If you have a picky eater or a toddler who would rather play than eat or eat only one meal type, you’ll agree that mealtimes can be a struggle.
You’re not alone on this at all; many parents have had to or are currently in the same struggle. Thankfully, this behavior can be corrected.
To help improve your child’s eating habits and make mealtimes more enjoyable, we’ve outlined some tips you can try.
And if grandma, babysitters, or a sibling has to be in charge of your child’s feeding while you’re away, you should share these tips with them for maximum effectiveness.
Kids are not like adults. They need time to grow accustomed to a new food. If your child touches or smells new food and spits it out right after a bite, understand that the behavior is completely normal.
You can speed things up by serving newly introduced foods alongside the “regulars”. Do this frequently until they start enjoying the new food.
Don’t Offer Desserts as Rewards for Eating
Dessert should not be offered as a reward for eating. If you do so, you only increase your toddler’s sugar craves. If he or she must have desserts, select just one or two nights weekly for it and leave out the rest of the week. Or even better make desserts about fruits and other really healthy options.
Plan Dinners Ahead
If you find planning a weekly menu too demanding to keep up with, you can begin with two or three days a week.
Now, keep in mind that a good dinner does not have to be fancy or anything out of the ordinary. It just has to be healthy and balanced.
It can include things like brown rice, pasta, or whole grain bread with fruits or vegetables and a protein source such as cheese, beans, chicken or eggs.
When you have a formal dinner time with healthier and tasty meals served, your toddler will be more likely to eat without a hassle.
Involve Your Child
Kids feel appreciated when involved in tasks they’d ordinarily have been excluded from. If your child goes with you to the grocery, allow him help you select fruits, vegetables, and other healthy food types. Steer him towards healthier options; don’t buy or ogle at foods you wouldn’t want him to eat.
And at home, encourage him to help you in the kitchen with tasks like rinsing out veggies and fruits or setting the table.
You can also ask him to help you stir the batter or mix the vegetables for the salad while you grease the pan. Just any task safe enough for him to be involved in will do.
Don’t Try To Be A Short-Order Cook/Don’t Make Separate Meals
It may be tempting to just whip up something for your picky eater when he rejects dinner. Don’t do that. Also, don’t make two separate meals in the hope that you’d feed it to your picky eater if he rejects the main meal.
Instead, make one meal for the family and serve it family style – suitable for the adults and in the right size and texture for the little ones.
If your child discovers that every time he rejects a meal, you always prepare something he wants, he will want to exploit that “privilege”. If on the other hand, you make one meal for the family, he’ll be compelled to eat from it knowing he has no other options.
Avoid Distractions at Mealtime
Mealtimes should be strictly for meals. Not for TV, the computer or the tablet. It is a time to eat and interact with others in the family. Remove toys and other distractions from the eating area before setting the table. Leave those for playtime after or before meals.
Set a Schedule
Unlike adults, children need to eat more frequently. You can schedule their mealtimes to be every three or four hours with adequate fluid between. When you make room for regular food and fluid intake, your child’s diet is likely to be more balanced and he’ll be less cranky and hardly hungry.
For example, when you have to take the kids somewhere for a couple of hours, you could pack some carrots, apples, crackers or cucumbers in a bag. You can also stock a cooler bag with water, fresh juice and yogurt. Not only are your kids provided with healthy varieties to choose from, but you also won’t have to spend money on not-so-healthy fast food when they eventually get hungry.
Make Sure He Is Truly Hungry
Don’t force a meal on your child because you believe he or she has to wipe the plate clean. If he isn’t hungry, don’t force it. You’ll only succeed in starting a power tussle over food or reinforcing an existing.
Your child may also come to dread mealtimes because of the frustration and anxiety he associates them with and as he grows, he may even become less able to tell hunger and fullness.
Kids can only eat so much, serve the meals in small portions instead of a full plate. If he wants more after the first small serving, then give more.
Soy Soy Soy!
If your child does not like milk or has milk allergies, you can replace it with soy. This healthy milk option is an amazing source of phytochemicals needed by the body.
If he doesn’t like soy milk as well, it is easy to sneak it in some recipes. There are low-fat, calcium-filled soymilk options and you can use such in recipes that require milk. These recipes may include sauces, cereals, and mashed potatoes.
