Food Requests: How to Respond to Your Child
If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I am a firm believer in parents taking charge of the meal and snack schedule as well as the menu selection. When implementing this routine in a household, there can be quite a learning curve, especially for a child who is used to dictating what items they want to eat.
Let’s start with a discussion about the benefits of parents taking charge of the menu:
-Creates structure around the table and teaches the child that meals are not a free-for-all.
-Exposes children to a variety of foods on their plate that they may not have chosen themselves.
-Encourages families to enjoy the same foods altogether at the table.
Now let’s talk about strategies to handle your child’s requests for certain foods or objections about the menu.
1. Listen! The best thing we can do is to make sure our child feels heard.
For example, “I hear you really want pretzels with dinner but tonight we are having chicken with rice and broccoli.”
2. Hold firm! When we stick to the plan, our child will eventually learn the new routine and you might notice those mealtime tantrums start to lessen.
For example, “I’m sorry pretzels aren’t on the menu for dinner. I know you really love them.”
3. Follow through on the request at a later time! Even though it might not feel like a big deal to bring out the pretzels, it is important to hold firm to the menu. At the same time, consider following through with the request later to make them feel heard.
For example, “We can put pretzels on the menu for lunch tomorrow! Is there anything that might help you to eat the chicken with rice and broccoli right now?”
When dealing with tantrums around food requests it is common for parents to feel totally helpless in the moment. I encourage you to take a step back and reflect on your role as the parent, which is to provide regular opportunities for meals and snacks and to choose what foods to serve (while generally keeping your child’s preferences in mind).
If you feel your family needs more individualized support when handling mealtime requests, please feel free to reach out to me!