We've been having some trouble at our house at Dinner Time lately.
- The "I don't like it" whine even before they're tried it
- Playing around on the chairs: hanging off the sides, leaning backwards
- Tipping over sippy cups every 12 seconds
- Throwing or pounding forks & spoons on the table
- Taking only 2-3 bites before they want down
- General fighting, whining, crying, screaming
I don't ever have these problems with the kids during the day. They eat breakfast, morning snack, lunch, and an afternoon snack just fine. All of these "meals" are seated at the table, with at least one adult, and always with the same rules.
- Don't bang the table
- Cup goes above your plate
- At least 2 bites before "I don't like it"
- "May I get down?" before leaving the table
There are some things that we know Jamey doesn't like (lasagna, enchiladas, most soup). Ivy doesn't like black beans. We don't force them to eat things they don't like, and we never make them clear their plate.
I don't know what is so different about dinner except that Daddy is there, and that might be more exciting than the kids can handle. We usually eat dinner about 37 seconds after he walks in the door. Maybe we need to wait a while, so they can play before we sit down. Dinner is usually the only meal that I make New Recipes for. Or maybe after eating five meals/snacks, they just aren't that hungry.
I don't want food to be a struggle. I've read through some of the Ellyn Satter website and agree with most of what I've read. I totally agree with the information about Feeding Your Preschooler.
I try to let the kids get involved in cooking. Ivy is getting pretty good with the vegetable peeler. And they both get to dish up their own food.
We try to NEVER EVER use food as a reward. I don't think I've ever said, "If you stay close at the store, you can get a treat." I don't want food to be a prize. Along that same line, getting dessert isn't really contingent on eating the meal. Sometimes, I set the dessert out at the same time as dinner and just let them eat. We don't keep junk food in the house; they are welcome to any snacks we have, because they're healthy. And when we do have junk, they can eat as much as they want. I don't want taboos on food (like the forbidden fruit that you just want more of) or to promote sneaking food or lying about how much we ate.
We also don't ever force the kids to eat anything. This battle is just not worth having. I can't force them to eat. I do get annoyed when they complain about the meal without trying it. And when Jamey won't even take one bit of dinner, I have no idea what to do. I don't want to force him to take bites, but I do want him to try it. And I do want to make sure he's not going to bed hungry.
Maybe we're expecting too much? Or maybe this is par for the course with two preschoolers in the house? Maybe we have them sit at the table longer at dinner than other times?
I just want to be providing them with good nutritious options, teaching them to eat when they're hungry and stop when they're full, and encouraging them to try new things. I'd like them to be courteous, too.
Now that I've written this and spent time thinking about how we feed the kids, maybe we're not doing too bad or are, in fact, right on track with our goals. It's just good for me to be able to talk about what we want to be doing and how we're achieving that.