The Influence of Parents on Children’s Mealtime Behavior

Looking to encourage your kids to eat their veggies? Lead by example.

A recent survey involving 2,000 parents with children aged six and younger revealed that 53% of parents observed their children eating vegetables they previously disliked in an effort to imitate their parents.

Overall, a significant 78% of respondents believed that their children learned table manners by mimicking their own behavior during mealtime.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Stokke, the survey highlighted that 82% of parents considered it important for their child to sit at the same table during meals, with 80% describing shared meals as a cherished bonding activity.

Most parents introduced solid food to their children between the ages of 6 and 12 months. However, the synchronization of meal schedules typically occurred when the child reached 13-23 months old.

Once synchronized, parents reported being less likely to prepare separate meals for themselves and their children (45%), instead opting to enjoy the same foods together (75%).

Surprisingly, almost half of the respondents (48%) never prepared separate meals for themselves and their children, which was five times more popular than always preparing separate meals (7%).

While 72% of parents acknowledged the importance of eating meals at a designated dining or kitchen table, the kitchen table emerged as a significant location for bonding time (45%), trailing closely behind bedtime (47%).

“Every interaction serves as an opportunity for learning and development,” stated Johanne Smith-Nielsen, Associate Professor Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist at the University of Copenhagen.

In fact, 70% of respondents frequently noticed their child learning from their own behavior.

The most commonly adopted manners children learn from their parents include using “please” and “thank you” (42%), eating with their mouths closed (42%), and mastering the use of utensils (41%).

Furthermore, the impact of parental influence extends beyond mealtime, as 73% of parents have witnessed their child using similar language and vocabulary in conversations, picking up complex words and phrases like “predicament” or “appropriate,” in addition to common expressions like “thank you” or “excuse me.”

One parent expressed, “I think it’s heartwarming when a child demonstrates gratitude for the little things. It’s a valuable gift that they will carry with them throughout their lives.”

Overall, a staggering 81% of parents are highly aware of the impact of their conversations with their children.

“The table is where real growth occurs. It’s where we take the time to slow down, connect, listen, and learn from each other,” emphasized a spokesperson from Stokke. “Sitting together at eye level throughout childhood allows them to bond, connect, and form deeper relationships.”


  1. Using “please” and “thank you” – 42%
  2. Eating with their mouth closed – 42%
  3. Learning how to hold utensils – 41%
  4. Asking politely for second servings – 39%
  5. Finishing what’s on their plate – 39%
  6. Allowing others to speak – 35%
  7. Refraining from screaming – 34%
  8. Avoiding burping – 29%

Survey Methodology:

This survey involved 2,000 American parents of children aged 0-6 and followed a random double-opt-in process. Stokke commissioned the survey between March 24 and March 30, 2023. The study was conducted by OnePoll, a market research company whose team members are affiliated with the Market Research Society and hold corporate membership in the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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