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How do you get a 2yo to sit at the table for the duration of his meal?!

(18 Posts)
lurcherlover Tue 13-Nov-12 22:03:42

DS has just turned two and has decided he doesn't want to sit in his highchair any more (attempting to force him results in a huge, screaming tantrum). I am happy for him to sit at the table on his booster seat, not a problem. We always eat meals together as a family, and I really want to instill table manners in him now. When he was in his highchair he was a brilliant eater and would sit happily in the chair while we ate. The problem is now that he's on his booster seat he wants to have a mouthful, get down for a wander/play with his toy, then come back for another mouthful, and repeat...trying to force him to sit on his chair until he has finished his meal results in a screaming tantrum. At the moment I feel I can't take him out for a meal in public (and I only want to take him to a cafe or pub, not the Ritz!). I never let him walk round with food so that if he wants to eat he has to sit at the table - it's just he won't sit still and eat his meal.

What's my best strategy here? I am quite happy to be firm with him and don't want to be a soft touch - I just don't know what the best way of handling this is. As far as I can see my options are:
1. Force him back in a highchair, and hope that eventually he'll get bored of tantrums when we put him in it (they can last for half an hour!)
2. If he gets down from his meal when he's not finished, take the food away so that he learns he has to sit at the table if he wants to eat (although I don't know if a just-two year old can process cause and effect like this?)
3. Somehow force him to sit on his chair until he's finished his meal (no idea how to do this when he isn't strapped in though?)

Any other ideas, oh wise mumsnet?

JeanBodel Tue 13-Nov-12 22:06:53

What you have here is an aim, something to work towards over the next few years. There are no magic tricks to make a 2 year old sit at the table for the duration of a meal.

Forcing him won't work - you will just end up turning mealtimes into a battle.

I have this problem still with my kids and they are older than 2. We are working on it slowly but steadily.

beela Tue 13-Nov-12 22:11:55

Our booster seat came from Mothercare and has straps on it.

LouThomp Tue 13-Nov-12 22:22:26

We have had the same - We give one warning, then straight on naughty step (at meal times I have to use a timer to make sure they actually stay there llong enough), if no joy it's leave the table and no more. Having said that we quickly realised that the time of a whole meal is a long time for a two year old. If we are having a longer meal we do let smaller ones down before pudding (and come back) if there's lots of adult chat. We also have a stripy rocket that you go up a level on if you eat well - get to the top and gets a treat. Idea a took from school - not my idea. Only works when nearer three we found though. Stay firm- will be worth it!

Bearandcub Tue 13-Nov-12 22:24:37

Sorry, don't think there's a quick win on this. He has a newfound freedom in that he can get up and leave his seat as and when he chooses. Call it self-determination or attention-seeking irritant. Don't make a huge deal out of it, but make it clear it's not OK by only engaging with those at the table, asking him to return, making it clear that pudding is only available for those eating.

I think making a fuss ie punishment (which is how he is seeing putting him back in the highchair) will increase the chances of it happening again as its 1-1 attention.

That's what I'd suggest but no idea if there's a "correct" or easier way.

Bearandcub Tue 13-Nov-12 22:26:54

LouThomp - no criticism meant of you. X-posted and hadn't seen your post.

LouThomp Tue 13-Nov-12 22:56:28

No offence taken!

Ozziegirly Wed 14-Nov-12 05:43:57

Mine does the same (2.2) and I just repeat, night after tedious night "we eat our dinner at the table, and you can get down when you're finished"......

I am hoping that one day it will sink in.

mummytime Wed 14-Nov-12 06:14:54

First thing, he will not be doing this when he is 18. You just have the tricky bit of getting from where you are now to the good table manners (okay table manners) bit.
Is he actually hungry? If he is really hungry then I would expect him to eat more than one mouthful, to be honest. How easy is it for him to eat the food? If it is tricky he may well get bored after the initial hunger has gone (I get bored eating peas).
Yes I would take the food away if he gets down, and when he returns say "I thought you had finished? We don't leave the table until we finish." Keep repeating and eventually the consequence of his actions will drop, but it can take a long time. You could trigger it by saying "Oh you've finished?" Whenever he slides off his chair.
Do also make sure you and DH are not always getting up during a meal, try to model good behaviour.

