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Mealtime and the Difficult Child

Some parents dread taking their child to a restaurant for dinner. Some kids even have trouble at friends' and relatives' homes. The fact is that meal time is smooth sailing for most kids but a source of conflict for others. Chances are your child will experience the mealtime meanies at least once.

Picky Eaters and Ewww!

At some point, you're bound to serve your child something that looks, to him, like a completely unappetizing pile of goo. He'll scream and yell, and refuse to eat even one tiny, little bite. Although forcing your child to eat anything he doesn't like is never a good idea as it may cause him to associate mealtime with negative feelings, you certainly can remind him that he can't decide if he likes something if he never even tries it. Encourage your picky eater to at least give new foods a try each time they are served and leave it at that. If your child only eats a very limited selection of foods, you may want to have a chat with your pediatrician.

Fidgeting at Dinner

It's hard for kids to sit still for any real length of time. It's important for parents to understand this and avoid marathon mealtimes. You can encourage your child to sit still and stay at the table by engaging him in conversation or a story. Requiring that he ask to be excused is a good way to "release" him from his mealtime obligation and acts as a signal that it's ok to leave the table.

Inappropriate Behavior

The dinner table is not a play ground. It's never ok for your child to scream, yell, throw food, stand on his chair, or have a temper tantrum while at the table. If he engages in this type of behavior, he may need a bit of time to himself before he can rejoin the family at the table. Make your behavior expectations clear to your child and reward good behavior. Some kids seem to have a terrible time at mealtimes. They scream, throw food, refuse to sit still, and, in general, make everyone miserable. Difficult children may need a bit of help being good at mealtime. If your child is one of these table terrors, you can use charts to encourage good behavior. Small rewards like stickers go a long way towards promoting good table manners.