At first, I thought maybe something spooked her, so I put her on my lap and let her eat that way. Then at lunch, she refused it again. She kept saying “mommy” which meant she wanted to sit on my lap. After 2 days of this, I began to realize I was creating a monster. I’ve created a child who has highchair tantrums.
Ok Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but I was starting some bad habits through highchair tantrums that I would later have to work even harder on breaking.
Eating should be an enjoyable experience. It’s a time to sit down, relax and indulge in whatever it is that’s on your plate. No parent wants to deal with highchair tantrums during mealtime. As far as I was concerned I had 3 options:
- Let her sit on my lap and continue to squirm.
- Decide to never go out for a meal again.
- Try to rectify this behavior.
I chose option 3 and began brainstorming ways to stop highchair tantrums. I found it was much easier to implement my new guidelines at home where I wouldn’t have to worry about disrupting others. I then started to work on getting her comfortable at restaurants.
What I Did to Stop Highchair Tantrums
Booster Seat As An Option
Kids love feeling like they’re in control and letting them chose where they sit gives them that freedom. I would get a booster seat and a high chair and let her pick which one she wanted to sit in. Of course, at first, she kept saying “mommy” and was on the verge of highchair tantrums but I continued to emphasize her 2 choices. If she wouldn’t pick in a timely manner, I told her I would pick for her and began putting her in one of the seating options.
Only Give Them Food In Their High Chair
Kids understand a lot more than we give them credit for. I would tell my daughter that she could sit in my lap until her food came. I made a strict policy that if she wanted to take a bite of food she had to be in her high chair. Even if her food came and she was still in my lap, I would not let her eat until she was in her seat.
Bring A Fun Snack Or Cup
Bring a colorful twisty straw for your child’s drink or some carrot sticks with a dressing to dip them in. Something fun that would distract her from not wanting to be in the high chair. This can also help to satisfy your toddler’s appetite while she is smelling other table foods and knows she’s there to eat but would have to wait to order something.
You can keep a few special toys such as a sticker book or coloring book in your diaper bag that is only designated for mealtimes. Make sure it’s small and quiet so it won’t disrupt you or other diners.
While at home, you can get your child excited about a meal by letting her in on the action. Let her help set the table, stir the sauce, pick out what plate she wants, etc. This way she will feel like part of the process and be more inclined to participate.
The most important thing to remember is CONSISTENCY!
Some children will continue to test you to see what they can get away with. If one day you give your child your phone to quiet her down then she’s going to expect it the next time. She may test you by being disruptive in public, making it very hard to not give in.
It’s also important to note that you can’t control other people. If you’re out with a grandparent and they give your child their phone you have to remember that it came from them. Your child should not expect it when it’s just you at the restaurant.
Another common scenario is if you’re dining with another family who follow different rules. It can be uncomfortable for everyone if one toddler is running around the restaurant while you are trying to keep your’s strapped in a high chair. Again, consistency is key and you have to stay strong and continue with these strategies.
And Always Remember These Do Nots:
Do not start any habits you don’t intend to continue (i.e. giving your child your cell phone or iPad, watching tv, etc). Your child will soon learn that the more disruptive she is the sooner you will give in and hand her the electronic device.
Do not be inconsistent with your rules. Primary caregivers should adhere to the same rules. Understand that you can’t control everyone you’re with and that it’s okay if grandparents or friends try their own tactics.
Do not break your own rules (i.e. you’re up walking around while your child is strapped in a high chair or your playing on the iPad during a meal).
Toddlers can be tricky but ultimately by getting them calm and comfortable for mealtimes it will make for a much more pleasant experience for everyone involved.
For More Parenting Advice, Check Out:
- Why Deconstructed Meals Can Make Mealtime Less Stressful
- 10 Parenting Tips For Raising Toddlers That Will Save The Day!
- Messy Mealtime: What You Need to Know When Feeding an Infant