Oftentimes behavioral feeding tips and techniques can be effective in getting picky eaters to eat more food, a greater variety of food and in a limited amount of time.
Although feeding picky eaters can take time and patience, eventually all of your hard work will be rewarded.
In general, mealtimes should not last longer than 35-40 minutes from the time your child sits to the time she gets up at the end of a meal. Oh, and they do need to sit for the entire meal. Standing, walking around or ignoring you while you are trying to feed your child is unacceptable, and steps need to be made to end that habit.
A feeding therapist can often be a great help in teaching your picky eater essential skills and behavioral feeding tips such as sitting in the chair and accepting certain foods. They can often help you as well, by teaching you different behavioral feeding tips and techniques to help make feeding your child a more pleasurable, less stressful experience.
If you do not have access to a feeding therapist, here are some behavioral feeding tips you can try at home to improve mealtime behaviors:
You do, however, always want to end the meal on a positive note. You never want to tell her you are disappointed in her or that she didn’t do a good job. Therefore, if you are stuck in a battle of wills and she has not taken a bite in 5 minutes when the timer rings, you can just wipe the spoon quickly across her mouth, whether it’s open or not, and say “Good taking your bite!” This serves both the purpose of letting her know you are proud of her and ending the meal on your terms. You can never let your child get the best of you!
In the steps above I mentioned toys and TV. I understand many of us do not like to feed our children in front of the TV, and mealtimes are supposed to be a special time with family and socialization. If you have a child who refuses to eat, however, you may need to spend a period of time with her watching TV and playing with toys during mealtimes. Having reinforcements available while your child is eating is a very important behavioral feeding tip. If you really do not feel comfortable with toys and TV, verbal praise can also be a good reinforcer.
To get the desired effect of her eating, certain DVD’s or TV shows should be reserved to watch only when feeding. The same goes for toys. She should have certain toys that she’s only allowed to play with while eating. The point is to reinforce her for eating. After all, it’s not something she likes to do, so she will do it much better if it’s paired with her favorite toy or TV show.
Now I know many of you are wondering what to do if you have a terrible meal where she didn’t eat much at all. You already know you can’t feed after the timer rings, so what can you do? If your child is already underweight or on the brink of being diagnosed with failure to thrive, and you are concerned about her missing a meal, it can certainly be a catch-22 for you, since if you give in and give her favorite food after the meal she will quickly learn she doesn’t need to eat during the meal, if she holds out long enough she will get what she wants. There are other behavioral feeding tips that address how to get nutrition into them while starting this process, please check back next week for more information.
You are walking a tightrope here, and it may be best to make an appointment with a dietitian or feeding therapist for recommendations more tailored to your situation, but often with practice these problems iron themselves out and you learn what works and what doesn’t.
For these behavioral feeding tips and techniques to work, you need to be consistent and continiously work at it. This is not a change that will happen overnight, however with time and persistance you will find yourself and your child having many more peaceful meals where she is eating more, a greater variety and in a shorter amount of time.