There’s nothing like sitting down to a warm family dinner that you’ve carefully prepared, gazing at God’s blessings around your table, to hear those precious words from your child regarding the steaming plate before him: “I don’t want any of that!”

Now, I have tried many ways to rephrase this in my children’s mouths, before I hopefully stop it altogether: “That’s not really my thing.” “No, thank you.” But even when it comes out a little sweeter, I face some realities.

• My children won’t need to completely clean their plates every night because I want them to understand when their bodies are hungry––or not.

• However, it would not be acceptable at a guest’s home to turn up their noses at someone’s labor, nor is it acceptable at mine.

• There are literally millions of children around the world who will eat nothing for dinner on any given night, and my remarkably blessed children have a balanced, varied meal before them.

• I am teaching them principles about life––for example: Show gratitude and courtesy in whatever circumstance.

• Many things that look repulsive to them will be things they actually like.

• Sometimes we need to get over ourselves to show love to another.

• We can grow to like things.

• We need to think about things other than our own appetites.

I will not be a short-order chef for my three children. Children who will only eat three dishes will not control my family’s menu. Trust me, my kids are not starving.

Communicating these realities to my preschoolers and toddler, somehow, is much more challenging. They don’t really seem to care about the kids in Africa that much yet, and they care about my time in the kitchen just about the same.

So we’ve resorted to the plastic wrap technique: “If you don’t eat it now, you’ll eat this before you have something before the next meal.” We also include, “You need to try as many bites as you are old and remain at the table for the meal. And you will need to be nice about it.”

I still have to brace myself for meals, and though I want to expand their palates a little, my kids don’t need to try Liver Pâté with Sautéed Jalapeños and Cod just yet. (I know what you’re thinking, You’re kids’ manners are not the problem, Janel. And no, that is not a real dish!) But hopefully our rules will have some effect on dinner.

I welcome any of your tried-and-true picky eater solutions!