Saturday, August 19, 2006

Say "No" to Mealtime Battles with Your Child

Are you stressed out with your child's eating antics? Every parent has this ideal that their young child will learn to obediently sit down at the table during mealtimes and independently feed themselves. They will not complain about what you put on their plate, finish their food (even the vegetables) without fidgeting and they'll do it without any mess.

If your child falls short of this ideal, don't fret. It is only normal for a child to eat like a child. It takes time (even years) and lots of practice and reminders before they learn how to eat like an adult. So, how does a child eat? It is very likely they will display one or more of the following:

1. Picky with their food or refusal to eat.

2. Insist on being fed.

3. Keep the food in the mouth for long periods of time before swallowing. "Are you done yet?" is your mantra.

4. Squirm when sitting at the table. Cannot sit long or scream when put in the chair.

5. Prefer to walk around and play while eating. They end up taking about an hour or more to finish their meal because of the distractions. You chase them around trying to get a spoonful in their mouth and constantly remind them to "eat their food."

6. Makes a mess. There is more food on the ground and table than what goes in their mouth.

Fighting these antics and losing the battle most of the time is what makes an irritated, angry, disgruntled, exhausted but worried parent. What to do? It's time to change the battle strategies. The first thing you have to give up is the idea that your child will starve or be malnourished if they don't eat exactly what you give them and finish how much you give them. They won't! If you can do this, half your battle is won.

Here are a few things to understand in your attempt to improve mealtimes:

1. After a child's first year, their growth rate slows down. And with that, their appetite drops as well. Therefore they may not eat as much as you expect. Trust that they know when they are full. Do not harass them to clean their plate or you will teach them to associate eating with hunger instead of eating to please you.

2. Refusing to eat, picking at food or eating the same kind of food repeatedly is usually just a phase they go through. Even adults have certain dislikes for certain foods. Provide a variety of foods but give them the freedom to like or dislike. Respect their developing individuality. You could also take up the challenge of learning to prepare certain kinds of food in various ways i.e. steamed carrots, carrot dip, and carrots in quiche, carrot muffins or carrot in soup.

3. Serving small amounts frequently is actually better for them because their intake is very small. If they can't finish a meal, it's ok to save it for later. Even better is to give them small servings in the first place. They can ask for more if they want to. Allowing them to succeed in finishing their food will make them feel good about eating.

4. How long children can sit at a table depends on their activity level and age. Adjust your expectations accordingly. If you child is under three, you can expect more than a couple of minutes of compliance. Increase the time as they get older. Alternatively, you could prepare a "special" kiddy table with "special" kiddy ware.

5. There's definitely going to be a mess. That's just how it is with kids. So instead of grousing over it, prepare for it.

6. Children can spot hypocrites a mile away. Live what you preach. If you want your children to sit at the table for meals, don't allow dad to sit in front of the television with his food.

Mealtime rules should be part of your arsenal. The rules are not so much for your child's benefit, but rather to maintain your sanity. You don't have to play the sacrificial hero and then resent your children for it. Children are happier when the parent is happy. Here are some rules for your children to live by:

1. If you do not like what is on the table, here are your choices: prepare something else yourself but clean up the mess (obviously for older kids), wait till I'm free to prepare your request (but it must be something simple), or wait till the next meal. Can you imagine a mother who has 8 children and every one wants something different?

2. Everything has its time and place. When it's time to eat, you eat. When it's time to play, you play. If you decide to eat and play, you can feed yourself. If you insist that I feed you, I will not chase around after you. The food stays in one place. You want to eat; you come to the food instead of vice versa.

3. A reasonable amount of time will be given to finish the food. If you take too long to finish because of distraction or disinterest, the food will be taken away.

4. If you don't like what I put on your plate, you can select them yourself. But you must eat up what you select.

5. I will not bribe, threaten or offer rewards for eating. Decision to eat is yours.

Take note that your mealtime problems with your child could be the result of a feeding disorder. If you are really worried, do check it out with a physician.

Mealtimes do not have to turn into a battleground of power struggles. With the right understanding, right attitude and reasonable expectations, you will live out this challenge and soon the battles will be over.


child's eating actics

Share on: facebook

No comments: