Meals without Tears

I have often wondered why sometimes parents are too concerned about how much a child is eating during lunchtime. I sometimes had parents who only wanted to know this at the end of the day. Getting the children to eat right is a major concern in our society nowadays but why obsess about getting your child to EAT? Eating is a physiological need so why have adults changed it into a power struggle, demanding their child to eat certain foods and certain quantities sometimes without taking into consideration their child’s taste? Children are aware of our weaknesses and know how to use them in their advantage. If your child knows it’s really important for you to see him eating his lunch, he might refuse to simply test your reactions. The child’s behavior in this case is predictable: crying, pushing the plate away and knocking it down by “accident”.

Sometimes a child’s behavior is a projection of our own actions. Let’s think of some cases.

Your child is refusing to eat.food

Keep calm and eat your lunch. It’s important for him to see that this is not a way to attract your attention. Try to have a relaxed conversation with other people that are around the table. It’s important that everyone sits down and carry on as if nothing’s wrong.

If you spend all your energy trying to make him open his mouth then it’s going to be fun for him (and in time, not so fun for you). He’s going perceive it as a form of play, in which he pretends “not wanting to eat” so that you can chase him with the spoon around the house.

Make sure he knows you’ll have to tidy up the table at some point, so give him a few reminders about the fact that you’ll put away the food at some point. If you tried everything, don’t despair. Have enough strength to tidy up the food and tell him that he’ll have to wait for the next meal. Next time he’ll know that you won’t beg him to eat.

No sweets, no treats. Why “reward” a child for something as simple as eating? I have seen cases when parents give their child biscuits and other unhealthy snacks just to fill their tummies because they didn’t have anything for lunch.

 Food “accidents”

Don’t play with the food! It doesn’t sound too nice, but he/she is not a baby anymore, so teach your child to appreciate and respect the food in their plate. You’ve worked hard cooking it and spent money buying the best ingredients. Getting the children involved in the process makes them more aware of this.

It’s okay if thy spill food while trying to eat but don’t transform dinner time into playtime. Make it fun and enjoyable through other means.

I know cases when parents have made mealtime fun for their child as a baby and when the baby became a toddler, the parents kept their pattern. Now they’re always complaining about the fact that their 3 and a half year old won’t eat unless she’s playing with something while one of the parents is feeding her.

Your child only eats certain kinds of food

I’ve heard this many times. You should ask yourself why and try to find an explanation. Maybe the rest of the dishes are too spicy or simply don’t look tasty. Try to avoid spices because children don’t have a taste for spicy food.

Use your imagination to display the food in interesting ways. You might get some inspiration from the Japanese bento boxes.

Don’t give up, but don’t be too insistent. Children’s taste might change over time, so you shouldn’t avoid a dish because you know your child didn’t eat it. Present it as a choice alongside something you know he likes and ask him to get a bite. Remind him that he won’t know the taste unless he takes a bite.

peaspgI love the book “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss which approaches this subject. “Eat your Peas!” by Kes Gray it’s also a fun book to read with your preschooler. It’s relevant for this situation, and everybody can lean something from it- children and parents. So try to talk about food and preferences during the day, not only during mealtimes.

I noticed that some children change their eating pattern while in the nursery. There are parents who couldn’t believe that their child was eating certain dishes. That happens because as I said before, children need role models. They look around and see the other children eating, so they will do the same. 

Here are some general rules that should apply all the time during meals, and you can follow them at home:

            No TV or toys that might distract your children.

            Don’t feed your children “snacks” before meals. Don’t give them any juices or milk because they won’t feel hungry.

            Involve the little ones in the preparation of the meals. You can even take them shopping and let them help you in the kitchen (washing the vegetables, folding the napkins, counting the plates.) These are wonderful learning opportunities.

           iaurt_jpg Be relaxed. Have nice conversations, talk about the ingredients in the food, the taste of it; show your appreciation by using intonation in your voice.

            Don’t fixate about how much your child should eat (don’t force him/her to empty the plate).

            Don’t feed your child. Children should be encouraged to eat by themselves, even though sometimes it takes longer and their clothes get dirty. Hershel should be watching you eat because children learn by imitation. Soon they’ll manage it.

