By: Jodie Shield, RD
Are you tired of your toddler dropping food all over the floor? Do you feel like you have to beg your first-grader to eat? Why won’t your teen talk during dinner? You’re not alone! Many parents are frustrated with the way their children behave during meals. I know some of you have told me that after a long day your patience is shot; the last thing you want to do at dinner is fight with your son or daughter. Well take a deep breath. Believe it or not, all kids go through some sort of odd or annoying eating behavior as they grow up. Here’s some advice from one of the most popular chapters in my new book Healthy Eating, Healthy Weight for Kids and Teens – Come Together: The Magic of Family Meals. Keep in mind, as children develop, their eating behavior evolves, too. If you’re aware of the various stages of child development, you can help make family mealtime a positive experience for everyone. Here’s what to expect when kids join you at the dinner table.
- Are messy eaters just learning to use forks and spoons. Parents need to be ready to wipe up spills.
- Do best with finger foods.
- Eat only one to two tablespoons of food at a time. Appetites go up and down during the day. parents do not need to worry.
- Say “no” to new foods. When parents ignore the “no” and just eat and enjoy the food, the toddler will begin to eat and enjoy it, too.
- Need a quiet time before meals to calm down.
- Learn new words from mealtime conversation.
- Are curious and ask “why.”
- Like to help mix or stir food, make sandwiches, or clean fruits and vegetables.
- Like to eat foods they helped prepare.
- Eat best when surrounded by pleasant conversation.
6- to 12-Year-Olds:
- Generally eat well.
- Are cooperative.
- Can carry on a conversation.
- Are more willing to try new foods.
- Tend to want the foods they see advertised on TV.
- Enjoy cooking and eating simple foods they make.
- Are learning how to be an adult and are trying different behaviors.
- Are able to handle some responsibility for preparing meals.
- Are prone to big swings in mood and eating jags.
- Eat foods eating by friends.
- Need to have adults listen and talk with them.
- May complain about family mealtimes, but still need adult conservation and family meals.
Now that you know what to expect, hopefully your family meals will be more enjoyable. What are some of your secrets for getting your kids to behave better at meals?