Using Rituals and Routines to Ease Toddler Tug-of-War

Toddler Whispering Workshop -- Lesson 2


Mealtimes: Toddlers are notoriously fussy eaters, and temperament can complicate mealtimes even more. A Spirited Toddler, for example, may decide that banging her spoon is a more interesting activity than eating her carrots, while a Grumpy Toddler may push the fork away whenever you try to offer him something new. I advise parents to concentrate more on making the mealtime routine consistent than on making your toddler eat. Think of meals as a way of teaching your toddler what it means to sit at a table, use utensils, try new foods, and most important, eat with the family.

To do this, serve meals at approximately the same time every day. Have a special eating chair for your toddler. Hand washing is an ideal pre-meal ritual that lets a child know it's time to eat. Consider beginning the meal with grace, candle lighting or by simply saying, "You may begin." Have conversation, just as you would at dinner with adults. Talk about your day; ask your toddler about hers. Even though she may not be able to answer at first, she'll begin to understand the give and take of conversation. Consider the meal over when your toddler stops eating. Don't try to sneak an extra bite into your toddler's mouth, or coax and cajole her when she turns her head away. End the meal with whatever practice feels right for your family. A suitable ending might simply be the act of taking off your child's bib and saying, "Dinner's over. Time to clean up!"

Keep up mealtime R&R no matter where you go. When you take your child to another house to eat, to a restaurant or if you go on an extended trip away from home, maintain as much of the above as possible. This will make your child feel secure and reinforce everything she's learning about mealtimes.


Next page: Bath time and Bedtime

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