            Try to transform mealtimes into something enjoyable. Don’t threaten them: “If you don’t eat your lunch then…” Instead you can tell them that they need to eat in order to grow up big and strong like mummy/daddy, to have energy to play, to run faster, the sooner they finish their meal, the faster they can go out to play.food-eat-beat-heat_21812

          Don’t bribe them with dessert. Avoid doing this in order to shape healthy habits.  Dessert is something they should have from time to time, not daily.  Teach your child to make healthy choices instead of banning sweets altogether.

          Don’t cook a special course for your child. Everybody should eat the same thing. Cooking only for your child might transform him into a picky eater.

Fun in the Sun

It’s hot and sunny and all we want to do is stay  in the shade, reading a book, sipping lemonade. But if you’re around children, you must know that their idea of fun is quite different! So, what are the activities that a little one would enjoy on a hot summer day, besides eating ice-cream? Well, first of all, playing with water!soare

  • Bring outside different water containers: plastic bottles, cups, bucket, watering cans, and funnels. Help your child pour from one another, measuring to see how much water you need to fill up a bottle. Compare it with another container.  Add some liquid soap or food coloring to make it more exciting.
  • Since you’re experimenting, you could bring out different objects and see which one sinks and which one floats. Try to predict! Use a sponge to move water from one bucket to another by squeezing it.
  • Put some bubbles in the water and wash some toys. Girls would love to give their baby dolls a bath.
  • Use paint brushes and paint rollers to “paint” with water. See how mush it takes to dry out.
  • Bring out some ice cubes observe how it melts is the sun –try to put some in the water and leave some in the sun and see which one melts first. Let him bring out his plastic toolbox and smash the ice cube.

  • Put some paint in the water before you pour it in the ice tray and you’ll have colored ice cubes which you can use to paint. Children love to experiment and I’m sure they’ll be excited to paint with something else than paint brushes
  • Pour some water into balloons for some squishy-squashy fun. You may add a marble first to make it more interesting.

You can try out these activities indoors as well, but you should take advantage of the sunny weather and go outside. Children +water= fun time guaranteed!

Be a Role Model for Your Child!

I have been asked many times if working with children was difficult. The only answer that comes to my mind is that even though sometimes working with children can be challenging, the most difficult thing is working with parents.

Pointing hand

You!

Why is that? It’s because parents already have their own idea about discipline. I have noticed that although many parents ask for guidance in some cases, they rarely take them into consideration.

Being able to ask for advice, to seek information, to be involved and to try to be a better version of yourself is the best thing a parent can do in order to provide the best education.

“Don’t do that!”; “Stop it!”; “It’s rude!”; “You’re naughty!”  Sounds familiar? Many parents don’t know that these things aren’t helpful at all and might even have a negative impact.

What is the best thing a parent can do? You’ll have to get into the child’s personal space, which means you’ll have to kneel down so that you can look into each other’s eyes and have a conversation about what happened. If your child is having a tantrum, you’ll have to wait until he calms down, but it is important to confront your child whenever he is misbehaving.

Is he refusing to sit down nicely while eating his lunch? Are you eating at the table or are you running around with the spoon trying to put it into his mouth? Does he eat a lot of sweets? Are you having a healthy diet? Is he extending his vocabulary usage by calling other children names or by using swear words? How are you using your vocabulary? Have you ever called him names?

When dealing with a difficult child it is important to acknowledge why he is behaving in a certain way. Offer him attention so that he doesn’t feel the need to be “naughty” in order to receive attention from you. Play with him so that you can build a strong relationship! This is also a great way to make him feel that you’re interested in his activities. Talk to him so that you can help him develop his communication and social skills! Answer to his questions so that he can feel important to you! Don’t do the thing you don’t want him to do!  Remember that happy parents = happy children! Children feed on our energy so it’s important to have your own activities and interests that make you happy.

I understand that being a parent is exhausting sometimes, especially if you’re dealing with challenging behavior, but it’s your duty as a parent to guide your child and the best thing you can do is to prevent some situations by offering a model they can follow. Be a role model for your child and everything else will fall into place!