It’s not always about the food! I had just taken a big bite of my meal when my 3 year old niece asked me a question. I put my finger in front of my mouth to signal that I needed a moment to chew my food. She gave me a confused look and immediately asked why I was telling her to be quiet. Once I finished my food, I explained I couldn’t answer her question until I was done chewing. I put my finger in front of my mouth to let her know that I would answer her question in just a moment (not to tell her to be quiet). We carried on with dinner, and about five minutes later she asked everyone at the table to say her name. As soon as we said ‘Kailyn‘ she took a bite of food and put her finger over her mouth to let us know that she was chewing! Of course this made us all laugh, but it also made me think about family mealtime. For families with toddlers, mealtime can be a stressful event. Aside from making sure your child stays seated for an entire 15 minutes, there are other concerns that preoccupy mealtime. I know many parents worry about their child’s diet (are they eating enough veggies, fruits, and getting the nutrients they need)? These are valid concerns, however, sometimes these concerns can dominate the family meal, making it unpleasant for everybody. So what to do?
1. Take the focus off of food. Rather than beg and plead that your child eats more veggies, focus on non-food related events. For example, talk about what you did that day, or ask questions (my niece love’s to know your favorite color and then she tries to find that color in the kitchen or on her plate)
2. Praise your child Rather than focusing on what your child is not doing at mealtime, focus on the positives. For example, praise them for sitting for the entire meal, using a napkin, or saying thank you.
3. Enjoy yourself. If your child sees you enjoying mealtime, savoring your food, and displaying a positive attitude, he/she will soon associate family mealtime as a joyous event, not one to be dreaded. In the meantime, take a deep breath and acknowledge that even if your child doesn’t share your love for broccoli, he/she might have a knack for mimicking your excellent table manners.
For more information on how to cope with a picky eater, please visit: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childrens-health/HQ01107