5 Tips to Establish Better Mealtimes with Your Family


My child just can’t sit all the way through dinner time. He has difficulty concentrating on his plate, and he constantly leaves the table. He is so picky! I know that he likes what I serve, but he has moods where he simply refuses to eat unless I prepare him a pizza. He can spend more than 2 hours over a dinner plate and not to eat a thing.

Does any of these scenarios sound familiar? Many families experience difficulties around mealtime. The following solutions can help you to establish better mealtimes, so you can enjoy this family time together.


Set predictable mealtimes
Most parents provide snacks for their children between meals, particularly when the children refuse to eat or eat poorly at established mealtimes. This creates an undesirable cycle. Pay attention to when you provide food or snacks (only at pre-planned times), so your child won’t be full at mealtime.

Limit the length of meals
Set a timer for 30 minutes or less. Ask your child to plan their preferred activity (such as watching a cartoon or using an iPad/tablet) for after he finishes eating. It’s ok to let your child begin their preferred activity before the 30 minutes are up, as long as he has finished eating.


Provide choices
Allow your child to choose which vegetables or grains he prefers, but state that he must make a choice.


A helpful trick:
Use a large plate and place on it a regular child’s portion of food. Mark the food on the plate in the middle, and ask your child to eat just half of the food. This trick can help a child who feels overwhelmed by the amount of food he is expected to eat.


And now, the most important part…
We all react immediately when our child is misbehaving, but we forget to give attention to our child in good moments. Try to ignore disruptive behavior and provide praise at each possible opportunity (a smile when your child touches the spoon or praise when he puts the spoon to his mouth). Your positive attention has magical powers even at dinner time!


Victoria Tenenbaum is a certified Behavior Analyst, BCaBA. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Tel Aviv University and currently working toward master’s degree in applied behavior analysis.  Victoria specializes in training parents to address children’s problem behaviors by implementing a scientific approach to correcting a child’s sleep or behavior problems. Victoria is a mother of 2 very active boys and is a pediatric behavior consultant for Habitz.