5 Easy Steps to Get Your Child to Sit at the Table & Eat

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Not every child is going to be receptive to sitting down at the dinner table and eating a nice meal. Find out about five easy steps to get your child to sit at the dinner table with help from the author of an award-winning parenting book series in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Teaching & Caring for Your Kids
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Video Transcript

Hi. I'm Bill Corbett, author of the parenting book "Love, Limits, and Lessons: A Parent's Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids. Mealtimes at home can be a very stressful event for many families. So a lot of parents would like to know how do I get my kids to sit at the table, stay there, and eat their meal with the family. I've got a couple of ideas for you. The first one you want to keep in mind is create routine. And I know that's difficult in todays families because we have so many different activities going on. But you see children learn through sameness. And what is sameness? It's creating routine. That means you want to try and do your best to schedule meals at the same time each day, to the best of your ability. And when you set up meals, have the meal setups be the same. When children see sameness around them they're more likely to cooperate. They're more likely to relax and do what the adult wants them to do. Here's a second thing to keep in mind for getting kids to sit at the table and cooperate and eat. Make it fun. Do whatever you can to make mealtime with families as fun as possible. One way that parents kind of sabotage this and make it not fun for children is they begin to scold and nag around meals. When your child's sitting at the table you want to encourage them. First of all if you get the child up to the table you want to say "mommy loves it when you come up and sit at the table on time." It's important for you to relax and make it fun. Avoid criticizing, avoid finding faults, leave that for another time. And why? Because what happens is children often connect mommy being mad or nagging with mealtime and then they don't want to come to the table to eat. Here's the third thing I'd like to offer to you around kids and meals. Servings. And I know this is, this seems like a common sense thing, but you have to understand when small children come to the table and they see a small serving, that might be small to you, it could be giant to them. So I encourage parents to use very tiny servings. For example, if your vegetable is peas, 3 peas would be an ideal serving for a small child, toddler or preschooler. When they see small servings they're more likely to cooperate and eat. If they see larger servings to them it could be overwhelming. They might even feel like you're saying "go explore space." It's just too much for them. The fourth one is to consider doing this, and this can be hard for some parents, if your child chooses that they don't want to stay there, because you're going to have a choice. Do I get in a power struggle with my child to stay in the chair or do I do something else? Here's the something else that I suggest. Remove the chair. In fact regardless of the age of the child. They have to learn that when they come to the table and sit down they remain there for the time that the whole family is eating meal. But if they want to get down they can have that option but they can't come back. If they're a small child and they're squirming and hurting themselves and hanging onto the chair, take take them out, set them down, be very calm and quiet about it, but then remove the chair. If they're a school aged child and they want to get down, they have to learn that once they get down from the chair, the chair's going to be put away. I encourage you to demonstrate it for them. Show them what will happen when they get down, that the chair will be put away. Sometimes children aren't really sure that parents are really going to follow through with what they said. So it's a good idea to set this up in advance and help children know that this is what's going to happen. Here's my lasts suggestion for getting kids to get to the table and eat. One of the battles that parents have is getting them to eat what they've made. Some parents try to avoid that whole process by letting a child choose whatever they want. That's not a good idea either. I encourage parents to consider this. That a child has a choice because choices are very powerful. When a child is confronted with a choice it makes them feel powerful, important, and they're more likely to comply. So heres how the choice would work. They can have whatever mom or dad made for the meal or they can have one standing alternative that is always available and it has to be consistent. I'll use the example of Cheerios. When my children were young I got myself a very large supply of Cheerios. And I like Cheerios because they're simple to eat. They're not messy. They're not sugary and they're not salty. So remember you want to stay away from the salty and sugary kinds of foods. So each time your child comes to the table with tiny servings, they can choose what mom or dad made or they could have the old standby, a cup of Cheerios. Plus, the reason I like Cheerios is they represent no skin off the teeth of the parents. You don't have to fire anything up to make that food. In fact, be careful, your children may choose Cheerios or your alternative in the beginning. But that's okay, do not react. Eventually your child will realize that this mundane alternative is not as fun as it was because sometimes they choose that just to get even with you. Just to be powerful over you. So it's a good idea to make sure you have it and put it in place and keep that alternative on a regular basis. This has been a few tips to help you with one of the most stressful times in families, mealtime. I hope this information was helpful in raising your children. I'm Bill Corbett and you can learn more about me at www.cooperativekids.com


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