The language we use at mealtimes can have a significant impact on our children. Feeding is based on relationships and trust for both the parent and the child. If parents are feeling stressed and anxious about mealtimes, children will too. It’s important to keep mealtimes calm, happy, and as stress-free as possible. Focus on making mealtimes about spending quality time together, creating positive experiences and having fun with food. Some tips for language use at mealtimes include:

  • Avoid ‘Praise’ for eating: It is our natural instinct to praise a child when they’ve done something well. However, when it relates to food, praise reinforces that you are ‘trying to get them to eat’ and that you are ‘watching them’.
  • Remain nonchalant and avoid paying specific attention to your child’s eating behaviours. A child is more likely to have a go at something if a) no one is telling them to do it, b) they think no one is watching them and c) they get an intrinsic reward for the behaviour (i.e. not being hungry anymore).
  • Keep language neutral: Avoid giving your opinion on the food (“it’s so yummy! Try it!”) or asking children what they think of the food.

After all, we know that fussy eaters are often anxious eaters, so at mealtimes, have everyday conversations to help keep the pressure low and increase enjoyment!

Fun mealtime conversation topics:

  • Weekend activities
  • Hobbies
  • Telling jokes
  • Favourite animals
  • Books or movies

By Hannah Caon