Sending A Child To Bed Without Dinner. Is It OK?

I received an email from a parent the other day.

The subject of the mail was – Sending a child to bed without dinner. Is it OK?

Sharing my answer here because this is a common question that a lot of parents have


Hi Doctor !

My kid frequently refuses to eat the dinner that I have made and demands something different. But I feel I will spoil my kid if I succumb to his demands. So I don’t make what he is asking for. Then my child cries and gets angry and goes to bed without food.

I do see moms who cook a different meal for each person in the family. Definitely, I don’t have that much patience and have no desire to become such mom.

When I grew up, we were just happy to eat whatever was served and never demanded anything. Can you please share some disciplinary tips to change the scenario.

sleeping without dinner

sleeping without dinner


Hi !


I can completely understand the anxiety and pain you feel when sending your kid to bed without dinner. And while I will not say it OK to do that. I will also ask you to calm down and not panic.


Why is it important for children to eat dinner?

Your child definitely needs to eat dinner.

Children are growing constantly – and their bodies constantly require raw materials in the form of carbohydrates proteins fats etc from the food they eat – to keep growing.

When there are long gaps in eating food – the raw material supply is compromised and your child’s growth is compromised.

Between dinner and breakfast – there is already a gap of more than 10 hours.

Not eating dinner extends that gap to 14 to 16 hours – which is more than half the day. So it is definitely not OK if you are sending your child to bed without dinner.


Cooking different things for different people in the family every day is not possible in the long run and should not be turned into a routine practice at all


What should you do if your child goes to sleep without dinner

  1. Give your child attention before you give her/him food

    In most houses by dinner time everyone is tired and exhausted.

    The parents want to just get the obligatory last meal of the day over with somehow – so that they can clean up and go to bed.

    The child who probably has spent the whole day by her/himself because the parents were busy – does not want to finish dinner quickly because she/he wants to feel the presence of the parents and wants to revel in their love and attention.

    She/he knows that once dinner is over it will be time to go to sleep and she/he does not want the day to end because she/he has not had enough love and attention yet.

    So she/he throws a tantrum about the food – because she/he instinctively knows that not eating will surely get your attention.

    What should you do?

    Pick your child up. Hold her/him in your lap. Look into her/his eyes. In a soft voice say “I love you” “I missed you so much all day” “If you finish dinner quickly – we will have time to do a quick dance to your favorite    song before you sleep”

    Remember – Before you feed the body – you must feed the soul.
    Also read How does a Child become a Picky Eater

  2. Serve every meal including dinner at a fixed time

    Your child feels hungry when a message is sent by the stomach of the child to the brain of child. When this message reaches the brain of the child – the child automatically starts looking for food.

    This is not something your child has control over. It is automatic. And it is regulated by the internal organs of your child’s body.

    It is important to understand that the stomach gives strong signals of hunger to the brain when it is used to receiving food at a definite time every day. That is when the child is used to eating breakfast lunch and dinner at fixed times every day.

    These signals are impossible for the brain to ignore and the child is sure to ask for food.

    On the other hand – the stomach sends very weak signals to the brain – which can be easily ignored by your child when your child is used to eating at irregular times.

    What should you do?

    Always serve all meals at fixed times.

    Also finish all the meals on time. Do not extend meals for more than 20 to 30 minutes even if your child has not eaten the food you have served. It is a bg mistake to extend breakfast till lunch time and lunch till tea time.

    Always have a menu ready at the beginning of the week – so that you can buy all the ingredients and keep them ready much in advance. Keep the dinner ready before you take your child out to play. Serve it as soon as your child comes home.

    how to ensure that children eat healthy food

    How to ensure that children eat healthy food

  3. Plan the menu with your child

    One of the reasons children refuse to eat dinner is because it is the only way they can assert their independence. It is the one and only area in which they have some control.

    What should you do?

    Give your child more control by involving her/him in planning the menu for the week. When you plan the menu – fix one day a week on which some indulgence in the form of junk food is allowed.

    Also read Indian Meal Plan Tips For Busy Moms For Balanced Healthy Meals

    what to do when children want junk food

    What to do when children want junk food

  4. Respect your child’s hunger

    Forcing your child to eat a fixed amount every day is a huge parenting mistake.

    It is your job to offer the food and your child’s job to decide how much food her/his body needs at that particular meal – and eat that amount accordingly.

    Do not focus on quantity eaten. Just focus on the quality of the food you are offering.

    What should you do?

    Once you have served a healthy dinner on time – your job is done. Let your child decide how much to eat and respect your child’s appetite.

  5. Serve healthy food at snack times

    Very often – the tea time snack is made up of junk food. This kills the child’s appetite by dinner time and also makes the child cranky.

    What should you do?

    Make some ready to eat snacks like cookies crackers and muffins with healthy ingredients every weekend and keep these handy at snack times.

    When your child eats healthy food at snack time – your child will be hungry and ready for healthy food that your whole family is eating at dinner time

    Also read – 6 Easy Healthy And Tasty Snack Recipes For Children


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