Mealtime battles are just all too familiar, and it’s not like they can actually go without the food – they have to eat. But there are ways to solve the problem that don’t end up in a full-scale confrontation.
The problem with confrontations is that no one wins, even when it looks like there’s a winner and a loser. If you’re successful in forcing your child to eat, the process of resentment has begun. That will backfire in all sorts of different ways, including the next mealtime. So no winner there.
If, on the other hand, you give in and either allow your child to eat whenever they want, or eat whatever they want, they have the upper hand in that situation. And no one ever wants a tot to realise they have control!
But there is another way, and it doesn’t involve complex behavioural understanding or expensive chef-cooked meals. It just requires a different way of going about feeding a fussy eater.
So image the scene – it’s mealtime and you tell your little one it’s time to eat. You plonk them in their chair and serve up the food. But no deal, they’re not eating. What do you do? Try the magical 5 words:
You don’t have to eat.
Why force it? Do something else instead, but don’t remove your little treasure from the table or highchair. Read a book, play a little game, anything you can think of. Keep the food there too. Chances are, some food will be eaten in the process. Be sneaky and float a little spoon of food in as you’re both talking and playing. But the main thing is, mealtime is always at the same time, and it always happens in the same place.
Another important factor is in having clearly defines roles. Let it be your role that you decide what the meal is, and when it’s served. The child doesn’t get to choose their food – you do. And if you always include a couple of item which are nutritious and you know they like, some goodness will always go in.
But should you have a really fussy eater to contend with, there will inevitably be situations when no food is eaten at all, and that doesn’t leave you with a good feeling. In that event, all the above still applies, with one addition. Throughout the day, attempt to give your tot some healthy snacks. At least something good has been eaten, and that will certainly reduce your anxiety if mealtimes come and go with nothing eaten at all.
If you combine this strategy with the mealtime suggestion mentioned earlier, it may be that a new routine emerges, and you discover a tot that looks forward to her food, rather than the grumpy, spluttering monster who sprayed lentil soup around the room last time!
And of course, it goes without saying that food and nutrition for your little one is a very serious topic. Any big concerns should always be raised with your doctor. There’s always plenty of help and support out there, whenever you need it.