August 6, 2013
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2
- Progress Comes in Fits and Starts
- Help, my son won't eat in his high chair!
- Protecting Your Brains
- Back-to-School with Macaroni Kid
- Hanes Wonders About Your Undercover Color
- Lunchbox Love® for Kids
- Monsters University is Back!
- The Wiggles Support St. Jude Children's Hospital
Macaroni Kid Reader:
My 20 month old son won’t sit in his highchair to eat. He’s started coming to me, taking a bite of food and walking around the kitchen until he’s done chewing, and then he comes back to me for more. If I ask him, “Where do we eat?” he just shakes his head and puts up a fight. What should I do?
Mealtime issues are some of the biggest challenges for parents because when our kids don’t eat, they have our undivided attention—it’s an emotionally charged issue. We do all kinds of things to get them to eat. We may bribe with dessert, spoon-feed them, negotiate about taking one more bite, or we may urge and plead.
The fact is that children want to eat—it is an absolutely natural human function. They also quickly learn that they have us over a barrel when it comes to food because we desperately want them to eat. Not eating becomes a weapon they can use against us! For a 20 month old, you can make a rule that he only eats in his highchair. And make sure that you and your parenting partner agree on what the mealtime rules are so that you can back each other up. An effective strategy with a child this age is to say to him, “Where do you eat?” If he’s very verbal, then he may say something that resembles “high chair” in toddler speak. If he isn’t verbal yet, just answer the question for him. “You eat in your high chair.” Repeat this question and answer sequence with him several times, and over time, he’ll be able to answer. You can also say, “Do you eat standing up?” “No. You eat in your high chair.”
In the scenario I just outlined, notice that I didn’t say, “Where do we eat” or “Do we eat standing up?” You are not the one who needs to eat in the high chair! I always encourage parents to use the correct pronouns when talking to their kids or it gets confusing for the kids.
The hardest part is to follow through. Don't feed him unless he is in his high chair. If sometimes you’re feeding him in his high chair and sometimes while he’s walking around, he is getting mixed messages about what the rule is and rightfully so! When you become consistent and follow through, he may get upset and that's OK. Getting upset has worked for him before to get what he wants, so naturally he’s going to continue to try that tactic. Being upset is a temporary state. If he knows he only gets fed when he sits in his high chair and you are consistent about it, he'll soon get the message. When we don’t do what we say—when we don’t follow through on the rules we have set for our children, they gradually lose respect for us. When we follow through, they take us seriously and stop resisting.
Learning how to follow through consistently with rewards and consequences is one of the five core strategies I teach in the Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting program. The more you follow through on your expectations and rules, the less resistant and more cooperative your children will become. Family life becomes calmer, easier and happier.
Over the past 3 years that I’ve been answering questions for Macaroni Kid readers, I’ve often been asked when I’ll be leading classes in your area. I’m excited to announce that a new online Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting Course is now available through MomAssembly if you’d like to learn these five core strategies that will help your kids become first-time listeners. There are also other courses available on a wide array of parenting topics from experts around the world. I encourage you to check out this new resource for parents.
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