Optimize the Mornings
Breakfast is a good opportunity to eat the required amount of fibers daily. Don’t miss this opportunity to include fiber in your picky eater’s diet. Select only high fiber cereals and take out time during weekends to make batches of waffle batter that will last the entire week.
That way, your child has all his fiber needs met even if he eats little fiber throughout the rest of the day.
Reduce Junk Food Consumption
You provide the food, your kids pick from the options provided. If you provide only healthy and filling options, they are left with no choice.
Take note of the foods that make their way into the house including those gifted by family members or friends. Have less junk food around and more “actual” foods like fresh veggies, fruits, nuts, and grains.
Finding it hard to reduce your kids’ junk food consumption? Check out our article on reducing junk food consumption in kids.
You Are The Role Model, Live up To Your Expectations
Kids copy the things you do and this makes you their biggest role model. If you’re almost always on a diet or have an unhealthy attitude to food yourself, kids will know and might get influenced by it. Some will grow up believing that such behavior is normal.
You don’t want that. Be honest to yourself and try to resolve any food issue you may have to correct or avoid sending the wrong kinds of messages about food to your kids.
You can start by listening attentively to hear your body tell you that it is hungry or full. It may take some time, but the result will be worth it.
Limit Eating Time
Don’t allow your child to spend too much time nibbling on food. The maximum time you should allow is 30 – 45 minutes. Clear the table as soon as the time elapses and allow to him leave. When it’s time for the next meal, offer him a fresh serving or different meal or snack.
Extending mealtimes needlessly does little to improve your child’s food consumption. It is also unsanitary leaving food out for too long. Plus, you create a gloomy eating environment.
Switch Things Up
Try new foods. Granted it takes time for kids to get used to new food but repeating the same types of food isn’t helping.
If you eat and feed your kids the same food every single day, you’re not eating healthy. Besides that, eating the same kinds of foods teaches your children to grow comfortable with monotony.
Teach your little kids to keep an open mind towards meals. They should be taught not to expect the same meal every day.
If you get them involved in the shopping and preparation, switching meals will be a lot easier, it gives them the opportunity to suggest meals from the healthy options and ingredients provided.
Don’t Let Them Replace Actual Food with Liquid
Of course, they need some liquid as many times as necessary. But don’t let it be overdone. You can save milk or any other beverages for mealtimes and bedtimes to keep them from filling you’re their stomach with liquid instead of food.
Be Realistic With Your Expectations
If your child is trying a meal for the first time, don’t expect him to jump at the plate with glee. As said earlier, kids need some time to grow accustomed to a particular meal after the first exposure.
This first “exposure” includes nibbling on the meal, helping to prepare it, setting the table, looking at it being served or even hearing you talk about it.
Don’t put pressure on your little one to enjoy the meal at the first exposure.
Don’t Exaggerate the Taste of the Meal
The meal tastes great alright, but don’t try to oversell it. Kids are “kids”; not dumb. Saying things like “this is suuuuuper delicious” or that he is “missing out on a food that tastes like heaven” will only make your little one more suspicious and uninterested.
Don’t Nag or Make Deals with Your Child over Food
Nagging and bribery are not sustainable ways to get your child to eat more. Saying things like “finish the greens and you’ll get some dessert” helps no one in the long run.
For one, if they’re brought up to expect deals or rewards when meals are involved, they’ll expect and even throw tantrums for rewards on things like brushing or getting a bath.
Soon enough, they will not want to do anything unless promised something in return. Will you be able to keep up with that?
Be Creative and Fun With Meals
Make mealtime one of the several opportunities to let your creative side roam free. The more creative and captivating the meal is, the easier it is to get your picky eater to eat.
You can even call food funny nicknames and bake foods in pans they’ll likely find intriguing and fun. You can also cut out cookies into shapes your kids will find interesting; e.g. stars, flowers, and hearts (there are tons of cookie cutters in shapes your child will love).
As long as the meal is healthy and not bad-tasting, don’t stop trying to get your child to eat it. Keep trying, offer foods your child has said no to before but do this on different days.
Also, try offering it again in a different recipe. You may get so many “NOs” before your child finally accepts to try the food but don’t stop. He’ll come around eventually.
If you feel that your child is missing out on valuable nutrients from picky eating and nothing you do is helping, consult the pediatric.
