Tip 1: Set rules

Rules help. They give your child an idea of what they can and cannot do. These rules could apply to what, when, where and how much your child can snack.

Tips for rules

Make rules on what is allowed, not what is not allowed.

Why? That will show your child what you expect of them.
• Every day, after your afternoon nap, we can eat one biscuit.
• Once you leave the table, you’re done eating. You won’t get more food.
• On birthdays you can drink one glass of juice.

Use a few key rules, for example two or three clear rules about food.

Why? Your child will stick to (new) rules more easily if there aren’t too many they need to remember. It will also help you as a parent not to have too many rules. After all, the more rules you set, the more difficult it is to stick to them.
• We eat together at the table.
• We drink water at dinner.

Explain the rule.

Why? Tell your child why you have a rule. Chances are your child will stick to it.
Example: tell them, “Lemonade contains a lot of sugar. That’s bad for your teeth, so it’s important that you don’t drink it too often.”

Reward your child.

Why? Children love to get compliments. If you pay them a compliment, chances are they will stick to the rule next time too.
Example: you could say, “I like that you’re sitting at the table quietly” or “I love that you tried this”. You can also tell your child to choose a sticker and stick all their reward stickers on a nice sheet of paper that you hang in a visible place.

Don’t give in if your child doesn’t stick to the rule.

Why? Do you sometimes give in? Then chances are your child will push their boundaries more often. In that case, it will take a while for them to accept the rule.
Example: tell them, “The rule is that we drink water with our meals, so it’s no use asking for something else.”

Did you know

that it can take up to a month for a child to get used to a new rule?

Children need time to get used to new rules, so it can take a while for them to stick to them. Stay strong and don’t give in! Has your child gotten used to the rule? Then it has become a habit and it shouldn’t be a struggle anymore.

Find out more about setting rules and boundaries here.

Bas, father of Lisa (3 years old)

My daughter was constantly nagging for sweets and I didn’t understand why. Hadn’t I been clear? Until my wife pointed out that I did sometimes give Lisa a sweet when she kept whining. No wonder she was begging for sweets every afternoon. Sometimes I was rewarding her for her behaviour. Now I understand why you shouldn’t give in. If you do, the behaviour you want to get rid of won’t go away.