Toddlers at the Table: Avoiding Power Struggles

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July 8, 2013 by thehealthyheartcenter

The toddler years can be tough for both children and parents when trying to balance between allowing learning of making own choices, yet still maintaining control. Eating is one of the first things that toddlers will try to dominate, but there are still ways to give appropriate amounts of freedom when it comes to choosing foods. A parent’s role is to present healthy foods and let a child decide which ones to eat — or whether to eat at all.

The Picky Eater: When a child is stuck on one food, a parent might feel forced to serve that food every day so the child eats something. But eventually the child may tire of that food — and then what?

-Don’t miss an opportunity to introduce new foods and increase the number of those your child is willing to eat.
-Present a variety of healthy foods, including established favorites and some new foods, to make up the menu.
-Don’t stop serving fruits/vegetables they refuse to eat the first time around. Kids are naturally slow to accept new tastes and textures, so keep reintroducing them. Serve a small portion and encourage your child to try a bite without nagging or forcing.

The Negotiator: For some children, dinner becomes a negotiation session from the very start, especially through using dessert as an incentive. The problem is this doesn’t encourage healthy eating, instead it creates the impression that “treats” are more valuable than mealtime food.

-Keep from overestimating how much food a child should eat and serve right sized portions. Especially with foods that aren’t yet favorites, a couple of tablespoons is plenty to start with. Small portions are less overwhelming, while bigger portions may encourage overeating.
-It’s fine to encourage kids to “try one bite” but don’t fall into the negotiating trap. Prepare and serve healthy meals and let them decide what to eat.
-It’s good for kids of this age to see their parents and siblings eating together and eating healthy foods. Kids eat a more nutritious diet, with more fruits and vegetables, when they regularly have family meals.

Let Them Feed Themselves: Some parents think that not letting kids feed themselves is for the best, but it takes away control that rightfully belongs to kids at this age. Kids should start finger feeding around 9 months of age and try using utensils by 15-18 months.

Listen to Your Child: Pay attention to what toddlers say through their actions. A child who is building a tower of crackers or dropping carrots on the floor may be telling you he or she is full. Pushing food on a child who’s not hungry may dull the internal cues that help kids know when they’ve eaten enough.



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