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My 14 year old stepgranddaughter orders the most expensive item on restaurant menu and then won't eat it. She always has an excuse... my stomach hurts, my head hurts, etc. won't ever put her cell phone down.

I buy her gifts for birthdays, Christmas, gifts brought back from vacation and she never thanks us. I have quit buying gifts for any occasion but the restaurant is driving us crazy. It isn't cheap to buy dinner out for six people and her mother won't say a word about her ordering all the expensive food and not eating it. My son won't say anything either as she isn't his child. I guess we will have to quit taking them out for dinners as I cannot tolerate this 14 year old ungratefulness anymore.

If there is a next time I would like to say to her, "Jillian" your limit is $6.00 for food and if you aren't going to eat it, don't order it. But, I know that would create a horrid scene for my son and his wife. Does anyone have any suggestions for me please?

  • Is it possible she has an eating disorder? Making excuses to avoid eating is a warning sign. – user1751825 Mar 28 '16 at 6:46
  • @user1751825 - ordering the most expensive thing only brings attention to the not eating, where someone with an eating disorder tries to hide or disguise it. This seems to be more of a passive-aggressive thing, like she resents being dragged to family functions/dinners. Trying to ignore everyone in favor of the phone, while not completely abnormal, seems like another way of demonstrating that she doesn't want to be there, and ordering the expensive meals and then, especially, not eating, seems like a way to make herself a nuisance, so maybe she'll be left on her own, instead, eventually. – PoloHoleSet May 2 '17 at 19:52
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A confrontation about this needs to be done in a private setting, not in the restaurant. I can't think of any good reason to wait to spring it on her until she's ready to order -- as you've said, that would result in quite a scene. Sit down at home with your son, your daughter-in-law, and the granddaughter, and explain the problem as you see it: you love being able to treat your extended family to meals and love spending time with them in that setting, but it hurts you to see hard-earned money spent on wasted food.

Try to keep the conversation calm and focused. Don't get into broader issues of ingratitude, disrespectful behavior, too much time on the phone, speculating on the kid's upbringing before now... keep the topic on something that is potentially solvable: her behavior when eating out with extended family. You could suggest this is why you won't be eating out as a family, you could suggest that your son and daughter-in-law are now going to be financially responsible for their own family unit's plates and you'll just pay for yourself -- do whatever you're comfortable with.

After having this conversation, there are a few ways dinners might play out in future.

  1. The granddaughter changes her behavior, either willingly (out of guilt over being challenged, calmly and directly) or through parental intervention. Keep taking everyone out to dinner and enjoy the small victory.
  2. Your son and daughter-in-law see nothing wrong with the behavior and are offended that you've even brought it up. Don't argue or let things get heated (you don't want to burn all bridges with them over this), just calmly say you're sad that you won't be able to take them out to dinner as a family in future and change the subject.

    Every now and then, consider offering the idea of dinner as a group again as long as it isn't likely to set off the fight all over again. Time and perspective might help change their mind.

  3. Your son and daughter-in-law think it's a perfectly reasonable request and granddaughter agrees to eat what she orders (or at least not order steak and shrimp every time), but then when you get to the restaurant she plays the same game and doesn't eat her meal. At this point, don't bother saying anything: it's entirely up to her parents to enforce the new rule, and either they do (enjoy the small victory) or don't (calmly mention this the next time you extend an invitation to dinner).
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    Another possible option to offer is to continue taking them out to dinner but with the stipulation that the grandmother ONLY pays for the parents' bills. The granddaughter's bill is up to the parents. – user3143 Mar 28 '16 at 15:33
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    Good thought! Or the granddaughter's bill is up to the parents only if she doesn't touch the food -- bit of extra motivation for them to encourage better manners in their child... – Acire Mar 28 '16 at 16:03
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    I like your version even better! (and a nice bit of parenting towards the adult "children). One more option is to only take out adults without the grandraughter, if she's an only child. A bit of an evening relaxation from annoying teen may be appreciated far more than a meal itself :) – user3143 Mar 28 '16 at 16:11

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