omelette, raisin toast, toast, porridge, dried apricots, yoghurt, cereal and she will usually find something on there that she will tolerate but there have been occasions that she has had noodles for breakfast! Lunch in Australia isn’t until 1pm so I do insist that she has something. I agree with not making it a battle but by giving LOTS of choices it rarely becomes an issue.

    • This has only become a problem in the last few months, which makes me suspect she is not eating through choice. I’m not cooking her anything, our mornings are hectic enough as it is.

  5. Wht are her choices? I don’t like breakfast either…never have. Problem is I am a very savoury flavour person, especially when I haven’t eaten for ages i.e. Breakfast!…fruit/cereal/yoghurts/muffins etc..all the traditional easy breakfast things either turn me off or just leave me craving something savoury.

    Porridge is the best of a bad bunch for or, or crumpets with butter. Also a toasted cheese sandwich or vegemite on toast work…. so usually I dont eat anything. I have read some newer work saying that forcing people to eat breakfast is not necessarily a ‘ healthy’ way forward…what is the point of forcing some one who is not hungry to eat? When you think of it that way it *is* counter intuitive to what you are trying to achieve.

    • Oh I agree, but I’m pretty sure she *is* hungry. She always used to eat a good breakfast and say she was starving. This has only changed over the last few months.

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