Does your family find meal times really stressful? Do you have picky eaters and find your children take far too long to eat just a small amount of food?
Meal times can often become a battle of wills between you and your children, which can be improved with these 7 easy tips for happy meal times.
1. Be positive
- It is important to make meal times a positive experience and not to bring the last mealtime disaster to the table. If you are subconsciously or consciously feeling negative this will have a big impact on your whole mealtime experience.
- For example, picture a parent who is worn down with miserable meal time battles and is feeling very negative about them and does not enjoy them, this parent will give off very different body language than a parent who usually enjoys meals times and looks forward to sitting together as a family. You will help yourself to be more positive by having positive self-talk and using positive affirmations before you sit at the table.
2. Take the focus off your child
- If your child is displaying unwanted behaviour at the table it is natural to focus on this and give it the most attention. Unfortunately this is usually giving children what they want and accidentally rewarding the unwanted behaviour, ultimately making it worse. By shifting your focus onto yourself or by talking to others who are behaving well you will give your children the message that you are more interested in the good behaviour of others.
3. Make it fun
- Think about what you would consider to be a happy, fun or pleasant mealtime?
- This may include you having positive conversations, focussing on good things and trying to keep the atmosphere light and pleasant, telling jokes and maybe laughing. If you aim to make meal times fun then everyone is more likely to enjoy coming to the table.
4. Be a good role model
- Your children are always watching and listening to you, so it is vital to be a good role model. Whatever you want your children to be doing, first check to see if you are doing the same. This includes positive conversations, because if your children can here lots of nagging, and negative comments then this is giving them the signal that this is OK.
5. Have some rules
- By deciding on your house rules for meal times you can tell everyone involved what they are. Manners are very important in some households and not so much in others so it is up to you what they are.
- For example, saying please and thank you, elbows off the table and eating with a knife and fork are considered manners for some and others will not have these same rules.
- Small children under 3 years old will need constant coaching and direction rather than laying the rules down because they are really just learning and they can’t remember instructions.
- It is always helpful if both parents share the same values and rules and keep a united front so that children don’t get mixed messages.
6. Consequences for unwanted behaviour
- Fitting consequences and loss of privileges may be used for unwanted behaviour at the table.
7. Rewards and praise
- Children will do more of what they get attention for, so be mindful to focus on any good behaviour from them, or from others at the table and you will be far more likely to have a calm positive mealtime. By using verbal or non-verbal praise you will be encouraging more of the behaviour that you would like.
Try using these tips consistently to help you to enjoy happy family mealtimes together alongside the other tips in my Parent's Guide to Children's Behaviour Programme