I know for a fact that all parents have heard this. If you haven’t, please, SHARE YOUR SECRETS!
When it comes down to the bare bones of eating, primal instincts, it is about nutrition. As human beings we all have a natural, primal, instinct to eat, and if someone is feeding us we regard them as the most important person in our lives because we need them to survive.
As parents, it is your role and responsibility to feed your children. It is your choice of what is important for your child or children to have each and every day as nutrition to sustain them and help them grow. Your children are naturally even more respectful of you because you are the hand that feeds them.
Now lets start from the beginning.
When your child is starting to grow old enough that they do not need a high chair or booster seat, you and your partner need to decide where are places that your child is expected to eat. Do you want you child to eat their dinner at the coffee table? At a craft table? The dinner table? The island or counter seat? So many choices, yet this is key to making sure your child knows their boundaries when it comes to food. With your partner discuss where you expect your child to sit for every meal, even if it is different places for certain meals. Once you have decided on a spot, you need to stick to the routine as these little human beings are creatures of habit and need this routine to stay regulated. If there is a night or day where your child is sitting somewhere different, make it a huge deal and explicitly tell them it is a special treat (even if it isn’t and you just want the kitchen to yourself).
There are many different studies that show different results when it comes to feeding your children and how much say they have in it. The one study I have seen, used, and have had success with is a family meal. These are extremely important for many reasons. I understand that it is nearly impossible sometimes to have everyone sit down for dinner, but here are the reasons why it is key to have a family dinner daily;
- Your child will be eating the same food that you are eating, which will make your child more motivated to eat it.
- This will be the only option for food. Once you start presenting other options other than what has been made, you will be making 5 dinners a night instead of one.
- This will give your child the appropriate socialization skills they need to grow up with. Studies show that families who sit down at the end of their day and share a meal are more likely to bond, and have strong family values.
If every one is sitting down to a meal together there is no need for your child to be wandering around and trying to see what everyone else is doing. If everyone is eating at the table the child will see how to appropriately use their utensils and learn proper table manners that your family expects. If everyone is eating the same thing, your child will not refuse to eat because they decided they wanted what someone else was having.
Remember when putting together a plate for a child, they do not have huge stomachs. It is best to give them the least amount you are comfortable giving and offer seconds or thirds if they are still hungry afterwards.
Here comes the hard part, you have been consistent, everyone is having the same meal, and your child refuses to eat the meal that you took so long to prepare or paid a lot of money for take out. Do not, I repeat, Do not argue. Arguing and frustration build to stress, and the last thing you want your child to do coming to the dinner table is to be stressed.
In the calmest voice that you can use, reason with the child and find the root of why they do not want to eat the meal that was prepared. If there is no reason, have them sit at the table until everyone else is done. When everyone else is done, and your child still did not eat their food, wrap it up and put it in the refrigerator and tell them it is in there for when they are ready to eat, however they may not have desert or any other snacks in its place.
Depending on how stubborn, emotional, or flexible your child is gives a variety of results. When you are doing this, you need to be mentally ready and strong to know that your child may choose to go to bed hungry. That is ok. Your child needs to understand the expectations, and if that is the route they choose, they won’t choose it often.
Hopefully these tips will help your dinners and evenings run more smoothly. If you are changing your routine to be more structured, stay strong and hold your ground. It will take at least three weeks for your child to get into the routine, and about one-two weeks for your child to take you seriously if you stay consistent.