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Child Caring

10-year-old drags out mealtime

Our ten year old grandson takes forever to eat a meal. He's bright, healthy, happy, minds well and is a joy to be around. He's always been rather slim (weighed 2 1/2 lbs at birth)and although he's on an ADD med, he's always been easily distracted at meal time. We've tried everything! Please help...he won't always have someone urging him to finish!

From: Vicki, Jamesville, NY


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Dear Vicki,

Is there any medical reason why eating takes a long time for him? Are there digestion issues? Or is this, as I suspect, a habit that perhaps started as an attention-grabbing devise? Like other activities in a child's life, a meal needs a beginning, a middle and an end. His parents need to set limits on mealtime, as they would with anything else.

Let him know in advance the approximate length of each meal -- breakfast, 10 mins; lunch 15 mins; dinner 25. Whatever makes sense. The meal, especially dinner, should be pleasant and conversational and, as often as possible, eaten together as a family. When the meal is over, it's over. Set a timer. Everyone leaves the table. If he's not finished, his portion goes in a container in the fridge. If he's hungry in between meals, he's old enough to take his portion out and finish it. Or the family can forge whatever alternatives make sense for them. The point is for the adults to set the limit in a matter-of-fact way that does not come across as punishment. It sounds like this has already been an issue in the family, so he will know this is aimed at him. Pegging it to the start of a new school year is one way to make it about time-management: "Dad has x to do after dinner, mom has y, and you have Z. We can't afford more than 25 mins for dinner."

If this is done in a matter-of-fact way, not as punishment. Once the adults stop making a fuss over