There’s a practical rule for parents feeding children: Keep meals to 20 to 30 minutes. Most meals take about that amount of time. If meals are a difficult time at your house, 20 to 30 minutes is enough discomfort for everyone. There is also a time to break the 20/30 rule. Reasons for breaking the rule come from the relatively recent discovery of mirror neurons and a case history. Mirror neurons explain how we learn by copying without conscious cognition. The specialized nerves use the eye or ears to bypass the word driven teaching styles and help us with social cues. Mirror neurons help pre-verbal infants and toddlers learn by watching and listening. When you and another adult enjoy a postprandial chat, staying at table models conviviality for your child.
Beatrice Beebe, an important infant researcher, shows a video demonstrating how fast moms and their babies copy each others facial gestures. Famed child psychoanalyst Theodore Gaensbauer thinks that mirror neurons explain how infants as young as three months link gestures and emotions by copying. Enjoy family and social meals together with your child as soon as possible after the birth.