Taking Other Kids' Food: Ask Mrs Manners

Cynthia Dermody
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taking other kids' food

Photo by lshartnett

The toddler years are the perfect age to start teaching your kids manners and good habits. And MrsManners aka: Angela Pitre, owner of the CM group Manners for the Modern Family and FamilyMannersMadeFun.com, is here to help.

Dear MrsManners:

My 14 month old daughter is obsessed with taking food from other kids. If she doesn't get any, or they refuse to give her any, she throws a mini tantrum. At Mommy and Me classes, she always crawls or walks around and sees what everyone else has for snack. When I go to fetch her back, she screams, falls to the floor, and stiffens her body so I cant pick her up. She also likes to root through other mommys' bags.

How can I teach her that taking food from other people is bad? And how can I stop the falling on the floor bit?

Other than this she is a pretty amazing little girl. She loves to play with other kids, shares toys, and gives hugs and kisses. I bring tons of snacks with her, but it's what everyone else has that interests her. -- Liuba

MrsManners says:

Your situation is opposite of what most mothers are facing. They are trying to figure out how to get their child to eat! But as I was researching your problem, I came across a handful of moms who are going through the same baby/toddler phase.

It seems that a pattern has been created between you and your daughter specific to the Mommy and Me class. It is probably a great new game for her; she is just starting to assert herself and learn what boundaries are. She is mobile now and wants to explore everything. It is natural for a child to want what another has.

Since she is a great sharer, perhaps reinforce the same way you do with that. You may also try saying in a level and even yet strong tone this is Johnny's food, not yours, and we don't eat other peoples' food. Then, remove her from the situation. If you haven't already discussed it in your household, now is a great time to decide on what types of consequences you want to use. This may be the right time to use them.

Now, for the mini-tantrums. There are a couple of ways you can handle this. If you know the moms in your group well and can stomach it, let her go. Ignore her tantrum completely. Most children will stop the tantrum when they aren't getting a response. The other option is to leave. Try saying something like, "Do you want to go home now? If you don't stop, then we will have to leave."

It sounds like you have a fairly head strong little girl on your hands. She's testing her boundaries, which is completely normal, of course.

When you are packing the snacks up to go on your Mommy and Me adventure, try asking her what she would like to have. Hold up a couple of options and let her touch her choices. We did this with my son all the time at that age and we eliminated making a lot of different foods to try and get him to eat. He felt like he had some control over and always ate what he picked out.

As for the going through the other mommy's diaper bags, you are going to have to use a hard and fast "No." Have you tried asking if she wants something when she does this? Does it seem like she is looking for something? If not, stick with "No."

Good luck and remember with every month that goes by, your little girl will be able to understand and communicate with you that much more easily, and that will make these situations easier too.

Sincerely,

MrsManners

Got a question for MrsManners? Leave it here or PM her, and she'll answer it in a future column ...

Past Ask Mrs Manners columns:

Dealing with Trash Talk

Refusing to Pick Up Toys

Dining Out With Toddlers

Attention, Please!

Spoiling vs. Nurturing

Strangling the Dog

Please Don't Interrupt!

10 Signs Your Toddler Is a Brat

Banish the Burp

Should Kids Be Forced to Share Toys?

Winging the Pacifier

Should Parents Say 'Thank You'?

Toddlers Eating Everything

Throwing-Obsessed Toddlers

Are You a Hypocrite?

Pushy Toddlers

Taming the Messy Eater

How to Have Well Behaved Toddlers

My Son Won't Stop Touching Other Moms' Breasts!

Is Shyness Impolite?

Stop Peer Pressure Early

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