He should be able to estimate your toddler’s growth on a growth chart. You can also provide more information for him to work with by noting the quantity and type of food your child consumes for about 3 or 4 days. Also, having a food log on standby would help the doctor detect problems if there is any.
Knowing your child’s growth outlook from the doctor’s estimates would do a lot to ease your concerns.
That said, be patient, you have to remember that your child’s eating habits will not change overnight. It takes time but if you keep at it, you’ll get results.
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Why Is My Child Always Angry? When A Child’s Anger Become A Problem
Unlike adults, kids are often fueled by their emotions and this is why tantrums or meltdowns can be common occurrences. But, what about prolonged intense anger or frequent outbursts? Is this normal or beyond the usual childhood behavioral issues that kids often outgrow?
Occasional meltdown is common with most children. Because their behaviors are often fueled by their emotions, they may sometimes lash out when frustrated or being defiant. This is completely normal and most will stop with corrections or naturally outgrow it.
When Does A Child’s Anger Become A Problem?
A child’s temper tantrum should become concerning when if you notice the following signs.
- An outburst that becomes dangerous to him or others around
- Temper tantrums and outbursts regularly occurring beyond the age of eight
- Temper tantrums and outbursts that get in the way of learning. This type of outburst can cause his teachers to report him frequently.
- When the behavior gets in the way of his socialization; causing him to get excluded from playdates and parties.
- When he is unable to control his anger and feels bad about it
- His anger gets in the way of peace in the family; disruptive to normal family life
Causes Of Anger Issues In Children
Again, tantrums are normal and expected at certain stages in childhood. However, they become concerning when they carry on past these stages. If your child throws tantrums or is overly aggressive, it could be linked to any of the causes outlined below.
Undiagnosed/Untreated Learning Disability
If your child has temper tantrums or outbursts at school or mostly when it concerns school work, he may be suffering from an undiagnosed learning disability. These conditions could make learning extra difficult for him and the resulting frustrations would in turn cause him to throw tantrums.
Anger issues are a common symptom among children with ADHD. Kids with this condition are frustrated easily especially when learning something new or when they have to do their homework or any learning-related activity.
Children suffering from severe anxiety may have frequent outbursts and often more defiant to instructions. Children with these conditions struggle with situations that trigger distress and lash out when made to face these situations.
It is also not uncommon for the child’s fight or flight mode instinct to take hold during anxiety-inducing situations causing the child to throw a fit or simply refuse to do things to avoid facing his fears.
And even when such children manage to “keep it together” at school, they often flip the lid at home.
Sensory Processing Issues
While rare, your child’s anger outbursts could be a result of the difficulty he has processing information he receives through his senses. Children with this condition are particularly sensitive to excessive noise, crowds, and so become overwhelmed, anxious, or uncomfortable under these conditions.
When faced with huge or unexpected changes, children on all points of the autism spectrum are commonly prone to outbursts or major meltdowns. This is due to the sensory issues that may cause them to become anxious and agitated.
Trauma Or Neglect
Kids will act out when they are neglected or have to deal with chaotic situations at home. kids suffering from trauma or neglect often display these behaviors at school intimidating other students in the process. Children more at risk include those with ADHD and those who have had traumatic experiences.
Symptoms Of Anger Issues In Children
Because temper tantrums or outbursts can easily be confused or misdiagnosed as something else, it is important that you’re familiar with some of the red flags in order to quicken diagnosis and treatment.
- Intense and quick reaction by the child to perceived rejection or insult
- Excessive risk-taking in areas they feel confident about their abilities e.g. classroom games, sports, etc.
- Avoidance of areas or assignments where their deficits are easily exposed and overreacting when made to partake in these assignments
- Anger outbursts that are often brief
- Frequent defiance to instructions
These are just a few of the symptoms of the condition. While these symptoms will help you make a close guess, the key to accurate diagnosis is getting proper help from a health professional and in this case; a pediatrician. Once all possible medical courses are ruled out, you’ll be referred to a trained and experienced child psychologist to help determine the exact cause of your child’s outbursts.
How To Help A Child With Anger Issues/What You Can Do If Your Child Has Anger Issues
While your child’s anger outburst may be exasperating to you and others in the family, you have to understand that he is only distressed. If he were older, he would probably manage it more maturely.
