“Sit Down!”


I have predicted that my kids will choose for my epitaph two words that they hear from me, frequently, every single day:  SIT DOWN!  Sometimes it feels like that is the extent of our mealtime conversation.

Just about everyone I know with kids past the high chair stage deals with this on some level.  Why is it so difficult for little kids to stay in their seats and focus on their food, just long enough to finish up the small portions we usually give them?

It’s easy to say that it’s because children don’t have the attention span required to sit patiently at the table, working their way through a meal, but I think there is more to it than that.  A lot of it goes back to the basic fundamentals about children and the development of their eating skills, which I talk about in my book, “My Two-Year-Old Eats Octopus.” 

For one thing, we assume that just because it’s dinner or lunch or breakfast time the kids will be hungry. That may or may not be the case.  If your child isn’t hungry, sitting down and being asked or forced to consume food is not going to be appealing, no matter how delicious the food may taste.  There may also be distractions to contend with: Are there guests at the table or friends in the room?  Is the television blaring in the background?  Is little one not feeling well?

Whatever the reason for the unrest, my personal philosophy is that it’s important to teach kids from a young age the concept of sitting down to eat, and staying at the table at least until all of the food that is wanted at that meal is consumed.  Researchers and pediatricians will tell you that one of the causes of obesity and overweight later in life is the “eat on the go, anywhere you want, anytime you want” way of life that so many of us fall into.  When you never stop to take time out for meals and nourishment, you lose the ability to read hunger cues and instead just eat whenever food is available.  And in our modern world, that’s virtually all the time.

Here are some tips to try to get your kids to sit down, at least for a few minutes, to eat their meals:

n  Give a warning that it will soon be time to eat, and play or other activities will need to cease.

n  Sit down yourself!  I’ve found that when I’m constantly jumping up and down, going to get another glass of milk or the fork I’ve forgotten, it’s easy for my kids to lose focus.

n  When you can tell that your child is at the end of the line with patience at the table, remind her that when she gets up, that means that she’s finished eating.  And that there will be nothing else to eat until the next meal.

n  When your kids are a little older (maybe age 4 or 5), start to teach the line, “May I be excused?”  This is a nice signal to both of you that he really is finished eating.

n  Don’t be afraid to use those magic words: “ SIT DOWN!”  With some kids, this is a concept that comes slowly!


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