Oh, Behave: 3-year old makes mealtime a hassle

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My daughter is three years old. I find it takes hours to feed her one meal. She has always been obnoxious while eating. She doesn’t chew the bite; instead, she keeps it in her mouth and sucks it like a candy. I have tried to teach her how to eat without luck. Please tell me what this is about and how to fix it!


As parents, we often play the role of teacher. When we teach a life skill, for instance to say thank you or to flush the toilet, we feel great when our kids ‘get it’ and so do they. When we teach skills such as chewing and they don’t catch on, we can get busy with our own frustrations and forget this is a time to think and question, not react, to something we thought should be so easy.

When we teach we learn a great deal about our children and ourselves. The learning, here, is that this simple task can’t easily be learned by your daughter. Further strategies will depend on what questions we ask and what answers we get.

I would ask the following:

  • >Is this ‘being obnoxious’ only at meals or also at other times?
  • Are there other mouth-related issues (breastfeeding, trouble talking, lisping, drinking problems)? That may lead to a medical or health professional who can give this condition a name and a treatment plan.
  • Are these the early stages of a power struggle over food (common in many parent/child relationships)?
  • Do I need strategies for power struggles with three-year- olds (and obstinate behaviours) rather than strategies for learning to chew?

The questioning above supports the notion that: “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.” Keep that in mind, it will be a helpful parenting strategy through all the challenges yet to come.

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