Why bring my baby to the family table?
The newest member of your family needs to be a part of the things that make you one! Starting to eat together as a family will be a tradition you will NOT regret. Not only will it strengthen and bond your partnership when you set aside this special time to reconnect, but it sets a great standard for your family for years to come!
And while there are several scientifically proven benefits to the health of your family, according to thefamilydinnerproject.org, there are also many benefits to your child’s future behavior — and these are the behaviors many parents pray for:
- lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and depression
- higher grade-point averages and self-esteem
- lower obesity rates and lower rates of eating disorders
Why teach my baby high chair manners now?
You want to be able to raise a polite child who will enjoy meals and mealtimes with your family, whether you’re at home or dining out. And it is much easier to train than to retrain babies once wrong behavior patterns have been established. Since you and your baby will be spending a lot of time together, we say you should use those many mealtimes to teach him the basic skills of eating and some early table manners. Otherwise, you end up with a baby (and then a toddler) who exhibits one of these unseemly, but common, highchair issues:
-Trying to Stand in the High Chair
-Spitting & Screaming
-Food Throwing and Dropping
-Utensil Banging and Dropping
-Playing with Food
-Putting Food in Hair
How do I train my baby to be a polite diner?
Start with these 3 rules…
#1 Talk to your baby about your meal expectations.
Babies are able to understand many things, long before they can verbalize them. Don’t assume that your baby cannot understand what you are saying to him and remember that his language comprehension skills develop very quickly. Your tone says it all — so use your firm adult voice (not a baby voice)!
#2 Don’t let your baby hold the spoon.
Discourage him from grabbing for the spoon because that’s one skill he’s not quite ready to master without creating a major mess! Don’t worry, he’s got plenty of time to learn how to use utensils. Encourage him to put his arms down in his lap instead, by saying: “We put our hands in our lap during meal time” and gently put them there for him. He’ll catch on fast and you’ll be so glad (and so proud) when he does!
(Note: Hands in Lap)
#3 Strap your baby in the high chair every single time.
Yes, he will protest. But it’s up to you to teach him that restraints like the car seat and the highchair are there for his safety and that he will never have the choice whether or not he will have to stay in it. If he cries and/or flails around, give him a minute to see if he can compose himself. If he can’t, isolate him in his crib for 3-4 minutes. By removing him from the situation, even a six month old will learn quickly the cause-and-effect relationship and that your behavioral expectations are just not negotiable. Go get him, explain, and strap him back into the highchair. The more he protests, the more resolute and consistent you have to get. Remember, this is for his safety…and you’re responsible for teaching him to comply with restraints. So if he is refusing to calm down and eat after 4-5 tries, skip that meal. You must send him the message that you’re the boss and there are consequences to bad behavior — in this case, he’ll learn that he won’t get to eat if he is going to refuse to be strapped in the high chair. Trust us, he’ll learn this lesson very quickly — it shouldn’t take more than one skipped meal to get the point across.
Read up on starting solids out right in our post, here.
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