Managing Mealtime Power Struggles

salad.jpgToday, Michelle Stern of What’s Cooking shares tips for keeping the peace during meals:

Parents often ask me how to handle family mealtime power struggles. First, remember that you are not alone if mealtimes = stress/whining/arguing/negotiating in your house. Here are some simple ways to get mealtimes back on track:
Ellyn Satter describes what she calls a "division of responsibility" during mealtime in her book, Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family. The following are important points to keep in mind:

The parent is responsible for What, When, and Where of mealtimes:

  • Have healthy foods available.

  • Set a good example - enjoy your food.

  • Eat meals family style, with at least 3-5 options available to choose from (such as chicken, veggies, pasta, and fruit) at the table.

  • Don't short order cook - your kids choose from the foods on the table that you have prepared.

  • Don't take it personally! It can take as many as 15-20 exposures to a new food before it is tolerated or liked.

    The child is responsible for How Much and Whether:

  • Allow kids to select what they want from what you have offered at the table.

  • Allow kids to eat as much as they want of the choices you have offered at the table.

  • It is okay if they only eat pasta and fruit but ignore the "green stuff." They may want it next time (or next year!). This is a learning experience without pressure.

    Since I am a Type A personality, you can imagine how hard it is for me to let my kids make all of their own decisions at the table. I mean, really, isn't 5 helpings of noodles a bit much? For me, yes, but maybe not for a growing 6-year-old boy. His body will tell him what he needs. And if my daughter loves bell peppers one day and not the next, that is up to her. My husband never imagined that it would happen, but I have learned to bite my tongue and keep my trap shut while my kids learn to listen to their own bodies - instead of to me - and every now and then, they surprise me and try a “good for you” food that’s on the table.

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