A procedure for getting preschoolers to try new foods

A few days ago I was in a restaurant having lunch.  Next to me was a young mom also having lunch, accompanied by her lovely little preschooler.  As their meal was ending, I noticed the mom lift a spoonful of something uneaten from her daughter’s plate and offer it to the little girl––who, with a shake of her curly blond head, declined to eat.  That wasn’t unusual but what the mom said next prompted me to pay a bit more attention.

She said, “Okay, Katie, if you like this can be your “No thank you bite.”  The little girl shook her head no.

No thank you bite?

Huh?  What was she talking about?

Since I’d never heard this expression before, I was intrigued enough to listen more to see if I could figure out what this mother was talking about.

The mom persisted, “Katie, this can be your No thank you bite, but remember, there are three parts to a “No thank you, bite:”  No––thank––you.

Automatically, Katie opened her mouth, ate the spoonful her mom was offering and calmly said “No.”  The mom then offered two more bites and after each bite, Katie continued to respond with the words  “thank,” and then “you.”

Obviously this was a well-practiced procedure at Katie’s house!   It was clearly a routine event to be asked to eat at least  three bites of a new or somewhat undesired food before leaving the table.  In the language of Discipline without Stress, three bites fulfilled the expectations of Level C operation at Katie’s house!

I remembered similar situations when my own kids were little and I thought back to similar restaurant visits when I’ve happened to notice other parents attempting to deal with this same issue––but none of us were nearly as effective at gaining cooperation as Katie’s mom! I smiled and mentioned to her that as a retired Kindergarten teacher I was really impressed with her “No thank you” procedure and wished that I had thought to teach such a procedure myself.

I explained that each year I would regularly incorporate cooking into my Kindergarten lessons, whenever it might enhance the curriculum in some way:  our own homemade pumpkin pudding at Halloween time, pea soup when we were learning the nursery rhyme, “Pease Porridge Hot,” or a plate of cut-up raw vegetables to sample during a spring gardening theme.

She agreed that it was a very good procedure but said she couldn’t take credit for it because she hadn’t invented it herself.  She had learned it from a radio show when Katie was a toddler.  With a pleasant goodbye, we parted ways.

That night I did a Google search.  I could hardly believe it when I found pages and pages of links––people sharing and expounding on the effectiveness of this one little procedure!  Can you believe it?  I’d say that the “No thank you bite” procedure is a winner!

Just as an aside, I noticed that on some blogs this procedure is referred to as a “rule.” Knowing what I’ve learned from Dr. Marshall and Discipline without Stress about the problems with rules, it doesn’t seem surprising that people who come at this procedure from a “rules mentality” tend to explain that it doesn’t really work for them.


Maybe they might be interested in reading:

“Rules vs. procedures — Isn’t this just a matter of semantics?”

Rules vs. procedures – An article by Dr. Marshall

Rules vs. expectations – An article by Dr. Marshall