Tips for Peaceful Family Mealtimes
Never force your child to eat or clean their plate, bargain, punish, threaten, reward, coax, negotiate, or strongly encourage your child to eat. By doing this, you are setting yourself up for a show down with your child and making extra work for yourself.
Ignore refusals, tantrums, and their attempts to bargain. By giving your child attention, they will continue this behavior. Stop talking about what or how much your child eats both at and away from the table. The less focus and pressure you put on your child the better. Instead, eat together as often as possible, talk about the qualities of foods, and model adventurous eating.
Routines with clear beginning and end of meals help your child know when to eat and how long they have to eat. Predictability and consistency are key.
Involve your child with picking out foods at the grocery store, preparing, cooking, bringing foods to the table, serving themselves, and feeding themselves. By exposing your child to the texture, temperature, and smells of new foods, they will be more comfortable trying them.
Roles of a parent and child around food need to be consistent and clear:
- The parent chooses when, what, where, and how long food is served.
- The child chooses if and how much they eat.
Limit snacks and juice between meals. If your child comes to the table hungry, they will be more likely to eat.
Dessert is NOT a reward for eating. Limit treats to once a day, preferably with a meal, and be sure to offer no more than one serving. Fruit can be a great dessert!
Written by: Amanda Michel, MLD, OTR/L
Senior Occupational Therapist and Feeding Specialist at Sensational Achievements
Want to learn more ways to help your picky eater?
Join Amanda at the Stamford JCC on December 13th, 2016, 7 -8:30PM to learn the difference between normal and picky eaters. She will share simple strategies that will give you the tools to help your child explore and try new foods while avoiding those mealtime power struggles. Contact Liza Fahey to register for the December talk by calling 203-487-0946 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.