Mealtime can be frustrating, especially with toddlers. Whether they refuse to eat or act just like a crazy child, it can really get to you as a parent. We are primarily talking about dinner, but certainly it can apply to other meals. I can’t tell you that I have this one totally figured out and my children are now 8 and 10. Granted things are much easier and smoother now but I do think it was many years of battles.
Here are a few things that seemed to have help us with reducing the mealtime battles. I didn’t say eliminate but it can reduce them:
1) Get the kids involved in the cooking – It seems when they helped cook it, they were more interested to eat it.
2) Don’t force the food – If they are not hungry, allow them to skip it. But when they do get hungry, they should be eating what was there before. Don’t get soft or forget and give them snacks. They will use this technique if they know they can then get a snack later.
3) Be sure not to ruin the meal beforehand – Make sure they come to table hungry. If you give them drink or food too close to meal that you really want to have, you might ruin it yourself.
4) Expect that a child 2-6 is probably going to have some difficulty sitting still for a meal. They should still eat in a designated place every time so it become routine, ideally the dinner table
5) You are not a short order cook – You can say “This is what’s for dinner”. If it’s possible try to eliminate substitutes so they get used to eating what is expected. Each family member doesn’t get a separate meal.
6) Pressure and yelling won’t work – You don’t want you child to have anxiety around food.
7) Don’t take it personally – Your child is not battling you to get at you. They are arguing because they are a toddler.
8) Turn off all screens and distractions – No computers or TV during mealtime.