Tips to End Mealtime Stress in Children
As your toddler transitions into a pre-schooler, a lot of confusion arises regarding feeding. Even though child is now very active, the rapid growth that your children experienced during the first year will slow down, and appetite may decrease accordingly resulting in mealtime stress in children. It’s possible that he or won’t want to stop what they are doing to eat because they’ll be so preoccupied with discovering new things in the environment, having fun with toys, and perfecting their newly acquired motor skills.
Due to the fact that children have a short attention span, it is unreasonable to anticipate that they will be able to sit at a table for a three-course meal (unless each course can be consumed in a matter of minutes!). Your children may also show less interest in food. The eating habits will appear erratic due to change in appetite, which tends to change daily; for example, child might have an “eating day” followed by several days in which the child appears to have less of an appetite. In addition, it is common for children in their second year to demonstrate their growing sense of autonomy through the use of food (or the refusal of food), particularly in the second year.
How To End Mealtime Stress In Children?
Accept the situation
You can’t make your child eat against their will; if you try, it will only end badly for everyone involved. The most effective way to handle a conflict that you have no chance of winning is to withdraw from it. This does not imply that one is conceding defeat; rather, it means recognizing that engaging in head-to-head combat is a waste of effort and will actually make the situation worse.
Understand your strengths
There is no point in competing with a children’s level of obstinacy because children hold the title of world champions in the category of stubbornness. Adults, on the other hand, have two advantages over children: superior mental capacity and the ability to see the bigger picture when it comes to food, the issue on which you will make the most progress if you keep your sights set on the final objective is (i.e., raising a healthy adult who makes good choices). And by calmly and consistently putting a strategic approach into action.
Identify their pay-off
Children have a tendency to engage in behaviours that garner their attention repeatedly (or some other reward). Suppose you allow yourself to become anxious and emotional during mealtimes. In that case, you run the risk of inadvertently rewarding them when they refuse to eat through big reactions and concentrated attention, even if the attention is negative. Or, when they don’t eat, perhaps you try to distract them by playing with them, making them laugh, and trying to keep them occupied so that you can sneak food into their mouths without them noticing. It’s possible that those enjoyable games and the lovely attention with a smile on them are a significant pay-off for behaviour that you’d rather they didn’t do! Or perhaps you worry so much when they haven’t eaten that you make them an entirely new meal, give them additional milk, pudding, or snacks, or make up something else for them to eat. Children are likely to repeat behaviours for which they receive a reward; therefore, it is important to identify and remove any rewards received for not eating.
Examine the facts
Is your child happy, healthy, growing, and hitting all of their developmental milestones? Do you have reasonable expectations regarding how much they should eat, how quickly they should eat, or how neatly they should eat? It’s possible that your kid isn’t hungry today. What would happen if you stopped fighting them to get every spoonful of food into their mouth? It’s possible that they won’t eat that meal at that particular time. But if the child skips lunch, they’ll end up snacking later on because they won’t have enough energy. You should therefore provide them with a nutritious snack to tide over, such as an apple or some grapes, and if the child is still hungry after that, they will choose to consume more of their dinner. Your child may not eat as much, as quickly, or as many of the food items that you would like, and on some days, may hardly eat anything at all; however, if you are putting a variety of food in front of your child and providing a few healthy snacks, they will eat.
Take the emotions out of it.
You have to discover a little bit of Zen. Your child won’t go hungry, we promise. They will consume sufficient food to fulfill their requirements. If needed, keep track of your child’s milestones to make ensure that they are developing at the right pace. It is possible that the food will wind up in the trash (perhaps you could freeze it?) or on the ground. Oh well, let’s not worry about it. Your child may become whiney and irritable later on. In any case, it’s possible that her irritability was due to something else entirely. It’s possible that the child will consume everything on the plate and develop a taste for broccoli in the process. Learn to be at peace with yourself. Just for a moment, pretend that you are relaxing on a beach in Bali. Take the stress out of the mealtime situation by employing whatever strategies work best for you.
Use rewards and encouragement smartly.
When your child actually consumes something, pay attention to it, but ignore it when they don’t. Smile broadly and lavish them with compliments at every opportunity, especially when they put something in their mouth. This will not only help with creating good eating habits but also lift their morale and improve your child’s mental health. If you feel it’s necessary, you can back this up with rewards, such as putting a happy face sticker on their hand or t-shirt for every mouthful they eat. Perhaps you’ll be eligible for a unique prize if you collect five stickers. If stickers aren’t their thing, you could also try drawing stars on their hand. What should we do if they consume more than five mouthfuls? OMG, go overboard with the compliments; call Grandma to tell her everything that happened, dance around the kitchen with them, and play their preferred game. You can gradually shift the goalposts and make it more difficult to achieve the rewards by doing so in small increments until behaving well while eating simply becomes a habit that is supported by attention and praise. What will happen if they don’t eat? Practice some Zen, withdraw your attention, and take the food away in a collected manner. This tip has proven to be very effective in ending mealtime stress in children.
Break it down into small steps
“But my kid won’t even stay seated at the table long enough to eat one bite!” Consequently, if you can’t get there all in one move, you should figure out some stepping stones to get you to the end goal. If sitting at the table is the problem, you should ignore the food and concentrate on sitting down instead. Pay close attention to every instance in which they succeed; observe them when they are displaying positive behaviour. It’s possible that they use the table as a place to draw or play games. “Well done, you are sitting at the table so nicely! That is one of my favorite things when you do that! They might be able to earn a sticker (regardless of whether or not they consume any food) for every minute that they behave appropriately while sitting at the table during mealtimes. Break down the journey into small steps and just focus on one at a time. Don’t forget to be patient, focus on the long game, and make excellent use of your planning skills!
It’s possible that your child will never develop a taste for carrots, despite all your efforts. It’s all good. But if you take the emotion out of mealtimes, keep your eye on the long term, and calmly put a wide range of nutritious foods in front of them, those children food battles will diminish, and your children will find a lot of things that they do like to eat. You will find that you have a significantly better time together during mealtimes.
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