End Mealtime Battles with Children for Good: Part One of Three
It’s supper time, and it’s a drag.
This is a reality that almost all families deal with at some point. Even the most varied and daring of eaters, can suddenly refuse everything. The opposite can happen too though, so here are some great tips with regard to getting everyone back on track, and enjoying meals as a family, rather than dreading them.
You may not get everyone eating as much as you’d like or what you’d like them to eat, but you can absolutely make meals more pleasant and less of a battle field!
Below are some of the important things to avoid; in the following upcoming column, I will discuss some great techniques to implement instead, so stay tuned!
Firstly, it really is very important to avoid labeling or inadvertently labeling your child (especially when children are within earshot) to others. When you determine out loud that they are “picky eaters” or things like “he won’t eat that” and “she doesn’t like that”, your child assumes that to be fact, and decides they are indeed, a picky eater, so they’re going to act like one.
I like to call this leading the witness, because when children overhear this they believe it to be true and sometimes, true for life. So a 3-year-old that hears their Mom say to their Aunt “She hates bananas; she refuses to eat them.”, will very likely believe she hates them and refuse to try them for many years, when instead, it may just have been a few month phase.
Equally as important as avoiding labeling, is to let your older children and other members of your family know that it’s detrimental to orally or outwardly demonstrate distaste for foods, at the family table. This will help ensure that a sibling, parent, or another family member is not teaching your younger child that certain foods are to be automatically disliked, when your child might very well have loved them!
Our nine-year-old can’t stand peas, but in general is fantastic with being open-minded about food and will try almost anything, so we don’t force the subject. However, our almost three-year-old overheard her tell that to Grandma while on vacation, and guess who else now won’t eat peas? Even though he was eating them happily, until that very day!
As in all other things, young children are sponges. The moment they see your six-year-old turn up his nose and hear him say she can’t stand oranges…well you can imagine what your younger child will say the next time she is offered one. This is a good thing to nip in the bud, as soon as you begin food introduction. It’s also an excellent way to know for sure what your child truly dislikes, as opposed to something he or she has been influenced on.
Lastly, remove any bribing, coaxing, or threatening from your bag of tricks, at the table. These techniques may work momentarily, but rarely in the long run. Bribing, etc., can indicate to your child that you feel they are incapable of making food choices on their own, which is simply not true. We want to demonstrate the opposite to them, with our support. We need to let them know that we have faith in them to make good decisions. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see just how often they do this, when given the chance!
Our goal really should be to help our children develop a healthy attitude towards food, and force feeding them through bribes or threats may get a bite or two into them, but it really does not assist in creating stress free mealtimes, because you are spending the entire time coaxing, bribing, and threatening.
Spending every mealtime with your sole attention focused on trying to get one child to eat something, takes away from what a family meal should be – relaxing and fun. It really is one of the best times of the day to make great conversation and great memories, with your kids.
Enjoy & Live Well.