Fussy Kids? Teaching Them To Be Thankful

Originally featured at Masalamamas.com

My tenacious toddler and free-spirited sweetheart officially left her nest for preschool.

Things had been going fairly well except when I’d pick her up in the afternoon. Every day the teacher would tell me  that she did not touch an ounce of her food, not even an at least-try-two-bites type of deal.

I know the toddler diet might sound enticing to an adult, but the idea of your little darling not eating anything for 8 hours is quite simply nerve-wracking.


She wasn’t even eating her morning snack. I really wondered how she got through the day and still managed to color in the lines without a morsel in her tummy.

I thought long and hard about how I could get her to eat at school. If she was home with me I could walk with her through the park and feed her little nibbles between sliding and swinging, but since I wasn’t there I had to figure out a way to get my almost four-year-old to understand that she had to eat at school.

The amazing thing about the magical age of four is that at this age toddlers seem to have an amazing grasp on empathy. They really want to help out; whether it’s around the house or simply opening the door for a stranger.

That is why I decided to find a quick and swift solution by honing in on her empathy skills.  I sat down with her as well as my older kids and watched videos of kids playing on the streets of third world countries with nothing more than the blue sky above them and the dirt ground beneath.


As they attentively and empathetically watched these innocent children not having enough to eat they were reminded of what graciousness really meant.  I talked to my toddler about the importance of eating what is in front of her because there were children her age that didn’t even have water to drink let alone food.

The after effects were astounding.  Not only did my toddler who had been vehemently refusing to eat a bite of her school lunch for an entire week start to eat, my 9 and 7 year old started to catch each other when they found themselves complaining about the (truly) luxurious things in life.

Furthermore, my after school pick-up was greeted by “She ate her entire sandwich,” or “She tried a few bites of the vegetables.”

To further build all of their empathy skills we try to get involved with various food drives and fundraisers, all the while, reminding them that there are children their exact age that have absolutely nothing to play with and moreover, no buffet of choices for food.

It is interesting that teaching your kids to be gracious starts at a peculiarly early age.  The phrase “thank you” may be the third or fourth word they learn.  It seems as though it is embedded in their minds and it is the one phrase you won’t have to remind them to rehearse to the world.

However, as they get older, the phrase starts to lose meaning.  Thank you is a fore thought in the minds of anxious X-box players, and Shopkins enthusiasts.

The phrase becomes an automated response at the receiving end of a gift, and you realize you taught the phrase but never the true meaning.

That is why reminding kids, not just through your words, but through actual experiences around the world that they are blessed seems so integral to their future.

Hopefully, being grateful children will translate into generous adults.

The other day, my toddler came home from school and said, “Mummy, I ate my food and I just love to say thank you.”

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15 Responses

  1. Tori says:

    This post is such a great reminder for us all to appreciate what we have, and to teach our children how we have benefitted from our status. I really like your idea of showing your kids a video of children that are not as well off, to give perspective to them about what is important in life. What drastic changes a simple video had on your children’s lives! Another great option would be to donate to a child through World Vision or something similar, and share their stories and pictures with your kid’s as they grow up together. I am hoping to begin doing that shortly!

  2. Foz says:

    Masha’Allah a great way to teach them. I have been shielding my daughters from news etc but I think I need to show them to ensure they are grateful for what they do have

  3. Umm asiya says:

    Aaawh, such a good idea to teach childeren to share and give thanks, Alhamdulilaah. I can see my older toddler starting to be a fussy eater ?

  4. Nakida says:

    This touch me mentally. I teach my children everyday the importance of not wasting food. and the blessings of having food to eat. Thank you for a such a lovely read.

  5. Amina says:

    ***Hopefully being grateful children will translate into generous adults.*** Amin to that.

    And we need to live by example everyday as adults.

  6. Rachael says:

    I like how you’ve showed them why they are blessed and there are kids in the world with much less them some of is and they are happy. Stopped by from Manic Monday ☺.

  7. Ruku says:

    My oldest child used to be a fussy water so I know what you mean. I think it’s harder on parents than the kids when they go without proper meals! I love how your little one showed gratitude and started eating her snacks mA

  8. Zainab Dokrat says:

    Hehe fussy kids! lol I have learn’t pretty food catches the kids eyes..so keep in mind whatever you cook as a mum especially with veggies try and make it as cute and colorful as possible so the child will want to eat. (www.spicyfusionkitchen.com)

  9. Kai says:

    Ma sha Allah. that last line your kid said to you melted my heart. such a sweet child you have. <3

  10. Joanna Imran says:

    Masha’Allah, great post and really good advice. Not sure if this kind of argument would work on my 2-year old yet, but that’s definitely something to use in the future.

  11. Myda Tahir says:

    Great post and very true in the sense that we are just asking them to cram thankyou and sorry without delivering the actual meaning of it.
    Eat Healthy Stay Healthy 🙂

    Myda Tahir

  12. Papatia says:

    Masha’Allah, that’s a good way to teach them. Jazak’Allah khair! xx

  13. Fatima says:

    A good read. Children often complain. My baby is still too small to do so but Insha Allah he will be a good boy.

    Fatima – http://www.blogsbyfa.com

  14. saima asghar says:

    Loved your post from beginning till end. I hav 3 yr and 5 yr old fussy eaters and i can so relate to ur post. I teach them to share their school lunch with others so that they eat together.but ur idea of teaching to empathize and thank others is worth trying. I will definitely give it a shot.

  15. Zara says:

    Masha’Allah great post
    Thanks for sharing

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