Instead of saying “You can’t be done, you only ate 3 bites!”, try “I trust that you know when you’re full.”
But what if they don’t know when they are full?
What if they could have squeezed in a few more bites?
What if they are still hungry and come ask for a snack later?
I hear you. We want our kids to eat, we want them to be full when they leave the table and we don’t want them to snack instead of eating dinner.
But we also want them to be able to listen to their inner cues, right? To be able to attend to their sense of hunger and fullness?
In my opinion the single most important thing we can do for our kids related to mealtimes is to empower them. To give them mealtime authority and control.
In the example above your little one might leave after only 3 bites and still be hungry.
But you have now introduced him to the idea that only he knows when he is full and next time he wants to leave the table and you again verbalize that you trust him with that decision, he will think twice. No pressure, only trust.
When children are allowed to guide their eating through intuition (instead of external factors like parental pressure or bribes), they will grow into adults with lower rates of disordered eating and diet less. It takes time, but if we parents practice this with our kids often, they will learn eventually.
Bonus: You as a parent will be more relaxed in stepping back, because you know that your child is perfectly capable of making these decisions by himself.