Convincing preschoolers to sit at the table

Learn about: Convincing preschoolers to sit at the table from Tina Payne Bryson, PhD,...
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Convincing preschoolers to sit at the table

So if you have a young child who refuses to sit at the dinner table, I think first of all realize it’s… first ask yourself the question – is this a battle that’s worth fighting? If the child’s going to eat throughout the day and get what they need, healthy choices, those kinds of things, it’s not so important that they sit at the table necessarily. We don’t have to worry that that will mean that they’ll never sit at the table and have a family meal ever again. They’re three and developmentally they want to be moving their bodies. If you do want to encourage them to stay at the table, what you can do is give them a little bit of motivation to do so. So you sort of can talk with them, “So what do you think would be a good amount of time or a good number of bites for you to sit at the table?” Work with them, collaborate with them, get their input. If she says, “One bite,” that’s not going to be enough and you can say, “Well, how about 8 bites?” knowing that you’re going to probably have to come down from your original position. And then you can say, “You know what? If you can eat 6 bites, I’m going to stand up and do a really crazy dance.” And then we’ll see what happens. And usually, if we give them something fun, novel and something motivating, they’ll sit at least for short periods of time.

Learn about: Convincing preschoolers to sit at the table from Tina Payne Bryson, PhD,...


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Tina Payne Bryson, PhD

Psychotherapist & Author

Tina Payne Bryson, PhD, is a psychotherapist at Pediatric and Adolescent Psychology Associates in Arcadia, California, where she sees children and adolescents, as well as provides parenting consultations. She is the school counselor at St. Marks Episcopal School in Altadena, CA, and a Developmental Consultant to Camp Chippewa for Boys. She speaks to parents, educators, and clinicians all across the country. Dr. Bryson earned her PhD from the University of Southern California, where her research explored attachment science, childrearing theory, and the emerging field of interpersonal neurobiology. Her best-selling book The Whole-Brain Child (co-authored with Dr. Dan Siegel) gives parents practical ways to transform difficult moments into opportunities for children to thrive.  Dr. Bryson has written for a large number of publications, most recently the PBS series “This Emotional Life.”  She lives near Los Angeles with her husband and three children.  

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