ABOUT THE BOOK -
EXCERPT FROM THE PARENTING GUIDANCE SECTION
I Like To Eat Treats
FOR SUCCESSFUL EATING BEHAVIOR
Eating as a family and practicing good
nutrition and table manners make it easier for young children to learn
about and enjoy healthy foods. Setting eating rules and involving your
child in food preparation can help him develop healthier eating habits.
Some children like a wide variety of foods, have good appetites, and
stay seated at the table long enough to eat a good meal or snack. Many
don’t. As in other aspects of their life, children are playful, happy
little scientists experimenting with their world. Food to them can be
an interesting and potentially fun kind of crafts project but can also
test parents’ limits and patience.
PAGING MISS MANNERS
Young children don’t know that there
are rules about eating until you teach them. If young
children had a choice, many would prefer to leave the table and come
back and get more when they wanted to, though not necessarily because
they were hungry. They’d walk around the house eating and drinking as
they go. Many would disrupt the meal by playing with their food or
climbing on our laps to eat from our plates. Children request other
food, then change their minds and pick yet a different food. Because
all this is natural for young children, there are a lot of table rules
Young children don’t learn eating behavior or nutrition on their own.
Parents need to set eating rules at home that are similar to those
expected in the community, such as at school, in restaurants, and in
other homes. Because young children’s preferred eating behavior usually
is not acceptable, they require lots of mealtime training. It’s easier
to teach expectations to a child who is hungry at mealtimes and is not
given a lot of choice about what to eat. Parents need to teach their
children to stay at the table, eat with utensils, say please and thank
you, and not push food off their plates, spill things, throw or drop
food, or do “chemistry experiments” with their food. We need to help
our children learn to enjoy the meal and conversation enough that
mealtimes are not filled with their out-of-bounds behavior and/or our
threats and consequences.
Most parents have to decide on a reasonable length of time for children
to stay at the table, especially for children who always finish eating
before the rest of the family. Younger preschoolers can usually stay
seated for 10 minutes and older preschoolers and kindergartners for 20
minutes. However, you should look for signs that your child has had
enough to eat. That’s when children become bored and when most behavior
problems begin. Clear rules, enforced consistently, and immediate
consequences help children know what’s expected at meals.
Once they have learned the rules, most mealtimes can go quite well.
These are reasonable goals. The rest of Section Two explains how to
work toward them. When you do, the family will find mealtimes more
satisfying and less stressful, curbing both your emotional outbursts
and your child’s.