Do not view this problem as a manipulative behavior as he only lacks language, control and problem-solving skills to deal with his anger in the best possible way.
That said when a child lashes out or throws temper tantrums, you want to help in the best way you can before or after a professional’s evaluation. I outlined some of the things you can do below.
Identify the triggers
The first thing you want to do when your child has frequent emotional outbursts is to identify the triggers of this behavior.
Do his outbursts begin when getting ready for school? Does he become anxious at bedtime? For the former, you can prepare his mind beforehand by laying out his clothes, waking him earlier, or even having him shower the night before. You can also break down the tasks for each school day into steps and post them on the wall. That way, he is better prepared mentally for the day ahead.
Kids can quickly get out of control and when dealing with a raging child, it can seem even worse. Now, it’s very easy to lose your cool at this point and yell at him to stop. But you shouldn’t.
When you yell or reprimand harshly, you only decrease your chances of reaching him. In defiance, he’ll become more aggressive and less likely to listen to you. Try to remain as possible and by doing this, you not only create a chance to reach the child but also teach him to do the same thing during upsetting situations.
Encourage positive behavior
After he calms down from a fit of anger, praise him for it. Encourage him to verbalize his feelings and when he does, try to arrive at a compromise on the problem and praise him for making the effort.
Don’t give in
The last thing you want to do is encourage this behavior by agreeing to all he wants. You’ll only be reinforcing an undesirable behavior which would certainly make it harder for him to stop.
Help and encourage him to practice problem-solving
One of the best times to help a child prone to outbursts is when he is not upset. Encourage him to communicate his feelings to you and help him come up with solutions to the issues before they happen.
“Everyone Makes Mistakes”
Children prone to outbursts often have high standards for themselves. This they do without even realizing it. They lack the social awareness of the expectations for children within their age range.
Teach the child to understand that there everyone makes mistakes. It would also be helpful if they are taught to say the phrase to themselves whenever they make a mistake/have a higher than “normal” expectations of themselves.
During outbursts/tantrums, a nonverbal cue can be an effective way to get your child to calm down before a total rage. These cues could include raising your hand in a “stop” motion when your child’s anger is rising.
Practice this with the child in his calm state so he learns to see it as a safe signal not necessarily as a punishment.
Why Is My Child So Angry? Conclusion
Kids at any age will throw tantrums to get what they want and to avoid certain situations. This is perfectly normal. What is not be “normal” is a child above eight or nine throwing tantrums regularly or frequently bursting into fits of anger.
While it is advised that you ignore these behaviors to avoid encouraging it, you may still need to take other steps. This is particularly important in cases where the child is getting physical to the extent of frightening you or disrupting the family with his behavior.
Apply the techniques and behavioral therapies outlined above. And also see a professional for help if the behavior persists.
Bedwetting In Children: Causes, Diagnosing And Solutions To Bedwetting
At some point in their early years, kids will wet their beds and this is completely normal.
At what age does bedwetting become a problem? How can you effectively stop an older child from wetting the bed? What are the possible causes of bedwetting in children? I’ll discuss all of these and more in this article.
When Bedwetting Becomes A Problem
Bedwetting is fairly common among children but as they grow older, most outgrow this behavior. While a few may wet the bed occasionally, some may continue bedwetting until their early teenage years.
What Causes Bedwetting?
Contrary to popular belief, bedwetting does not occur because of a child’s laziness. There are several reasons your child may be bedwetting and these reasons are outlined below.
Genetic causes. In these cases, bedwetting is inherited from a parent or an older family member e.g. an aunt or an uncle.
Stress. Bedwetting can be triggered by stress. A change in the family; positive or negative ones e.g. the arrival of a new baby, moving, or a new bedtime schedule during a long trip or a vacation can increase stress levels causing bedwetting.
In some cases, bedwetting may be caused by a smaller than normal bladder.
Bedwetting may also occur when the hormone vasopressin isn’t being produced sufficiently. This hormone causes a reduction in urine production during sleep.
Slower development of the central nervous system making the child unable to stop the bladder from emptying during sleep.
Spinal cord abnormalities
In rare cases, your child’s bedwetting may be a sign of an underlying health problem. This bedwetting type may suddenly occur after your child has been dry for months or even years.
