What if the easy answer was as simple as… just stop. If only it was that easy, right? You get home from a long day of work, you rush to get food on the table only to be bombarded with whining and insults — Yuck, Gross, I DON’T want THAT! What could be more frustrating than all of that? Why would you put all this effort into a family dinner just to hear all this whining? Just this morning, I served bagels, cream cheese, blueberries, cheese, salami and water on the table. My daughter tried to barter for a different fruit, whine that she didn’t like the bagel, AND beg for OJ instead of water. Believe me, just because I do this for a living doesn’t mean I’m immune to what you are experiencing. The only difference is how I handle it. My response was simply, “No, I’m sorry but this is what I’m serving today.” She tested me a few more times with her semantics, but when she didn’t get a rise or her way she went on to eat half her bagel, house the blueberries and eat cheese and a piece of salami.
Raising our children to be good eaters requires us to address eating with trust and love. When we engage with our children about what is served or cater to what they want then the battles never get better or easier. It doesn’t mean your children will always look forward to coming to the table or battles won’t ensue, but we know children who enjoy meal time are more likely to – try new foods, behave, eat better and grow better.
One of the not-so-great things about feeding children is their age appropriate resistance and defiance around eating. Let’s see, the infamous phrases… “NO,” “I don’t like that,” I don’t want that,” “Yuck,” “Gross”. Oh, I could go on and on. It’s helpful for you to understand the resistance you are meeting are age-appropriate developmental milestones. For example, the Toddler developmentally is trying to master the Separation Individuation Phase. During this phase they are beginning to understand themselves as separate from you. They are developing the concept of control and looking for autonomy. If you understand them saying “no” is just an exercise of separation individualization rather than trying to get under your skin, it can help you relax and stay calm. The more you can relax and keep calm during the meal times, even with the resistance, the more confident they will become with eating and doing a good job. They really do want you to set limits with them and they are asking for it.
When I work with parents and children, I work on first making meal time pleasant.
Making meal time pleasant doesn’t mean eating all your veggies. Children know what and how much they need. When you interfere with their eating or prompt them you are doing their job. Saying things like drink your milk, take one more bite, you can’t have a cookie until you eat your broccoli all interfere with your children doing their job…eating.
So they next time you are at your wits end with feeding your children, just stop the battle. Do your job by serving a variety of food on the table and let them do their job by picking and choosing what to eat from what you have served. Keep in mind, trust them to do a good job and they will!