Overcome Mealtime Challenges With Kids

It is not uncommon for parents to struggle with the types of foods their children want to eat, how much they do or don’t eat, and how they act during mealtime. Positive mealtime habits can be created that will help minimize battles over food if the following tips are used.

Finicky eating habits and behavior issues can arise during mealtimes, especially for young children. Out of frustration parents might demand that their children sit at the table and clean their plates, changing mealtime into a battle of wills. In these situations parents need to take a deep breath and try to look at mealtime from another perspective.

Parents should provide healthy meals and snacks at predictable and consistent times for their children. If a child has been eating healthy foods throughout the day and comes to the dinner table and refuses to eat, it might truly be that the child is not hungry at that point, and therefore should not be forced to eat. On the other hand, children will sometimes claim they are not hungry because they do not like what is being served. Parents can encourage children to just try with one taste of each food item, and then allow them to not eat if that is their choice. It is important then for the parent to follow through and either not allow the child to eat again until the next meal time, or to save the dinner plate and serve that food again when the child is hungry.

It can be challenging for parents to allow their children to refuse to eat the food served and not clean their plates, but children will not intentionally starve themselves when regularly offered healthy foods. Parents might find that their children are consistently refusing to eat supper, so removing the afternoon snack from the schedule or adjusting the mealtime ahead by an hour or so could help adjust things enough so that the children come to the dinner table ready to eat the food provided.

Just as it is important for parents to allow their children to determine when they are hungry and to listen to their own bodies, it is also valuable for parents to teach table manners and etiquette. There will be times when families do not have the luxury of serving a meal around the taste buds or hunger timetable of a young child. Parents can teach children to try small amounts without forcing complete servings upon them. It is also a good idea to make sure that the child understands that when it is mealtime, even if they claim they are not hungry, that it is not all right to whine, complain about the food being served, or simply leave the table. Children can be asked to sit politely while the others at the table eat their meals, perhaps even just 5 minutes for very young children.

Some children learn early on that food and mealtimes can be causes for battles over control. Parents should avoid these battles as much as possible and help create positive mealtime habits. The most important points to remember are to serve healthy food options from all food groups and establish consistent mealtimes. Encouraging children to help plan menus, create placemats, or even prepare the meals can also benefit the situation and relieve some of the mealtime tension.

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