2016 Feb 8
‘Sit down and eat!!”, “You are not getting up until you finish this meal!!”, “He hardly eats anything… I don’t know what to do…”
It’s not uncommon to hear parents complain about their children’s eating habits. And sometimes we resolve to think that this challenge is one that cannot be eased. Let me propose a few simple strategies that can help your child enjoy a meal.
- Have family meal times –
With our tight schedules and almost never ending ‘to do lists’, this proposition may seem rather unrealistic. However, what we fail to realize is that meal times should in effect be a celebration in a family. A time to celebrate relationships, reminisce the day’s events and most importantly a time for our young ones to watch us enjoy our own meals. Modelling good eating habits to your children is very important.
Having said that, I do understand that having each and every meal in this communal spirit is impossible for most families. To them, I say, have at least one meal together with your children. The results are truly worth the effort.
- Encourage independence –
Being a Sri Lankan myself, I know how hard it is for us mothers to allow our young ones to eat an entire meal on their own especially when our children are less than 4 years old. Our culture has long fostered the concept of feeding. However, I do believe that young children should be given a chance to eat by themselves. This idea isn’t so much about children finishing their meal than it is about children exploring what is on their plate.
When a child is allowed to touch, feel, smell and taste his own food, he begins to see meal times as an enjoyable experience rather than a forced one. This isn’t to say that we should let them control how much they eat because quite frankly, smaller children won’t be able to make an informed decision in that regard. Compliment feeding, by giving your young one a chance to pick at his own food too.
- The power of making choices –
We would all agree that a buffet creates a better aroma than a packet of rice or noodles. It’s the same concept that needs to be applied with our children. Allow your young ones to choose what they want to have on their plate. Gently coax them to make good choices, but never force. By presenting them with this independence on a regular basis, children learn to make their own decisions about what they eat; a foundation for better eating habits.
- Appreciate their taste buds –
Some children, may be rather specific about what they want on their plate and may never really seek out other types of food. If you can focus on making the variety of food offered being healthy, I would say you needn’t worry too much about forcing them to eat what you would want them to eat.
Children will develop specific taste patterns. Appreciate these instead of condemning them.
- Prepare a meal together –
Very often, children are not aware of how a raw vegetable becomes a curry let alone the effort that it involves. They see the kitchen as a counter through which orders are made and food is delivered. This needs to change. Children should be encouraged to take active roles in preparing food. Their own contributions to a dinner table have miraculous outcomes. They feel proud of themselves and realize that a meal served at a table deserves to be relished.
- Focus on aesthetics –
Last but not the least, create an appealing atmosphere at the table where food is served. Light a candle, and serve a meal in style. Here, the focus is mainly on how a meal is served, not so much on what is being served. Even a simple meal of dhal and rice and can be made to look appealing if one could only try.
Joanne Sathyadass has a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Journalism, Psychology and English Literature from the University of Bangalore now serving as a Special Needs Educator
For any queries please email Joanne on firstname.lastname@example.org