Babies and children understand SO much (yes, even before they can sign or speak.)
Talking to them and observing them gives us great clues as to why they are screaming or crying.
Step 1: Observe. Why do they appear to be screaming? Have they run out of something on their tray? Do they see someone else eating something and they’re interested in it?
Step 2: Avoid overreactions – that can unwittingly encourage this form of communication because it gets a reaction from you. Avoid saying “you’re fine” or “it’s ok” – those don’t validate what your child feels, they feel something! Rather than shushing them, encourage them to tell you what is wrong (yes, that may mean more screaming, that’s how they’re telling you)
Step 3: Talk calmly to them and ask what they need. This action is validating, you’re showing them you want to understand.
Step 4: Verbalize to them what you think it is they are asking for/telling you (based on your earlier observations.) Saying “it seems like you might want more …… is that right?”
When we communicate this way to babies and children, we are nurturing a trusting and safe relationship. We’re showing them we want to take the time to understand what they want or need.
This is something that takes practice and doesn’t come naturally for most people. Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve been shushing or saying “it’s ok”. It is ok. Your child still loves you. Moving forward, when you have difficult moments like this, take the time to reflect and decide what you could improve on.
Want to feel confident knowing you have some simple, kind phrases up your sleeve to reduce your stress and frustrations at mealtimes? Get started below. Start minimizing mealtime meltdowns and stop fighting with your child so you can enjoy mealtimes again.