Avoiding Power Struggles with Toddlers During Meals

We know that good nutrition helps children learn better and promotes lifelong healthy eating habits. But what do you do when young children refuse to eat their greens? This excerpt from Rethinking Nutrition: Connecting Science and Practice in Early Childhood Settings provides great advice when it comes to promoting nutrition and healthy feeding habits in early childhood settings.

“Young children, especially toddlers, need help making healthy choices. So how do you handle a child who refuses to eat healthy foods? One way to help children develop both good nutrition habits and internal hunger control is to offer two healthy choices. Letting the child choose whichever food she prefers gives her some control and steers clear of the power struggle. If the child still refuses to eat, you can simply say these two choices are what is available now and the other choices will be offered at the next snack or meal. It is not recommended that adults require children to eat portions of their remaining lunch before they may have the snack being served. By doing so, the adult would be introducing a power struggle and teaching the toddler that meals will be frustrating experiences. As two-year-olds shift wildly between clingy dependence on adults and stubborn refusal of adult control over their behavior, begin addressing impulse control and self-regulation at mealtime, just as you do in other educational activities. (For more on offering appropriate choices, see chapter three in the first book in this series, Social and Emotional Development: Connecting Science and Practice in Early Childhood Settings.)”

For more information and tips to promote healthy eating and feeding habits, check out Rethinking Nutrition by Susan Nitzke, PhD, RD; Dave Riley, PhD; Ann Ramminger, MS; and Georgine Jacobs, MS. Rethinking Nutrition, Social and Emotional Development, and Intellectual Development are part of the Redleaf Professional Library series.

Tell us: Do you have any tips for avoiding power struggles?

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One Response to Avoiding Power Struggles with Toddlers During Meals

  1. Jeniffer says:

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    You definitely put a fresh spin on a subject that has been discussed for a long time.

    Great stuff, just excellent!

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