Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Trouble Is...Small Children at Dinner

If you missed the intro for this feature you can read it here.

I am going to keep these posts as concise as I can so we can begin sharing ideas and not get bogged down in too many details:

Issue: We have three children, Braedon (brand new 4), Kaley (2.5), Garrett (8 months...he is really not the issue right now). Dinner time is sometimes a negative experience for our family because Braedon and Kaley just like to play and mess around instead of eating. I don't mind dinner being fun but it gets way out of hand fairly quickly. Unfortunately, it gets to the point of us yelling and them either laughing or crying. We do have plenty of happy and positive dinners. The problem is that we don't have a good plan for when it starts to get out of hand.

Things we have tried: Yelling (no I am not proud of it but I am being real), timeout, dessert and/or other reward, other punishments. Not giving any snacks (food only at breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

Other info: They are well trained that they are not supposed to get up from the table without permission. We "set them up for success" with their meal. We don't expect them to eat things they don't like. We give them small enough portions that they won't feel overwhelmed. If they don't eat their dinner, they don't get anything else to eat until breakfast.

I am welcoming all comments with advice and encouragement. You are also welcome to share links and/or book recommendations. The only limitation in comments is to please be kind and let your words be God glorifying.


Victoria said...

This is a huge problem for us too. Catherine of course has zero interest in eating and Sabrina's day care gives her a snack at 4 pm, so she is calm when we pick her up. So, we lower our expectations and do nt require that they actually eat anything. Of course they get no food the rest of the night.

But for us keeping them in their seats is a challenge, especially Catherine. So we play mental games. The most common is going through the alphabet and naming words that start with each letter. Or we come up with rhyming words, or compound words. Sabrina participates somewhat, but of course is younger.

Victoria said...

We also use that time to tell jokes (Catherine tells silly knock knock jokes) and short, made up stories.

We are lucky that the girls have never thrown food or been that type of disruptive. A few times Sabrina would intentionally drop her food on the floor, so we took her food away and scolded her. That seemed to break that habit.

We do continue to have issues with the girls playing drums with their utensils. Or Sabrina trying to eat with her hands. Meals with little kids are not fun. I feel like 80% of the meal is telling them what to do and what not to do.

Alicia said...

Hi Tina ~

I really think some of this is just your children's ages. I remember the days when I had a 3, 2, and newborn and dinner was crazy. Hang in there!

Some things that might help ... we have something called "The Dinner Game". It has a game to play each night at dinner - sometimes that involves getting everyone at the table to take a bite of each food on their plate. I found the game at Learning Express but, I am sure that you could find it online.

Hope this idea helps! I can add that things get easier as the kids get older.


Tina said...

This comment is from my sweet mother in her!
Hi Tina,

If you watch the Super nanny she works with families to help with different issues with children. She has really been a blessing to many families. I watched a couple weeks ago and there was a single dad that lost his wife to cancer. I cried for two days seeing the sadness in their eyes but she helped them all so much. Nick was even touched by the show. She is tough when she has to be but in the end the whole family is happy for the help. The main thing is not to let the meal get out of hand. Don't give to many warnings. Let them know in advanced what you expect when you are all at the table. You may have some stressful meals until they understand you mean business. She does remove them from the table and put them in time out even if it upsets the meal. They all continue to eat even if they are crying which is a hard thing but You and Andrew have control of the situation by stopping them from doing what is upsetting the meal. The most important thing is being consistent. Try to watch the show if you can find it because seeing her work at the table will help. You are so logical which is really what it takes once you see her show how to get control. Hope this helps.

Love You