We assure her that he is welcome to join us for snacks and lunch and in an environment of happy, healthy, responsible eaters and that he is more likely to follow suit than not.
He starts with morning snack which is bananas and small wheat crackers .
We all sit around one table. The children are responsible for getting a chair and figuring out where to sit so I can reach each of them. It is a light snack, thee ½ inch slices of bananas and one to two crackers. The number of crackers depends on their history of how well they eat their vegetables at lunch. This is followed by a half cup of milk. We want them to get an energy boost that does not diminish their ability to enjoy a full nutritious lunch.
When it is lunch time (2 hours later) I decided to have him seated close to me in case he needs extra assistance.
This day we have carrots, peas, and cauliflower for vegetables. Average portions are placed on each dish prior to the meal beginning. Each child is expected to finish the vegetables before requesting the protein (fish fillets). This is eaten before requesting the pasta or rice, and then the fruit. Each food group has to be eaten before requesting the next one.
Sam seems surprised but excited to be participating in and be responsible for the process. He not only finishes his meal but requests seconds of cauliflower and a serving of black beans (we sometimes have an added item available if any children are extra hungry).
Sam completed his meal and was happy to continue to take a responsible role in preparing for naptime. This is followed with an afternoon of puzzles, duplo building, and outside play.
I am totally unprepared when I enter the kitchen at the end of the day and Sam’s dad is taking him off the counter stool, places him on the floor and forcibly states, “You are done! Every time I looked at you, you were playing with your food. Dinner is done!”
Sam is screaming, agitated, and begging his dad to let him back up on the stool, while crying and promising he will eat his food.
I notice that his meal is being presented to him in a small bowl where his vegetables are mixed up and on a small dish where protein and rice are together. Also, he is being expected to eat by himself since his parents usually wait until he is in bed to have their evening meal.
From my perspective, red flags are flying, and I can fully comprehend why Sam’s eating habits are not only less than ideal, but in fact are creating a very negative relationship with the responsibility of nourishing himself as well as a conflict/power struggle with his parents.
Sam’s dad is horrified that I have witnessed this scene and deeply embarrassed by his behavior. I respond that I see this as an opportunity to help him family understand a very different approach that will completely change the dynamic.
I discuss the situation with Sam’s parents and we agree on a plan.
1. Provide food that is nutritious, seasoned, served separately, and eaten together by the whole family.
2. Provide a menu as outlined in the daycare for whichever meal is the most important in their home. At our daycare it is lunch, but for some families it might be dinner. For the other meal we suggest a lighter menu: a vegetable, a protein, a small amount of grain and one fruit.
3. Commit for every meal possible to be together until this approach is working and Sam is feeling connected and responsible for his food intake.
4. Have him utilize the same dishware as his parents.
5. Only serve food that you enjoy so when you tell him it is delicious, he knows you are being honest, which is a great step in your credibility rating.
6. Keep snacks at least 2 and a half hours prior to a meal as they should be light and nourishing.
7. Listen when he tells you an hour before a meal that he is hungry, and remind him that he is supposed to be hungry and that is a good thing. Keep him occupied and save any liquid intake until the end of the meal.
8. Relay and approach meal time as a social event and as “sharing family time.”
9. Reduce having him eat alone to emergencies.
1. Use any disciplinary tactics during mealtime. At the beginning, Sam may take a while to understand his role in the process and misbehave. Give him two reminders and then excuse him from the table. Note: the only time this has ever happened at our daycare is when a new child has joined the group and brought old habits with them.
2. Focus on every bite that goes into his mouth. Let him handle it!
This is such an important issue that as in Sam’s parent’s case we suggested they contact us if the plan got off track.
We feel the same way about you! Let us know what is happening! We are here to help! Email us at Info@SmartParentSmartChild.com. You can also read another one of our great posts on having a good mealtime with your child!