Updated: Feb 6
Meal times can be stressful! With your busy evenings, all you want is for your children to eat a healthy meal, get the dishes cleaned and enjoy the evening together. For many parent’s, mealtime is full of bribes and threats; “One more bite” or “If you eat your entire plate of food, we can watch a movie together”. Maybe you have a pre-schooler who constantly demands another meal because they do not want what you put on the table.
So what can you avoid?
Let’s first focus on some of the things that would be beneficial to avoid!
· Forcing or bribing your child to eat a certain amount
· Labelling your child a picky eater
· Offering dessert as a reward for eating or as a punishment for not eating.
· Being a short- order cook and preparing them whatever they want
Below are a few tips and tricks to try with your little ones if you are struggling to get them to eat!
Tip #1- BE AWARE OF EXPECTING YOUR CHILD TO EAT TOO MUCH: Of course you want your child to eat as much as possible so that their bellies are full, however, be aware that each child’s age (according to your health service’s food guide), has a set of recommendations about proportions that are age appropriate. Look into this! You might be surprised.
Tip #2- DON’T BUY IT IF YOU DON’T WANT THEM TO EAT IT: If you don’t want your child to eat it, avoid bringing it into your home or have it in a place that they won’t see it.
Tip #3- INVOLVE THEM IN THE PREPARATION: Allowing your child to take part in age appropriate responsibilities such as stirring and adding ingredients can make them feel a sense of pride in preparing the food and it could interest them in eating it. The more positive experiences around eating, the more they will generally want to eat. Make it extra fun by taking your child shopping and he or she can pick out the ingredients on the list!
Tip #4- ENGAGE WITH YOUR CHILD DURING MEALTIMES: For example; describe the taste of the asparagus and comment on how crunchy they are because you baked them longer in the oven. Make it even more fun by saying something like “So this time, I better not hear any monsters crunching on all of the broccoli”. Using what your child is interested in (superman etc), to state an opposing sentence. Since children do exactly the opposite of what we say, you will find this tool to be very beneficial. Simply add some silliness and laughter to your meal times to make the experience more enjoyable for your child.
Tip #5- ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR FEELINGS: Say something like “I know you usually eat beef, but maybe you are just not in the mood to eat it today”. As adults, we can experience this as well! State some other choices that are already made and prepared and let your child know that if they change their mind, the food will be there for them when they are ready.
Tip #6- OFFER AS MANY CHOICES AS POSSIBLE: Taking the time to let your child serve themselves with smaller utensils or a small milk jug for example, will help your child feel in control of what they are eating. Allowing them to have this simple choice will get them more involved in meal times. You can serve the prepared dishes as separates so that they can choose what they would like on their plate.
Tip #7- CELEBRATE ACHIEVEMENTS: If your child tried a new food, verbally praise them by saying something like “It was so nice to see you try that carrot, did you think it was yummy and crunchy?”
Tip #8- EDUCATE YOUR CHILD: Have conversations about how certain foods can be good for your body. For example; if you say to your child, “Green vegetables give you energy which allows you to run around and have fun”
I hope you find these quick tips to be useful in your own household!
You can book a consultation with me and we can work through this together by addressing your unique families needs. Please visit my 'Behaviour Services' page for more info on pricing or you can contact me to book a free 15 minute call. Wishing you and your family happy mealtimes!