As you may have noticed, children function much better with routines and consistency. In the book “Helping your child with Extreme Picky Eating” they put it perfectly.
Children understand what is expected of them when they know what to expect”
Hence the importance of regular schedules. Kids do not like being surprised, unless perhaps it’s their birthday and involves opening presents.
Just as you have a bedtime routine that starts with a bath, followed by a book, and ends with singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, every meal should have certain elements repeated with diligence – essentially a beginning, middle, and end.
- Beginning (the routine before the meal actually starts)
- Middle (what happens when you’re at the table and having a meal)
- End (the routine to follow as a meal is ending)
These steps are covered in detail in the 6 week online program – Picky Eater Protocol – but I do want to hone in on something here.
Specifically, on one aspect of what the beginning of a meal should look like.
If you can get the first part down then you’re setting yourself up for a more enjoyable battle-free meal. This routine is also a sanity saver for parents because you can run on auto-drive at every meal knowing what comes next (and you don’t have to overthink your steps, as many parents do with picky eaters).
Taking our little one away from their toys, the TV, or any other activity with no forewarning, is asking for trouble – and starting your meal off on the wrong foot. Hollering “it’s time to eat” without a heads up prior will likely result in some kicking and screaming. They get their back up before the meal even starts, and with the adrenaline flowing their appetite will take a hit.
So, what we do prior to a meal or snack can set the stage for the meal…and result in eating LESS.
The Solution: 5 Minute Warning
This is one of the easiest strategies to implement and can make a difference in your child’s behavior at meals or snacks.
Just as you would give your child a heads up before it’s time to leave the park, you should do the same for mealtime letting him or her know that it’s almost time to eat. They can mentally prepare themselves with no surprises. So before dinner is ready tonight, why not say this:
“We’re going to put away the toys & have dinner in 5 minutes OK [insert your little one’s name here]?”
Having had an “extremely picky eater” myself, I realize a 5 minute warning will not solve your mealtime troubles. It is just one baby step in the right direction. But when we put all those baby steps together, we see incredible changes.
Give the “5 minute warning” a shot and let me know how things go in the comments below. More to come!