Urethral or ureter valves abnormalities
Untreated urinary tract infection
If you suspect an underlying cause, you should talk to your doctor or see a pediatrician. The pediatrician will screen the child for possible health problems and recommend treatment plans tailored for the specific condition.
When Do Children Achieve Bladder Control?
There is no one-size-fits-all timeline for every child. Children can achieve bladder control at different ages but generally, for many children under the age of 5, treatment may not be needed for bedwetting.
Some children may wet their beds until the 7 though not regularly. If your child wets the bed more than occasionally after the age of 7 and does so during the day and at night, you should consult your health care professional or pediatrician.
Aside from a serious underlying condition being responsible for bedwetting in rare cases, oftentimes, children who wet the bed are healthy and active. Having your doctor examine your child can help you determine the true cause of the condition.
Before the physical exam, your doctor or pediatrician will ask questions about the child’s daytime and nighttime bathroom habits. He may ask about happenings at home and school for your child. He may also recommend a urine test to check for an untreated infection or diabetes.
Depending on the findings, (usually, there is no known underlying cause of bedwetting and your doctor may recommend any or most of the strategies outlined in this article) your doctor may prescribe drugs to treat any underlying condition or another for bladder or urine production control.
Bedwetting: What Parents Can Do
If your child could stop bedwetting without your help, he’d have done so long ago. Avoid blaming or shaming your child and focus instead on practical steps and positive encouragement. It’s probably already more embarrassing for him than it is for you.
Tips to help your child stop bedwetting
Control Fluid Intake And Urination Before Bedtime
Your child’s fluid intake during the day will influence his urine frequency at night. Allow and encourage the child to drink as much fluid as possible during the day instead of waiting until night. Limit his fluid intake and try to get him into the habit of urinating every two or three hours. One hour before bedtime, have the child urinate and repeat right before he sleeps.
You may want to consider getting a bedwetting alarm. These alarm types are designed with moisture sensors that trigger a buzzer or bell when the pajamas start to get wet.
Like most children will learn to wake up to use the toilet when the alarm sounds before completely wetting the bed.
Create a reward system. While you should not punish or shame your child for wetting the bed, you should create a reward system for dry nights. This encourages positive behavior and helps the child get more into good habits.
If your child is old enough to do it, ask him to change the sheets whenever he wets the bed. If he hasn’t been changing sheets, see it as an opportunity for him to learn; teach him how and have him do it any time he wets the bed.
Bladder training. Patiently teach your child to hold his urine for longer during the day. It will take some time but with good practice, he will learn. This exercise helps to stretch the bladder so it holds more urine for longer.
Medications. Even though your child’s condition may not be the result of an underlying ailment, it may still be helped with medications.
When taken before bed, these medications will help to reduce the quantity of urine produced during sleep. They may be beneficial during sleepovers, camps, etc. especially when used alongside other bedwetting prevention techniques.
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Night Time Fears: When Your Child Is Afraid To Sleep Alone
Why is my child afraid to sleep alone?
Kids being afraid of the dark or sleeping in a room by themselves is not uncommon.
How do you respond when your child cannot sleep without you? How do you respond when your child has night time anxiety?
When A Child Has Night Time Anxiety
Granted, your child being terrified of darkness may seem very illogical. But you have to remember that it is only “illogical” because you see it from your position as an adult.
Our brains process things differently; the child’s brain most of the time is fueled by emotion. Ours, on the other hand, is fueled by logic; as it should be.
This is why it can seem like you’re worsening things when you tell your kid that there are really no monsters lurking in the dark. And of course, there are no monsters, but that won’t stop him from communicating his fears and concerns until he is heard.
When Your Child Is Afraid Of The Dark
How do you get your child to stop being afraid of the dark without disregarding his emotions? How do you get him finally understand that while his emotions are valid, he’ll still be safe if you’re not in the room with him?
In this article, I’ll share some tips for helping your child overcome the fear of sleeping alone and finally say goodbye to nighttime anxiety.
Stopping Nighttime Fear And Anxiety: The Things You Can Do
Distinguish Between Fantasy And Reality
Kids with nighttime fears should be talked to about the difference between reality and fantasy. Let them know that there are no monsters in the closet, in the hallway, or anywhere in the dark. By distinguishing between fantasy and reality, they have significantly reduced risk for nighttime fears or nightmares.
