High chair time can be significant in teaching your child manners. I wrote about that HERE. I’m continuing on the theme of using high chair time to effectively and intentionally interact with your child in ways that teach the standards in your home.
Be intentional with how you spend “high chair time”
Don’t underestimate the power of focused, purposeful time with your child as early as he is able to sit up in a high chair. This time, used wisely, will yield great dividends!
Many parents wait far longer than needed to begin teaching manners. Your child truly can eat neatly and communicate respectfully to you- and when accidents happen they can be taught to clean up their own mess. Many times I’d pick my child up from the high chair and hold him by the waist while his tiny hands reached the items spilled. This is not reprimanding or done in a mean tone, but rather calmly saying, “Uh oh. Let’s pick up your fork” or matter of factly saying “You dropped some food, so let’s pick it up.” If your child is not yet able to grip smaller items well, you can put your hand around his and help him pick it up…at least having him be part of the process- even if you end up having to do it. You’re teaching neatness and responsibility as well as respect and obedience. Plus, you’re teaching him the standards that you have in your home. I might add, that you’re in control here and not allowing your child to control you.
Your child can also learn to use a spoon and fork at much earlier ages than most parents realize. Read the previous post to see that there are ways to teach manners at a young age rather than putting peas and carrots and foods directly onto the tray.
While your child is eating don’t let him grunt or scream, demanding his way, while you fly to his rescue, thereby teaching him his method works brilliantly. Rather, sit with him and talk with him, teaching him a few baby sign language signs (more, please, mom, dad, thank you, drink, finished, all gone…). Don’t allow throwing food, plates, dumping sippy cups over the edge, pouring it on the tray and smearing it. Sit with him, catch him doing this and stop him. Teach. If he grunts or screams, correct him. Do not get him what he wants when he controls. Expect respect. Teach respect. A whining baby can become a demanding child who then becomes a self-centered teenager. Let this motivate you to be consistent -You are allowing him to control the whole home.
When your child is finished eating, pick him up and take him directly to the sink to wash face and hands. Then have him pick up food on floor and wipe tray. Put him back in the high chair to finish eating with the family or simply to teach him to sit still longer while you’re within view and cleaning or whatever. Put a coloring book, a small toy, a play car, stuffed animal, book- or whatever and have him play sit still and play independently, not whining. He’s learning self-control, independent play, and again- that he can sit still waiting for others.
Accidents happen, so handle them without drama, focusing on the goal of your child knowing to clean it up and how to clean it up calmly. Even if you are actually cleaning it, have your child participate by holding his hand so that he experiences it and thinks he is helping.
The high chair time is not just for teaching manners. It’s also training for the routine of having family devotions during meal time. For our family, we might read a few verses from Proverbs, memorize a verse, read from a devotional book, or read from a chapter book – like missionary stories or biographies about men and women of great faith. By beginning this habit young, our child would simply comply, thinking it’s part of what our family does. Making “high chair time” a priority will enable you to focus on teaching your child to sit and stay in the chair. Teach your child to eat neatly, using utensils, clean up tray and floor, then go back into the chair to stay during the duration of the meal. This is teaching self-control and also teaching your child that the world doesn’t revolve around him.
Keep in mind that your communication should be done in conversational, calm voices as a gentle mentor lovingly teaches his student. Your child is your student, and your undivided attention during these early years will pay dividends at a young age.
Before they are even toddlers they’re learning the standards set in your home for eating with manners, cleanliness, responsibility, waiting patiently, communicating without grunting, sitting still, being teachable, interacting, and are used to your family’s routine of hearing God’s Word.
More good news: you’ll be able to enjoy STRESS-FREE eating with family and friends in your home and in public places.
Next, I’m listing some of the benefits of this concentrated time. You’ll be amazed at what you’re really teaching. Go you!
Rhonda happyhighchairtraining ellis