A 2-year old kid wailing over carrots and broccoli, a 1-year old climbing out of a booster seat like a monkey refusing to eat its banana, of supersonic screams, flailing arms, food throwing, and dining room marathons– just how many times have you dealt with toddler mealtime tantrums? Reality bites: tantrum happens– and a lot during mealtime! Just as you prepare them to sit with the whole family during a meal, so does their view about food and the whole shebang change.
Fret-not, mealtime tantrums are way normal when it comes to a growing child. It may be because of three things– slowed down appetite, limited concentration span, and asserting their independence. Toddlers are fond of play and exploration that mealtimes are often met with cold disdain. They often want to be left alone just doing what they love best– play! It’s not going to be an easy route but taking tantrums off the table can actually be done with realistic solutions.
Be proactive– stop mealtime tantrum before it starts.
Don’t let hunger pangs awaken the villainous side of your child. Prepare healthy snacks like cut up fruits and veggies on the side him to easily munch on while waiting for lunch or dinner time. Nutritious snacks are essential to a toddler’s brain and body development. They also help curve mood swings and prevent low blood sugar level healthily. A smart idea is to always carry some healthy snacks in your bag while you are out and about, to prevent your toddler from getting hangry if a meal is late.
Create realistic expectations.
You can never curve toddler mealtime tantrums in one go. It’s going to be a long and arduous haul. Introducing new flavor and texture to their taste buds can be a challenge. So does making them sit still, forking on healthy stuff without making a mess. Add impeccable manners to the equation and you’re in for a roller coaster ride. When done right, however, power struggles can be lessened at mealtime.
Stay calm and be a role model.
Getting into a stare down or facing a tantrum with angry outburst head-on will only worsen the situation. Do not let your little ball of fire control your emotions. Instead, calculate through your child’s needs. Is the food too hot or cold? Is he tired, frustrated, or in pain? Never walk away, too. Be in the moment and connect to your child.
Cook a “Happy Meal”.
You, of all people, know precisely your toddler’s taste buds. If he doesn’t eat vegetables, add it into his favorite dish like carrots on spaghetti, pumpkin in a risotto, meaty couscous, fruity salads, and so on. The idea is to prepare food that ignites a child’s interest. One way is to let them help out in the kitchen. They can wash or cut fruits and veggies. They may even help out during bake time armed with their own baking utensils like this one . Prepping meals with your toddler can be truly exciting!
Learn food control.
Putting too much food on a child’s plate is a complete no-no. Instead, assess carefully your growing toddler’s appetite and make servings colorful and fun. Introducing new food one at a time will also help him transition to a proper sit-down meal with the rest of the family. Do remember to watch out for allergies.
Set meal time do’s and don’ts– and be clearly serious about it.
Gently remove them from the table or let them stand on a safe corner when they starting screaming, kicking or even messing with their food. Removing a child off the situation will let them be aware of their own behavior and make them understand its implications. The idea is to make them learn what’s right from wrong, good from bad, and to learn to apologize for such.
Be firm and consistent.
Regardless of the time and place, mealtime tantrums must be dealt gently yet accordingly. Honor your word when it comes to dealing with such uncanny behavior and never give in. Caving into a toddler’s whims when visitors are around or when visiting Grandma’s house will ultimately result to recurring tantrums. Hold your ground. Be empathetic yet firm– but don’t forget to explain and let him understand why.
Motivate your child’s good behavior.
Give appreciation when they don’t make a mess or when they eat without drama. Let them know you are paying attention. A kind word, a hug, or a flurry of butterfly kisses as reward for every improvement on their mealtime behavior will go a long way.
Without a doubt, toddler mealtime tantrums can be quite stressful and frustrating. There is no single solution to this inevitable situation though. As always, paying more attention to what your own child’s needs and wants will ultimately help guide you in effectively dealing with such.