Breakfast is an important part of each day. It sets the tone and gives you the energy to get through until lunch. Breakfast is even more so important for a child who needs to be able to focus and burn energy during the day at school. However, a common concern and frustration with parents is that their child doesn’t finish their breakfast.

8 parenting tips to help you get your kids to finish breakfast.

1. Create a healthy relationship to food.

Don’t use food as a punishment or reward. To create a healthy relationship with food, it should not be used as a manipulator. If your child behaves poorly don’t threaten to send him to bed without food. Avoid using treats to bribe your child to behave properly. These actions send a mixed signal and confuse the role food plays in our lives.

2. Have higher expectations.

Many parents assume their children won’t like a certain food and react based on this assumption. Children can pick up on this negative reaction and might start thinking they don’t like the food, when, in fact, they haven’t tried it yet.

3. Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep.

Mornings can be rushed and stressful on a good night’s sleep. When a child (or adult for that matter) doesn’t sleep well, their appetite can be affected, or they may just be too tired to shovel food in their mouth. An earlier bedtime may be all your child needs to enjoy and finish an entire breakfast.

4. Entice their senses.

Serve both hot and cold foods or use spices, other flavorful ingredients to make your child’s mouth water in anticipation. Arrange their food in a fun way. Use foods that add a splash of color like blueberries or strawberries. Use the breakfast meal to awaken your child’s senses.

5. Be more open about “breakfast time”.

Just because you’ve always sat at the dining room table between 7 am and 7:30 am doesn’t mean that breakfast can’t be consumed on the floor, picnic-style at random intervals throughout the morning. Although it might seem hectic, loosening the parameters of “breakfast time” might lessen the stress surrounding the meal and allow your child to relax and want to clean his plate.

6. Serve your child smaller portions.

Rather than giving your child huge helpings of food, cut down the portions. Your child can always ask for another serving. This also puts a realistic idea of what “finishing your plate” means and furthers developing a healthy relationship with food. Learning to stuff ourselves is an unhealthy habit, we'd rather avoid.

7. Allow your child to finish breakfast later.

Wrap up whatever your child doesn’t finish and put it on a low shelf in the fridge. When your child is hungry again, they can help themselves. If you have to go somewhere right after breakfast you can bring the left-over food in a lunchbox, so your child can eat on the run. This way you are taking the chore out of finishing breakfast and your child still gets the nutrition.

8. Get your child involved in all the steps of breakfast.

Allow your child to make some food decisions while grocery shopping. Let them watch and help you prepare the food. This makes breakfast a more engaging activity and encourages them to enjoy their efforts.

Above all, try not to get mad or frustrated at your child if they don’t want to finish breakfast. Sometimes children just get too excited to sit still and eat, or they might be going through developmental changes or a slight illness that affects their appetite. The less stress you put around food when your child is young will also ensure that your child develops a healthy relationship to food as they get older.