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tips   , 31

from Kelly Usa

The View from the High Chair

In Western cultures the use of the high chair as a means of helping babies eat at the dining room table is a fairly normal occurrence. But in many Eastern cultures the same thing cannot be said.

In fact, even in 2011 there are people in some cultures who don’t have a dining room table as we know it, let alone chairs for the adults and most comfy chairs for the babies. In many of these cultures people sit in groups on the floor with babies being held in the arms of mothers and fathers.

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Now, there is plenty of debate raging in our Western universe as to whether or not we ought to be using the dining room table. I will not get into that argument because I believe its a foolish one. But I would like to propose that parents consider the view from the high chair.

By that I mean to provoke you to consider what your baby learns from the high chair  experience; how it molds his behavior and perceptions, and how we, as parents, can make the best of it. Lets face it, young children in their formative years learn an awful lot simply by the experiences they have. That includes the view from the high chair.

The Cute Factor 

Weve all experienced the toddler who makes a mess of life because he has not yet fully developed the hand-eye coordination to feed himself and stay clean simultaneously.

Thats to be expected. But weve also experienced the toddler who realizes his high chair antics are causing other family members to laugh. When a child makes this discovery, what is his next logical conclusion? It is to be even more foolish and more messy because it makes people laugh.

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Thats so cute, we say, not realizing that we are reinforcing the behavior and teaching our children to be foolish at the dining table. This evolves to the next step which sees Junior purposely throwing his food and/or dishes on the floor, so that mom or dad will retrieve them.

He takes great satisfaction in this because to him, its a game. If parents continue to exclaim how cute the childs behavior is its not long before dinnertime becomes a war zone. Taken in these terms, how cute is the cute factor, really?

Class Divisions

When a toddler is done with his meal, must he sit in his high chair until the rest of the family is done, or is he allowed to get up and go on his merry way? If your baby takes longer to eat than the rest of the family, do they get up and leave while the baby sits alone at the table? These are two important questions because such actions can lead to the perception of class divisions among family members. Lets consider the questions one at a time.

If your toddler is allowed to get out of his high chair and go on his way while the rest of the family eats, it will contribute to the already natural inclination that the world revolves around him. He does not want to sit with the family and respect the needs and desires of his parents and siblings. In other words, when hes done he wants to go off and do his thing regardless of anyone else. Thats probably not a good thing to be teaching children.

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On the other hand, if baby is left at the table and everyone else gets up to leave, he perceives that he is all alone. That eventually translates into feelings of insecurity and ideas that its not fair! This scenario can be just as bad for your childs development as the previous one. So unless your child is purposely being rebellious to the point that he refuses to eat his food, perhaps everyone should remain at the dinner table until everyone else is done eating.

Vying for Attention

This final view from the baby high chair is similar to the cute factor except that it goes one step further. Parents observe this attitude as soon as their baby realizes that he can get attention by pounding on the high chair tray, kicking his feet against the table, or rocking back and forth in the chair to the point of trying to tip it over. Anyone whos had a toddler knows what this is like. But why does your child do such things? Hes doing them because it makes him the center of attention.

The truth is, babies learn very early on that they can get what they want with certain types of behaviors. Its part of the natural process. An infant cries and his parents respond by feeding, changing a diaper, or rocking baby back to sleep. It is a process of learning through cause-and-effect that we can do nothing about in the infant stages. However, by the time a child is old enough to sit in a high chair, they start using this cause and effect behavior for purposes that are not good.

His view from the high chair can be such that if he doesnt get his own way he will throw a fit. How parents respond to that behavior largely determines what the child learns from it. When parents give in, the child learns that its acceptable and he carries it ever higher heights. When parents dont give in the child learns that the behavior is not profitable and it ceases.

We could continue discussing more views from the high chair, but I suspect you have plenty to think about for now. Just remember, that the dining experience with your babies and toddlers is a very important experience that will mold and shape your childs attitudes for years to come. Remember- the high chair is more than just a piece of dining furniture.