Has your child turned family mealtime into a family nightmare? Are dinners a perpetual struggle? Do you make five meals before your child settles on the same old reliable? Do you have back up plans in case dinner isn’t a hit? You can make meals easier in your house by adopting a few basic rules. But first parents need to understand some background about children and their appetites.
Children fool us in the first year of life that they will always be good eaters. During that first year kids grow rapidly and have an appetite that matches their rapid growth. We, as parents, get lulled into the idea that their good appetite in the first year is our success. This sets us up for frustration as nature slows down our children’s growth in the second year, and their appetites drop accordingly. They simply do not need to eat as much after their first year in order to continue normal growth.
Unfortunately, many parents live with the cultural myth that says being a good parent means your child eats. Operating under this myth we help our kids play games around food and eating. They can hold out for their 4 or 5 favorite foods because they know you are worried about how much they eat and know that you will eventually come around to a food they like. In other words, they select their diet by refusing the diet you offer.
Parents need to operate under a new paradigm. Being a good parent means that you offer only a balanced diet no matter whether they eat or not. Children should not choose their diets. Children will choose to eat good foods over starving themselves. In fact children do not starve themselves even as we worry that they will. They just look like they will while they hold out for what they want.
If parents learn to present meals to their children under a new set of rules, family meal stress will decrease dramatically.
Don’t allow children to push your buttons over meals. Believe in the fact that they do not starve themselves.
You are in charge of choosing their diet.
They are in charge of eating from the presented food or not. Eventually they will choose to eat from the good diet you are presenting. Check out the new food pyramid, and keep the good diet coming.
Get junky foods out of the house and keep them out.
Don’t make your child eat.
Don’t make them sit in front of their meal incessantly.
Don’t give them cereal before bedtime.
Don’t punish over food.
Don’t let food and feeding be so important to you. Presenting a good diet is the only important responsibility in managing your child’s diet.
You can close your kitchen anytime you want. A good time for this is when dinner has been cleared.
When parents start to recognize what they have control over, (the diet selection) and what they don’t have control over (how much is eaten) then dinner time can become the peaceful time it should be.