A couple of years ago my daughter and her friend were having a play date during which I served them what I considered to be an appealing and wholesome lunch. When her friend informed me that she didn’t like what was on the plate, I suggested a few options, all of which she uniformly rejected. I finally threw up my hands, pointed to our pantry and said, rather tersely, “why don’t you just look for yourself and see if there’s anything that you can eat.”

This was not one of my finer moments, and was mildly horrifying for my daughter. It hit me then how dissent at dinner table can really get under a mom’s skin.

I was thinking about that incident recently after my friend Leslie disclosed how frustrated she sometimes gets when her kids won’t eat a meal she’s made. Getting food on the dinner table day-in, day-out is no small feat, so when a child turns his or her darling little nose up at the fruits of your labor, it’s enough to make you want to throw in the cooking tongs.

The question is what to do? It’s not easy, but here are few strategies that might prove helpful

  • Take the emotion out of mealtime 

This is tricky. From that first struggle over breastfeeding (why doesn’t my baby want to nurse?) moms know food and feelings are inextricably linked. The more matter-of-fact and less emotional you can be around meals, the better. That is, don’t take it personally.

  • Cook what you love to eat 

In a day and age when life revolves around the kids, it’s hard to make this shift. Consider what you crave when it comes to meal planning as opposed to thinking exclusively about the kids. This might make it less of a blow when they take a pass on a particular dish. Over time most kids will fall in line with what you enjoy cooking and eating.

  • Insist on polite children 

Kids are entitled to their opinion, but should be mannerly about it. They can express their feelings with a simple “no thank you,” as opposed to “eww,” “yuck,” or “I hate it.” Banish negative comments from the table both in deference to the cook and because opinions are highly contagious. If one sibling rejects something out of hand, it can impact another.

  • Don’t be a short-order cook 

If your child doesn’t like what’s being served, resist the urge to fix something else. That said, it’s a good idea to have a few dishes on the table so if a single food doesn’t appeal, they have options.

  • Don’t give up 

Just because your child doesn’t enjoy a meal on one occasion, doesn’t mean it needs to be permanently struck from your repertoire. It often takes multiple tries to warm up to new foods.