Focus on Family Meals

When it's mealtime with your children, whether it be a family meal or just getting them fed dinner before a hangry meltdown happens, where is the focus? If you're anything like most parents, it's on your child's eating.

Even families without fussy eaters tend to praise children for eating well, chide them for eating what they consider to be too little or urging another mouthful. This is totally understandable - after all, as a parent, one of your main jobs is to keep your children well nourished. This tends to backfire unfortunately. 

Focussing on what your child is eating at mealtime disrupts the division of labour at mealtimes (you choose when and what to eat, children choose if and how much they eat so they can grow to become intuitive eaters). It also teaches them that it is of great concern to you how much they eat which can become the basis of a power struggle. If someone else was intently focussed on what went in your mouth every mealtime, you might find it annoying and eventually act out as well!

While it's very important that you take care with planning for and providing a range of nutritious foods at mealtimes, your job is then done. Naturally, if your child still needs help with cutting or spooning, it's fine to do so, but consider doing it in the neutral way you help them tie their laces or change their clothes. Focussing on other things at mealtime, such as what happened today or a fun event that's coming up can really take the pressure off at mealtimes and allow both you and your child to trust in their innate hunger cues.