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My two-year-old daughter will sit with us at the table and eat — usually. My question is — should I have her eat if she doesn't want to? Should I force her to try new foods? Should I make her sit there until her plate is clean or until she's eaten two bites of peas? If she asks to leave the table before her father and I are finished eating, do I let her?


Naomi Drew Replied: Absolutely no to forcing. That's a no win thing to do and only creates power struggles. Your best teaching tool is your goodexample, and your ability to catch her in the act of doing things right. Offer her food, and encourage her to eat it. Praise her when she does and tell her what a big girl she is. But if she doesn't want to eat, let it be. Forcing her will only make her resistant and resentful. Make mealtimes warm, pleasant and loving. Under no circumstances should you force her to sit there till her plate is clean. Doing so will make her dread mealtime. In terms of leaving the table before you and her dad are finished, remember, she's only two. Have her sit there for a reasonable amount of time, then tell her she's excused. In time, if mealtimes are pleasant and loving, she will be able to sit there for longer and longer periods. Try to find something at each meal to praise her for -- using her fork, eating whatever she eats, sitting nicely in her chair. Always remember that sincere praise is far more powerful than threats and reprimands.
Posted On 2009-09-22 09:47:41
Maureen Whitehouse Replied: Hello!

I'm Maureen Whitehouse, author of the book, Soul-Full Eating: A (Delicious!) Path to Higher Consciousness. The theme of my book is this: Eat with love, what's grown with love, prepared with love and served with love. I feel that across the board, this simple statement is the answer to all kinds of struggles that adults have with food. But it's important that we as adults ask ourselves, when do most food struggles begin? The answer is, most often in childhood. And one reason is that many of us grew up in households where it was expected that we "clean our plate" before we could be excused from the table. Let's get more specific to your questions now… to an inquisitive, on-the-go two-year-old this can be a torturous experience. Often, before the adults at the dining table have finished two mouthfuls of their food a two year old will declare, "I'm done." That's because they're genuinely satiated with one or two bites themselves and are now ready to move on to "more interesting things". So I'd like you to ask yourself, if you're asking an "expert" now how to feed your own child… maybe at some point you were led to believe that other people's opinions and feelings are more valid and important than your own. The only question I believe you need to ask here - to yourself! - is what feels most loving to me now. How can I best show my daughter that she is completely loved - even at the dinner table?
By the way, my sister-in-law still speaks about how traumatized she was by having to sit at the dining room table long after every one of her siblings was excused, until she ate those last three cold and wilting peas. As she relates it, as a child she rebelled and tried to assert her autonomy for hours and hours saying, "I don't like peas!." Unfortunately she'd eventually break and eat them - her dad was a military Colonel at the time, so he knew how to win a battle! But, at what cost?

We never crave food as much as we crave love. And you can teach your children self-love via eating food. Yes! Offer them good, wholesome, healthy choices - plenty of them - this will spark their creativity and feelings of empowerment as they can make their own choices and feel your love as they do so.
If you find that, as an adult, you are unsure if you are in a battle with food yourself, here's an excerpted exercise from Soul-Full Eating, that's often very revelatory for my readers. Try it and let me know what you find out.
And remember, it's through conscious parenting that we often discover the spontaneous, joyous, oh-so-loveable "lost child" in ourselves.

Spend five minutes meditating on or writing about the following questions. When you were young, were you given praise for finishing every last bite on your plate? Were you ever coerced into eating even after you felt full by being told about the starving children in other parts of the world or about how others suffered and sacrificed to provide you with your meal? If so, then it's likely that guilt has been coloring your world when it comes to eating—guilt for not eating enough, or guilt for eating too much. We are all born with an internal comfort-seeking mechanism—the Soul—The "Voice" of sanity. However, for many of us, it's been layered over, smothered and silenced by the guilt inherent in our fear-based conditioning.

Just for one day, do only what you genuinely love to do. Can you do that? Lucky you, if you don't have to put a hold on everything and completely rearrange your entire life to do this. That means you are already being True to your Soul!
But if you do have to do a bit of finagling of time and space in order to allow your authentic-self to emerge, that's still fine. Why? Because now you can see that you really do deserve to love yourself more. Once you do this once, there may be no turning back!
Eating what you really don't love, without love, is just one small symptom of a greater picture of denying your brilliance and self-worth.

Posted On 2008-07-17 17:59:50
Eleanor Taylor Replied: Your daughter is probably too young to tolerate sitting at the table for long periods, and it's typical for two-year olds to want to eat-and-go. Offer her small amounts of all foods, and when she is done eating, happily "excuse" her from the table. You might want to include one of her favorite foods at each meal if you know that she won't like anything else being served. The important thing is that she enjoys her experience eating at the table with the family, and that she is not pressured to eat foods she does not like. Two year olds often eat smaller meals with about 20% of their nutritional needs met by snacks. Plan healthy snacks scheduled so she will be hungry when she comes to the table for a meal.
Posted On 2008-03-18 07:18:05
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