Parents whose child won't eat, face a worrying and stressful time. Here are five tips to help parents encourage their child to eat:
- Remind yourself that unless there is an underlying medical problem, if your toddler won’t eat, it is because mealtimes have become a battle of the wills between the two of you. Your child is fighting for a certain independence, which is typical of this age group.
- Feed your child at the same time every day and don’t give snacks in between meals. A child who ate a chocolate at 5:30 pm is not going to eat vegetables an hour later.
Make it clear that it is the child’s choice whether to eat or not. If it has not happened within 20 minutes or so, say that you are removing the food and do so.
Make food available only at the next mealtime when you said you would. Don’t be manipulated into giving snacks in between meals. It will be hard, but you are doing it for your child’s good. It is better for the child to be hungry for an hour than to develop long-term emotional problems around eating.
- Be firm, patient and kind. Stick to what you have said you are going to do, otherwise your child is going to start associate food with emotional issues, which could cause problems later in life. At the best of times, food can be an emotional issue. Don’t allow the dinner table to become a battleground.
Choose foods which you know your child likes, but don’t be manipulated into preparing different foods which are then rejected in succession by your child. Power is the issue here, not what you have prepared. Compare this to a child who only wants the toy her sister is currently enjoying.