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Help! My Toddler Won’t Eat Without TV!

When a child goes from baby to toddler, there is more at work than meets the eye. Sure they begin to ‘toddle’ around learning to walk, but they are also busy learning. A toddler also starts to learn that mom and dad can be manipulated.

The toddler might begin to push some boundaries just to see how far he or she can go. And one of the first places tested will be the dinner table.

Parents will worry if the toddler is getting enough of the right nutrition at mealtime. And if the parent isn’t convinced, the power struggle ensues. If you are one of these parents, you can relate.

You will try several sales pitches trying to buy your toddler into eating. Then it gets worse. The TV comes into play. Between the problems with just getting your toddler to eat, it seems the toddler won’t eat without TV.

Before you start throwing all the TV’s out, please read this guide and learn some tactics. Turn the family mealtime into something besides a frustrating power struggle.

Identify The Problem

There are two problems. The toddler won’t eat. The toddler won’t eat without TV. Know your enemy. It’s the TV itself.

Before you turn into a radio, the only family takes a look at some key points. The first point is, please don’t use the TV to get the toddler to eat. It’s a TV, not a bargaining chip.

Perhaps it could be as simple as moving the TV or the toddler out of each other’s view. But depending on how conditioned the child is, it may involve a more in-depth solution. So we know the TV is the problem and not the solution.

Building a Structured Solution

The solution lies in the fact you want the toddler to eat at mealtime. How structured are your mealtimes? Are you strictly every six hours? Breakfast 6 a.m., lunch noon dinner at 6 p.m., or do the times vary?

If both mom and dad are working, it may be difficult to stick to strict meal times. If so, choose a mealtime range. Give yourself an hour of flexibility but do not deviate from setting specific times. Breakfast between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. and lunch between 11:00 a.m. till 12:00 p.m gives the meal a range of time.

Don’t skip breakfast and serve an early lunch at 10:00 a.m, then dinner at 6 p.m. The gap from lunch to dinner is too big, and the times are not consistent with a structured solution.

Introducing The Structured Solution

Once a solution is found in specific meal times, introduce them to your toddler and make a fuss about it. Let them now by your enthusiasm the importance of these set times.

The internet is full of children’s songs about everything, from meals to farm animals. Download some appropriate ‘mood music’ for each meal and introduce them to music for mealtime.

You can also create a structure around specific times for TV watching. Between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner. And set some specific allotments of time. Something like 8 a.m. till 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. till 4 p.m. Stick to designated TV time and make sure the TV is turned off well before mealtime.

Toddlers are so busy learning so much during these years. And now is the best time to start introducing them to structure. Every aspect of their lives needs to structured. Time to play, time to eat, time to nap, time to, you get the idea. And also, a parent should lead by example.

Don’t make your toddler sit at the table by himself to eat while you watch TV. If you are not hungry, use the time to reinforce why you are doing what you are doing.

Create Some Boundaries

Meanwhile, back at the power struggle ranch…(LOL!) Now is also an excellent time to introduce boundaries. A toddler who has structure and boundaries also has a great parent!

Setting these boundaries between meals and TV might not just happen overnight. And don’t panic if they don’t. We are in a conditioning process. Draw a line between meals time and TV time and let it be known you simply do not watch TV during meals. Or there will be consequences.

Don’t send the toddler to solitary confinement as a consequence. Be realistic and be firm. Find some items they hold dear to them and let them know when the boundary is crossed. They lose the item. Don’t hold the dog for ransom if they cross a line.

My mom used my Granny. She would say, “if you do that, you will not see your Granny today!” This never worked, Granny lived with us! But Granny was the most precious item in my world!

Be Consistent

Sometimes consistency can become a bit blurred. A ‘gray’ area if you will. Allowing the toddler to ‘do it just one time’ is not being consistent. It is showing cracks in your armor. It lets the toddler know these ‘boundaries’ are meaningless, and you are a pushover.

Some children search for these cracks and exploit them. They become politicians. Find a solution. Introduce the solution. Set the boundary. Be consistent. These tips work well if the TV is the problem at mealtime, or your child refuses to do his or her homework. And many other related issues.

And if none of these tips work? Try putting a timer on the TV and explain when the timer turns the TV off. It must remain off for some time. Get creative if you have to. Create the perfect solution to be enforced and frame it in a set of boundaries with consequences!


Hopefully, these ideas will help both you and your toddler to begin experiencing a more pleasant meal together. Parents don’t like being the bad guy, but desperate times call for desperate measures as they say.

Perhaps these tips will keep the desperation at bay.

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