There are many times and circumstances in which kids seem to drag parents into a power struggle. One common area of parenting that is often the setting for power struggles is around meal times and eating. So in this and the next article, we will cover some principles and strategies for eliminating power struggles around food.
First, a parent needs to realize that eating is something that a parent cannot and should not force a child to do. This is a very important foundation for talking about power struggles surrounding food because it means we need to develop a strategy in which the child chooses to eat. The second principle we need to remember is that we have a HUGE ally in this process … hunger!
With preschool and elementary age children, all eating should be done on a specific schedule set by the parents. The child this age does not have the wisdom or the developed self-control muscle to regulate their own eating.
Kids can learn to eat and even like healthy food if it is given to them on a regular basis at times when they are hungry. Don’t give up, they will have to try the same healthy foods several times before they get used to them.
Snacking between meals sabotages hunger (remember hunger is your greatest ally in taking away the power struggle!), so if you let them snack between meals, you are taking away something they need in order to learn good habits!
Make a practice of always sitting at the table to eat. Not only does this set a healthy pattern, it provides an opportunity to talk around the table, it helps kids learn self-control, it is respectful to others at the table, and will be helpful when you go out to a restaurant or someone else’s house. This is also very important for the strategy that we will discuss in the next article.