By Kamakshi Ganesh
Raising children is hard work and it’s not uncommon for parents to occasionally resort to the path of least resistance, to (temporarily) make life easier for them! An all-too-familiar example of this would be incentivizing your child with some screen-time so that they eat their meals. There are a large number of very valid reasons as to why parents let their child watch their favorite cartoon while eating - ranging from motivation to eat the complete meal, getting them to eat the food they don’t enjoy, or just keep them engaged enough to sit in one place and eat without running around.
While distracting your child from their food may seem like the easiest way to get them to eat, studies show that a child SHOULD be paying attention to what is on their plate. This helps them develop a sense of how much they should be eating and trains them to listen to the cues from their own body to know when their hunger is satiated.
Here are 5 steps you can follow to make the transition to screen-free mealtimes easier!
1. Set your expectations so that you can be consistent
What this means is at the get-go, set the rules to be followed. It could be allowing screen-times for snack times and not for the bigger meals like lunch/dinner, or allowing it during the weekend and not during weekdays. Depending on how much screen-time your child is currently engaging in, decide whether you want to cut them off completely, or gradually reduce the screen time allowed. Both methods have their pros and cons but the more clarity you have, the easier it will be for you to communicate this with your child.
2. Do not pressurize them
Try to not force them to eat everything on their plate! If they want to stop eating before their plate is clean, comply. Lesser pressure during mealtimes makes it less stressful for both your child and you.
3. Hide all screens
Out of sight, out of mind! Try to hide any screen that your child usually looks at while eating i.e., your phone, iPad, etc. You don’t want to tempt them by having them face a TV, or keep any gadgets around that remind them of all the cartoons they could be watching!
4. Make their favorite food
No, we aren’t suggesting you feed your child candies and fries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! What this means is for the initial few days of them eating without an iPad or TV screen, try and make food that they enjoy eating. This would make them look forward to their meals rather than being intimidated by the sight of something they don’t enjoy eating.
5. Set a good example
Try and follow the same rules you’ve set for your child. Sit with them during mealtimes and engage with them. You don’t want them to see you looking at your phone or watching TV while eating while you are enforcing no screen-time for them!