STEP UP TO THE PLATE
THE DINING TABLE CAN BECOME A BATTLEFIELD FOR EVEN THE CALMEST OF FAMILIES. HERE ARE SEVEN WAYS TO FLIP THE SCRIPT AT MEALTIME
If we were to open a book titled Parenting 101 ,I think you will agree that the main chapter would be focused on the daily challenge of feeding our children healthy meals.
It’s at the dinner table that we often bring out the big guns in hope of enticing our kids to eat with relish whatever we dish up. It’s easy to unconsciously spit out token phrases that were repeated in our youth. Though our goal is to encourage eating through positive reinforcement, sometimes it goes pear-shaped with our kids hearing something completely different.
1. THE LABELLER
Parent: “My child is such a picky eater.”
The child hears: “I am a picky eater.”
Try this instead: Avoid labelling your child, especially when they can hear you. Labels can become subconscious prophecies and make the matter worse in the long run. Keep things positive and highlight the healthy things they do eat.
2. WHEN FULL IS FULL
Parent: “Have a few more mouthfuls before you leave the table.”
The child hears: “Only my parents can decide for me when I have had enough to eat.”
Try this instead: “There is no more food now until breakfast (or next meal, whatever that is) so make sure you are getting enough to eat.” Over and out.
3. THE BARGAINER
Parent: “If you eat all your vegies you can have some ice cream.”
The child hears: “These vegies are just an obstacle I have to get through to get to the good stuff.”
Try this instead: Talk about healthy eating and make eating vegetables a positive experience through role play, games and exciting meals.
4. THE REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY TREATMENT
Parent: “Your sister/brother is such a good eater — look at them eating all their meal.”
The child hears: “I am a crap eater and I’ll never be as good as my sister/brother.”
Try this instead: Don’t feel you can’t praise the other child, but just explain to the non-eater that it takes time to get used to certain tastes.
5. THE ART OF RE-WORDING
Parent: “We don’t have lollies all the time because they are bad for us.” The child hears: “Lollies are yummy so bad means yummy.”
Try this instead: “Lollies are not good for our teeth and something we only eat at special times.”
6. THE GIVER INNERER
Parent: “If you’re not going to eat that I will make you something else.”
The child hears: “Yay, I never have to try this unusual/non-favourite food because mum will always make me something else.”
Try this instead: “We all eat the same meal in our house and we will have one of your favourite meals another night.”
7. THE REWARDER
Parent: “I’ll buy ice cream for you if you’re good.” The child hears: “I’ll only be good so I can get an ice cream.”
Try this instead: Try to leave food out of rewards. Rewarding with food can often lead to a poor food equals reward equals makes me feel better relationship, which can then lead to binge eating and dieting as they get older. Use other rewards such as stickers, family time, a special day out or even a small toy they’ve been dreaming about.
Champion ironwoman and ocean athlete Karla Gilbert is an accredited Nutrition and Health Coach and certified Level III and IV Fitness Trainer, with certificates in Child Nutrition and Nutrition. She is the author of ebook Naked Habits.