I would also make sure toys are tidied away, and not visible during meal times. Also try to transition from playing to meal with a bit of a gap (maybe tidying up in this time). However for especially long meals, such as Christmas Dinner, a small toy or some colouring to be done at the table can be useful. Do also try to include him in any conversation.

It takes a long time to teach toddlers, and a lot of patience. As for eating out, it is good to start young, but also in forgiving places (Mc Donald's).

poachedeggs Wed 14-Nov-12 06:30:01

Maybe I'm a weirdo but I've never really expected mine to sit at the table for a whole mealtime when tiny. DS is now 5 and hasn't done the wandering thing for years. As they get older they get easier to talk to about if without a battle, and now our problem is him wittering on about Hulk and 'Mummy can you count to 457382?’ instead of eating.

My 2 year old wanders off most mealtimes but we bring her back a couple of times then just take her food away. It'll get better.

ZuleikaD Wed 14-Nov-12 06:38:05

If he gets down, end of meal, end of story. He will very soon learn that if he wants more he has to stay at the table. Mine both learnt that as soon as they were in their Tripp Trapps at 14m or so. However I would never try and keep a toddler in their seat beyond their own meal - that comes as they're much older, more like 3 or 4.

JollyJock Wed 14-Nov-12 06:40:30

My instinct would have been to put him back in the high chair. If he refuses to sit and starts wandering he.goes in the high.chair. He'd then associate the.consequence with the behaviour.

notcitrus Wed 14-Nov-12 06:51:02

My solution was to let ds get up and down, but no toys, tv, etc until after. 2 was just too young and he was a very fussy eater that I was trying to avoid phobias developing, shaking in terror at strange food.
By 3 he would eat his food pretty well and stay at the table for 'special' meals. By 4 he's got pretty decent manners.

Pick your battles with a 2yo. My ILs were much stricter on table manners with their ds the same age, but now with their much more stubborn dd are admitting maybe it was just luck rather than their better parenting!

lightrain Wed 14-Nov-12 06:59:20

If you're at the pub or whatever, taking a small toy that can be played with after DC has finished eating their meal can give you a little bit more time to eat yours without them running around. Tbh, I think it's asking too much for a toddler to sit still for more than 20 mins. They have such short attention spans. I agree with pp who said pick your battles

FruitSaladIsNotPudding Wed 14-Nov-12 07:04:23

We have a rule that if you get down, your meal is over. She gets one warning. It worked pretty quickly - she is 2.9 now and totally gets it. Obviously we let her get down if she's finished eating and we're chatting.

lurcherlover Wed 14-Nov-12 21:21:43

Thanks guys. We do let him have a toy, crayons etc when we're out but it doesn't hold his attention for long. I'm only expecting him to sit for the duration of his own meal - I wouldn't expect him to sit for a three-course meal or anything! I can't hide the toys away at mealtimes as we have an open-plan living room/dining room (no space to eat in the kitchen) so they're all on view.

I would love it if he sat for 20 mins! The most I get at the moment is 5! I'm going to look for a booster seat with a strap, I think...

mummytime Wed 14-Nov-12 22:59:42

Get a toy trunk with a lid, and cover other toys with a cloth, maybe even move where he sits so he can't see them.

MerylStrop Wed 14-Nov-12 23:08:19

Genuinely expect him to stay at the table. Make it clear that you expect him to stay at the table. Explain it to him. And repeat. Stick at it.
Make sure that everyone else sits down together and talks over meals, even if its just you and him.
If you can, make sure he's really hungry when you serve the meal!
Don't be unrealistic about how long he can really stay for.

We have always had an absolutely no toys at the table rule in our house

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