Stop The Endless Food Power Struggles!
Tips To Avoid Food Fights With Your Children
Power struggles over food can start very early. One mom I talked to said:
"My baby doesn't really like solid foods, so I have to force the spoon into her mouth."
This is much more common than you might think.
Well, it's easy when you're not in this mother's situation to understand that this is not the way to create positive eating habits.
But if you've had a very picky child, it is also easy to understand this mom's desperation and frustration. And maybe worry over that the baby does not get the nutrition she needs.
Power struggles at the meals can really be endless unless you take control over this situation. And by taking control I do not mean forcing your child to eat.
Below you'll find some tips to avoid fighting with your kids at meal time.
Checklist To Avoid Power Struggles At Meals
Let the meal take its time.
Time is important. Allocate enough time for the meal so that both you and your child can eat without stress.
Where to sit
Make sure your child sits well.
To have a stead chair, a high chair for babies, is important. If your baby can hardly see the food or if you keep worrying that he will fall off the chair, your meal will be disturbed and your child will be distracted.
Also, as young children tend to love routines, having their own place to sit is good.
Avoid things that can distract your child, such as toys and the TV. Take away all toys and turn the TV off. Make up your mind that the meals are for eating and communicating. Not for playing. Otherwise you'll soon be engaged in power struggles over which program to watch or who can play with a certain toy.
Encourage, don't forceEncourage our child to try new foods, but never force him.
Children generally learn to like food that they eat often. If your child is not given the opportunity to try different tastes during his fist two years of living, the risk is higher that he will be pickier later on.
The first reaction a child of any age usually has is "I don't like this".
Babies frown and spit. And then sometimes they gape for more.
Older children might even refuse to taste anything new. Completely sure that it will taste awful.
Try to make new foods interesting and be content even if your child only tastes a tiny little piece on his finger the first time.
And don't force him ever!
If you're just about to start with solid food for your baby,
A fun conversation
Talk about nice things, not about problems, especially the childrens' problems. Talking about awkward things doesn't help the appetite.
Your child will feel uncomfortable, will loose his appetite, and soon the power struggle is about to start.
Adjust your child's cutlery to his level of development. For babies younger than 12 to 15 months it is often the easiest to let them use their hands. Or of course a spoon if they want to.
Having their own plate and cutlery can also be good for these young routine lovers.
Later on, the opposite is often true. Being allowed to use the same plates, glasses and cutlery as the adults do, can really make a 2-year-old want to eat more.
What to serve
Make a responsible choice on what food and drinks you serve. With responsible I don't only mean healthy. but also to include at least one type of food in the meal that you know that your child will like.
If everything is new or something your baby does not like, he will not be able to become full and have a pleasant experience.
It is also much easier for your child to dare to taste something new if it is combined with something he really likes.
The child's choice
Let your child decide if he is hungry and how much he wants to eat.
This is a great way to avoid power struggles and it is also one of the hardest rules to follow as a parent.
Children don't starve themselves. If your child eats nothing at one meal, he'll compensate it at another.
And no forcing of the spoon into a baby's mouth!
Remember, when breastfeeding (if you did or do that), you really have no clue how much your baby eats. Continue to let your baby decide how much food is enough.
Praise and consolation
It is very common to praise a child for eating or to use something sweet for example for consolation and distraction when a kid is sad.
Don't do any of this!
Eating is and should be very natural. A healthy child will eat just enough if he's allowed to decide for himself.
Don't teach your child to console himself by eating. And don't teach your child to go against his sense of whether he is hungry or not by praising him for finishing the plate.
Eating together is much nicer than eating alone. Studies have shown that children that don't eat together with adults tend to be pickier with what they want to eat.
Serving the food
Serve the food in a nice way. Children often like colorful napkins and nicely set tables. Also use your fantasy to create spaghetti hair, cucumber stars, happy sauce mouths on the plate etc. A great way to make your child want to eat the food.
Power struggles over food are more common for toddlers than babies. Still, starting early with trying to implement good routines for nice meals will be of great help now and later.
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Reference: Inspired by an excellent article in Mjolkspegeln no 4/2002
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