Screen Time & Meals: My Biggest Challenges with My 3-Year-Old

22 January, 2020
Q My son is almost 3-year-old. We are having a hard time dealing with screen time. My husband normally gives him 30 minutes on the tablet to watch YouTube videos. But now he is becoming very demanding of screen time and will throw a huge fit.

What is a good way of dealing with that? Also, mealtime is challenging as well. He just refuses to eat his food or will take two bites and say I'm not hungry and won't eat anything. How can I help him eat his meals? Thank you


In this counseling answer:

•Your son sounds like a normal and active 3-year-old who is trying to exert his independence.

•Stick to your rules and boundaries with him and he will pass through this phase just fine.”

As-Salamu ‘Alaykum,

Thank you for writing to us. It is great that your son is having quality time with his dad watching YouTube. I’m sure the content is fun and educational. However, often time children can demand more time doing an enjoyable thing. At 3 years old, your child explores the world around him.

He also tests boundaries and counts on you and your husband to set these boundaries no matter what his behavioral or emotional reactions are (throwing a tantrum).

At this age, your son is unable to regulate himself nor understand the concepts of logic or responsibility. As his parents, when you set his time limit at 30 minutes, in sha’ Allah, keep it at 30 minutes no matter what his response is.

Children quickly learn that people like to avoid negative behavior or situations. As parents, we may “give in” in order to avoid a scene in order to keep peace in the home or to just keep our children calm and happy.

However, I would kindly suggest that you stick to your schedule despite his tantrums and maintain consistency with him concerning this.


Screen Time & Meals: My Biggest Challenges with My 3-Year-Old - About Islam

In the long run, you will be teaching your son that his negative behaviors will not be rewarded. He will learn in life that there are rules to follow as well as boundaries.

As parents, you will be setting up a home with a solid foundation of values that your child can respect as he grows. After all, which child feels secure in an environment with no structure or rules to follow?

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Children do protest and get upset when we, as parents, adhere to our rules. However, in the long run, they look to us to help them self-regulate as well as provide balance and consistency.

In sha’ Allah, sister, with patience and time, your son will realize that his tantrums will not get him more screen time. He will outgrow these behaviors as they will provide no benefit to him.

As far as his eating, just ensure he is not excessively snacking between meals. Children refusing to eat at meal time is common and is no cause for alarm unless there is a physical reason which I doubt.

At this age, it is his way of exerting his independence!

Often times a child will eat every day like clockwork. Then, suddenly, he does not want to eat at all. A favorite food today can be a disliked food tomorrow. Toddlers are very picky eaters and often are offended by texture, color, shape etc.

Try to have him help you prepare simple foods with you. This may pique his interest.  Offer a variety of healthy choices at mealtime and when serving his food to him, cut them into interesting shapes or arrangements.

At the end of the day, however, your child is going through a phase, much like the screen time, in which he is trying to exert his independence and choices.

Food is really the only thing he actually has control over as he cannot be forced to eat. Please do not worry. He will not starve! Your son will eat when he is hungry. 🙂

You are a really good parent and doing a great job with your son. Your concern is evident in your questions and it is completely natural. Your son sounds like a normal and active 3-year-old who is trying to exert his independence.

In sha’ Allah, stick to your rules and boundaries with him and he will pass through this phase just fine.

We wish you the best.


Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

Read more:

Is Watching Television Allowed?

Yelling at a Stubborn Toddler

About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach.
Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.