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A Parent’s Guide To Happier Mealtimes

Team StoryWeavers|June 21, 2022, 17:53 IST|

fussy eaters

Mealtime can be a tricky, stressful affair for the parents of young children. The battle against food is real! Most children are picky and fussy about what they eat. Almost all parents worry about their child getting adequate nourishment to support their growth. 

In this article, we will cover tips to help you deal with your fussy eater. 

Tips To Make Mealtimes Happier

A book by Thomas M. Reimers PhD, Help! There’s a Toddler in the House! mentions a couple of simple tips that will make mealtimes a little less stressful. Thomas Reimers is a Director of Behavioural Health Clinic at the non-profit organization Boys Town. 

  • Set a minimum time that the child needs to spend at the dinner table. This rule applies even when the child is not hungry. It has a major benefit in that it motivates the child to eat as the child needs to be at the dinner table anyway. Set a reasonable minimum time such as 12 to 15 minutes. 
  • Removing distractions during mealtimes may help your child focus on the task at hand — eating. It might be tempting to switch on a television or give a toy, but it may turn into a habit quickly. It also eliminates the conversations at the dinner table. 
  • The power of praise is underestimated. Praising the child for all the good behaviour such as using a spoon and fork correctly, chewing with the mouth closed, washing hands before and after eating, will help the child feel more positive about food and mealtimes in general. 
  • Do not allow the child to play with food. Throwing, spilling should be avoided at the dinner table, and it needs to be corrected. You can say something like — ‘Food is not for playing. I think you have finished eating. I am going to take it away.’
  • Most parents put too much food on the child’s plate, and it gets overwhelming for the child. Limit your portion sizes. If the child is hungry, serve more food in smaller portions. 
  • Start being role models at the dinner table. There are adults who are picky, fussy eaters. If you as parents are unwilling to try certain food items, it is unfair to expect children to eat them willingly. Avoid negative comments about food when children are around. 

Mealtime Guidelines For Parents

Here are some general guidelines for parents to follow when it comes to mealtimes. A book by Ellyn Satter, How to Get Your Kid to Eat But Not Too Much, lists guidelines for parents to follow when it comes to their child’s eating habits. Ellyn is an authority on eating and feeding and has a long career of 30 years transforming people’s attitudes towards eating. 

Here are some things parents are responsible for during mealtimes. 

  • Selecting and buying food for the family
  • Making meals and serving them
  • Scheduling meal times such as breakfast at 9 am and dinner at 8 pm
  • Allowing eating methods the child can master such as using fingers, spoon, fork, knife, etc. 
  • Helping the child participate in family meals such as setting the table with plates and glasses
  • Making mealtimes pleasant and ensuring appropriate behaviour at the dinner table

Here are some things parents are not responsible for during mealtimes. 

  • How much a child eats 
  • If the child eats 
  • How the child’s body turns out

This ensures that the child is not force-fed or made to feel bad about their body as a result of comments such as — ‘She’s so skinny,’ ‘He’s getting fatter,’ ‘She only ate one slice of bread this morning.’ 

Parents play a crucial role in developing the child’s habits. Encourage the child to take control of their eating habits. Help them eat better by keeping a variety of food items accessible to them. The rule of thumb is to keep more of what you want them to eat and remove what you want them to avoid eating. Remember that pressurizing or bribing children to eat will not help them become healthy eaters. 

When confused or worried, it is always better to speak to the child’s paediatrician. 

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Also read, 

  1. How To Tame A Tantrum In 4 Easy Steps
  2. Meditation Doesn’t Have To Be Hard. Try Finger Breathing!

About the Author

“Me-kha-la!” That happens at least once when she introduces herself to new people. She wholeheartedly believes in the quote by Arthur Rubinstein that says – “if you love life, life will love you back”. She is an organizational psychologist and psychometrician. She was a class teacher of 36 adorable girls for two years, grades 2 & 3, as a part of the Teach For India Fellowship. These little girls have a special place in her heart, and when she writes for children, she writes for them!

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