Part of our busy back to school preparations include dinner planning and healthy, delicious, quick meal ideas are always on a parent’s most wanted list. We long for our time at the dinner table to go smoothly and for our kids to eat and actually enjoy what we’ve prepared. But, truth be told, all of us have at one time or another experienced frustration at the dinner table. You’ve painstakingly prepared a good meal only to find yourself bombarded with sounds of, “I’m not hungry” or “I don’t like green beans” or my favorite, “I’d rather have pizza!” It’s easy to come away from these situations feeling frustrated and defeated. However, launching a new course of action during mealtimes is all we need to end the battle.

First, remember this golden rule: Your job is to make food available; your child’s job is to eat. You cannot physically make a child chew and swallow. What most of us end up doing instead is begging our child to eat (please, just two bites; if you finish your peas you can have a cookie). Unfortunately, these deals send your child the signal that he can exercise some power. Watch out because your child will probably regard that opportunity as much tastier than any food. Remember, in the not so distant future, your child will have complete control over what he puts into his body.

The goal is for your child to respond to his own internal hunger cues. Therefore, offer a variety of foods at mealtime and then leave him alone. It will be quite tempting to step in with your old habits the next time you see your child’s plate untouched. Stay the course and follow these tips to increase your chances of success:

1. All snacking should cease two hours prior to mealtimes.
2. Don’t overdo the juice. Instead, offer water throughout the day.
3. Let your child help prepare meals whenever possible.
4. Have a regular eating schedule to help your child learn to identify that hungry tummy feeling.
5. Eliminate all distractions. No television, toys, books, etc. at the table.
6. Don’t serve beverages at the beginning of the meal. Young children will fill-up on their drink thus triggering the “I’m not hungry” game.
7. Provide interesting and fun conversation. This entices them to stay seated and in turn, they will eat.
8. Always offer at least one familiar/favorite food on their plate.
9. Unexpectedly offer desserts.

Remember, no child ever intentionally starved himself. Be patient. Before you know it, he’ll be old enough to make a meal for you.