Don't make tot wait for dinner


April 26, 1994|By Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe | Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe,Special to The Sun

Q: During dinner my toddler often times gets cranky. She's so hungry or tired she'll cry. We can't tell what the problem is. When will she be old enough to know the difference, and how should we handle the situation?

A: An unhappy toddler makes dinner time miserable for the whole family, but fortunately you probably don't have to figure whether she's tired or hungry or both to solve the problem. You haven't given us all the information we'd need to help you make a specific plan for your family, but we can give you some broad advice. We are guessing that dinner is served late enough at your house that your toddler is both tired and hungry. You may not be able to change the dinner hour. After all, there must be time for someone to prepare dinner and it must be served according to the schedule of the family members. But you can accommodate the needs of your toddler, too.

Don't make your toddler wait to eat until the rest of the family and dinner are ready. The ideal pattern is to eat when you're hungry and to stop as soon as hunger is relieved. That is what your toddler will do, if you let her. So when she begins to get cranky, even while you are preparing dinner, provide her with a healthy snack of finger foods.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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