Teach Your Child How To Relax
Does your child cry during any of his anxiety attacks or whenever he has to sleep alone? If he does, try teaching him breathing exercises as you try to calm him.
Teach him to take slow, deep breaths by having him exhale into a party blower. Studies have shown that these breathing exercises help to lessen emotional distress in both adults and kids.
Create Positive Night Time Stories
Another way to help your child overcome nighttime fears is by using a technique known as story desensitization. This technique is designed to help kids become less fearful by making them face their fears in small steps.
At daytime, create short stories with your child in which his favorite fictional character overcomes nighttime fears. Try to keep the story as positive as possible and as the story progresses, introduce something a little scary to it that your child’s favorite character eventually conquers with some of the techniques mentioned in this article.
Counter Fearful Thoughts
With this method, you help your child think of safety, happiness, and bravery, all of which helps to give him a huge sense of control.
Create these images whenever the scary ones come up. When he’s scared of sleeping alone or being in the dark, you can tell him to imagine running or playing with his dog or any other pet.
Check Possible Sources Of Daily Stress
According to studies, children who suffer from daytime anxieties such as separation from parents, school-related anxiety, or other issues during the day are more likely to be terrified of the dark and sleeping alone. You can lessen your child’s nighttime fears significantly by helping him cope better with the daytime stress.
Reviewing The Sleep Schedule And Requirement
As kids grow, their sleep requirements may change. Because many parents tend to overestimate how much sleep their children need, they often try to make their kids sleep long before they feel sleepy. When this is done, your child will have more time to overthink his fears at night or when left to be alone in the dark.
Try gauging your child’s sleep requirements and if you discover that you’ve been sending him to sleep earlier than needed, you should consider reviewing the sleep schedule. No, he doesn’t have to spend the extra one or two hours watching TV, you can line up other fun activities such as storytelling or games.
No Terrifying Imageries, Stories Or TV Before Bed
Avoid watching frightening movies, telling disturbing stories, or other materials when your child is present and right before bedtime. Kids exposed to frightening stories have been found to sleep poorly and had more disturbed sleep compare to those who weren’t.
Be Swift In Your Response To Nightmares
Be prompt in your response to nightmares. Whenever it happens, reassure your child that the nightmare wasn’t real. Patiently explain to him that everyone has nightmares. Doing this instead of delaying will help to quickly dispel the scare of a frightening dream and this way, your child goes back to sleep quicker.
Provide A Night Light
Provide your child with a night light but ensure you only get one that gives off dim light with a soft warm hue. Avoid bright and red light as these inhibit the production of melatonin in the brain, and tend to prevent sleep.
Be Calm And Confident
You’re probably your child’s biggest model on many things. Thus, when he comes to you or reports his fears to you, try as much as possible to remain calm, confident, sensitive, and responsive.
Let him know that you completely understand his feelings and assure him that even the bravest of us get scared sometimes. You shouldn’t let your sympathy make you too protective of him. Our young ones can pick up fears by watching us. A child can grow more anxious or fearful once he sees that you’re anxious, worried, or fearful.
A Stuffed Animal/Toy Or Doll
Providing your child with a stuffed animal or soft toy can help to reduce nighttime fears. In one study, fearful children who received a toy showed lesser nighttime fears and sleep problems than the children in the control group.
As a parent, your child is probably not the only one suffering from the effect of nighttime fears. It may be depriving you of adequate sleep and it’s only normal to wish it would all end.
While you work towards curbing or stopping this behavior, you should not direct your anger at the child. Stopping or managing this behavior will take some time, and directing your resentment at your child will only worsen things and take you several steps backward. Remain patient even when it’s hard.
Most children will have nighttime fears at some point in their early years. When this happens, they’ll need you to be sensitive to their fears, temperaments, and needs. Kids suffering from nighttime fears also need to be reassured regularly so they have a sense of security and become able to successfully overcome their nighttime fears.
Finally, if your child suffers from severe nighttime fears or nightmares or his fears seem to linger despite all you do, you should consult with a doctor or a trained and licensed therapist. A thorough examination and evaluation will help the professional create a treatment plan according to your child’s specific needs.