I must confess this parental failing I have: I chase after my toddler at meal times.
Yes. I am one of those parents that run after their child at meal times, spoon in hand, attempting to shovel food into my son’s mouth as he plays, watches TV or runs around.
The whole thing started innocently enough when we were trying to encourage him to be more independent at meal times to sit at his own child-sized table and chair to eat his food.
However at less than two years old, his attention span barely lasted more than a minute before he became bored. So I started bringing in different things to distract him… having another set of utensils to play with, other toys, TV…
Before long he started to test and push boundaries, wandering off to grab another a book or toy, then wandering off further and further away until I had to run after him to bring him back.
By then I realised that we had ended up in a very compromising situation where I was being sucked into this long drawn-out meal-time process just to get food down into my toddler’s tummy.
Things were getting out of hand
The whole thing was getting out of hand, so we called a parenting meeting between hubs and I.
We realised that we needed to stop making excuses for Nathan that he is still young or still learning how to behave or doesn’t really understand yet. What we decide to enforce IS the way he will learn how to behave.
So we decided to set some basic rules:
- At meal times, bums must strictly remain on the chair at all times
- No TV allowed at meal times
- One toy may be allowed at the table
- Parents will decide when meal time is over
Ups and downs
Of course we have had plenty of ups and downs, and often we had to resort to the dreaded time-out chair when rules are not complied with.
We’ve experienced some meltdowns and food being flung everywhere. And sometimes I make the mistake of letting Nathan push boundaries too far before enforcing the rule or punishment.
On the right track
Despite the challenges, we have honestly seen some marked improvement during meal times over the past few weeks. And the majority of meal times now run fairly smoothly with bum remaining in chair (although we still sometimes encounter the occasional escapee situation).
It’s still on ongoing learning process for everyone, but I think we all seem to be heading in the right direction.
Have any of you faced a similar issue? If you have any tips and advice to share, please feel free to share them with this mummy-in-training as I’m eager to learn from you guys.
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P.S: At the moment Nathan’s meal times are at an earlier time separate from us because I usually prepare a different toddler-meal for him and also to align the timing with his nap/sleep times. However now that he is getting older, I am planning to transition him to eat at the adult table with us for dinner. This will be a bit challenging because it means I will have to work hard prepare the full dinner meal for everyone right on time (usually we adults are flexible to eat much later in the evening after we settle Nathan’s bath and sleep time). Not sure how this plan will go yet, but we’ll give it a go and see how it works out.