Question from a reader: How long do children need for meals?

Mar 21, 2014 by

“Is it best to allot 30 minutes for kiddos to eat, an hour, 90 minutes? I feel like anything over 30-40 minutes just seems excessive and more frustrating for the adults. At about 20 minutes today, it was obvious the kids were done eating what was on their plates.” – Laurel

Thanks for your question, Laurel!  As usual, I have plenty to say. Sometimes parents or caretakers of picky eaters make children sit at the table until they eat a certain amount. Not very effective, I dare say. Making children sit there for a certain amount of time just because you think they should sit there, even if they are not eating, is no better. The ideal is to engage children in enjoyable conversation at the table, regardless of their ages.  If you create a pleasant atmosphere at the table, children will enjoy being with adults at the table. As…

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Dad & the Picky Eater: 4 Steps to Setting Up Kids for Eating Success

Mar 21, 2013 by

Two-year-old Amber knows there’s chocolate cake for dessert. So at dinner, she turns up her nose at the roast chicken and creamed spinach. She’s holding out. So her dad commands her to eat and makes sure she does it. The battle begins. Amber’s secret enjoyment in getting Dad’s goat is even greater than her objection to dinner. It gets ugly, but Dad “wins.” Amber ends up eating the absolute minimum requirement of her dinner, then she gorges on chocolate cake.

“I thought that’s what I was supposed to do: make them eat,” different dads of picky eaters have told me when I suggested otherwise. “I thought I was doing the right thing, just what I ought to do to be a good dad.”

It’s a tough question: Where should we hold the line as parents? When do we let it go? Should we let them eat what they want or make…

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The “Anna Karenina Principle”: Six Steps to Avoid Picky Eating and Achieve a “Happy Family”

Aug 2, 2012 by

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  

—  the opening lines of Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

Broad is the way that leads to unhappiness in a family; the ways to go wrong are limitless. No question about that. If Tolstoy is right, there’s also only one narrow path, a certain set of basic foundational requirements, to achieve a happy family. What if we apply this principle to family meals?

Jared Diamond in his book Guns, Germs and Steel

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How to deal with food tantrums

Aug 25, 2010 by

Every middle of the night, Tina’s dog woke her up to get a treat. She complained about it, but the dog didn’t speak that language. He understood what she did better than what she said. He listened to the language of the treat. She was giving him what he wanted, and that’s why he kept doing it. He probably thought she liked being woken up in the night. Why else would she give him a treat for doing so? That dog had her well trained.

Along come Tina’s kids. All day, any time they want something she doesn’t want them to have, they scream. If they want candy, they scream. So she gives it to them. She says, “I wish my kids would quit that screaming. I hate that screaming.” But whenever they scream, she scrambles to give…

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Leveraging Dessert to Get Kids to Eat Dinner Every Night

Aug 6, 2010 by

“We have no problem with my kids eating their dinner,” my friend Ashley told me. “Every night I make dessert. I don’t mind doing it. We all enjoy having it. The kids know that if they don’t eat their dinner they won’t get any dessert, so every night they eat their dinner and they get dessert. We have no fights about it.”

Several other moms told me they have dessert all the time, too, for that very reason: it’s one of the key tools in their toolbox to make their kids eat meals.

Recently, a mom asked me this question: “Our problem is that we like to have ice cream (our junk food of choice) in the summertime…

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