How do you keep your toddler from having a tantrum during meal times?

Marcie - posted on 01/31/2013 ( 1 mom has responded )




My 2 year old refuses to eat dinner with the family and when we try to have him at least sit at the table, he has a temper tantrum. Any suggestions on how to get him to at least sit quietly while the family eats our evening meal?


Ariana - posted on 01/31/2013




Is he in a high chair?

Is he yelling because he's bored and finished the meal or he just doesn't like sitting at the table?

Do you allow him food when he's not sitting at the table?

I would start by not allowing him to eat food away from the table (and I personally would get him a high chair so he can't get up and down so easily by himself). That means you don't let him eat ANYTHING unless he's at the table. So snacks, breakfast, dinner etc all has to be eaten at the table. If he refuses he doesn't get to eat.

You might also try having it so if he starts to have a tantrum you bring him into either his room or the bathroom and wait until he's done while ignoring him. Once he's done bring him back to the table to eat with everyone and/or just sit there. He might try to just keep crying and throwing a tantrum but just keep bringing him back until he's sat at the table for at least 10 minutes (or 5 if he really is having a hard time and slowly extend the time as he gets used to it).

I didn't have an issue with my son for eating at the table at home but he used to decide to throw tantrums at restaurants and I would take him into the bathroom, which was very boring, and just sit there while he yelled etc. Eventually if he looked calmer I'd say are you ready to go sit now? He would either respond yes, or go NOO. I would wait until he said yes and then take him back out. I had to do this for at least a year before it set in for good (plus the terrible twos!). It didn't happen every time but it happened frequently enough. He got better over time but would have a moment. Eventually it got down to where I would say do we need to go to the bathroom? Or if you keep acting like this we're going to the bathroom and he would stop. Of course he's small so he couldn't help himself all the time but it got a lot better from me taking him over like 3 times or almost every time we went out to having it happen occasionally.

Basically I would expect a big battle at first and over time once he realizes, hey, Mom (and dad or whoever) is serious about this! They aren't going to let me not sit at the table with everyone else.

So like I said, don't give him food unless he is sitting at the table so he realizes how he's supposed to act. If he starts to throw a tantrum a parent should take him upstairs to the bathroom (or some other boring room) and wait for him to calm down (without paying attention to him or even making eye contact). If he becomes violent (tries to hit or bite you) you may want to put him into a playpen if he has one and keep returning him to that until he calms down but if he's just yelling with no physical contact to you leave him. He might take a long time to calm down at first but whatever you do do NOT get mad at him or give him positive attention, both will encourage him to continue the behavior. Just wait, read a book in there if you're getting frustrated.

Once he calms down make him sit with the family, if he continues to do this until the family is done eating dinner make sure he stays at the table for at least 5-10 minutes, start off with just a few minutes afterwards at first and praise him for sitting there (even if you're still upset over going through the whole tantrum ordeal). Over time he will start realizing he can't get out of it and will do as you say. Plus he will get hungry and has to eat sometime. Like I said though, do NOT feed him outside of the table. Even if you're just giving him a snack make him sit at the table for it so he's in the habit.

Oh and if he DOES sit down with the table try to have dinner quickly at first if you can. If he finishes eating what he likes and everyone else is still going give him some paper and crayons OR if you don't feel that's appropriate sing a song to him and give him lots of positive attention so he doesn't get bored.

Sorry that's probably long, but good luck to you!

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