Three meals a day=three hours every day where I sound something like this, “Eat your food! Sit back down! Please eat two more bites! Sit down! Don’t put your feet on the table! Eat your food, not whatever you just picked up off the floor! Don’t fight please! Come back here and eat. This is why I shouldn’t give you snacks. If you eat, I will give you a treat! Eat your food or go to bed. Sit down. Do not stand up again. EAT YOUR FOOD OR I AM GOING TO FREAK OUT!!!”
(This is what I look like at the end of the dialogue….)
As a mom, one of our main jobs is to feed our cuties. Some days go better than others, but here are some tricks that seem to work well in our house. When I do these successfully I usually only have to use the above language 1/4 of the time 🙂
- PRETEND PLAY!!! This one works wonders for my three year old ESPECIALLY when dad is home to do it with us. Sometimes we do King Daddy, Queen Mommy and Prince Boston all with English accents. We become very proper, sit up straight, and throw out words like “quite delicious.” Another one that works is to invite an imaginary friend to come sit with us and help Boston eat. He usually calls his superhero sidekick Pinky the T-Rex. I ask Pinky to give Boston a BIG bite of peas or sandwich…then Boss acts as Pinky and eats his peas while giggling. Sometimes Pinky will hide Boston’s fork or play other silly tricks.
- Change it up!!! Sometimes all you need is a little change to make things exciting. My sweet Bennett is a good eater, but only on HIS terms. He loves to eat straight out of the container. I have learned to put his food in BIG tupperware so he thinks I gave him ALL the peas. I have also realized that it is fun to give him multiple bowls and he uses his spoon to transfer and transfer and transfer while I put a little bite in his mouth every now and then. Boston loves to change where he is sitting. He likes to pick a new chair every day. Sometimes he brings in his stool to sit on, since it is so low I put his plate of food on a chair. I want to print off some monsters/bad guys and tell Boston the only way to make sure they don’t get out of jail is to sit on them. I think this would be a FUN way to keep him in his seat and mix it up.
- Placemats!!! We had so much fun making place mats the other day. We drew and colored and painted and pasted and stickered (word? no…but oh well) all of their favorite things. Then, we laminated them. This way on one side we have lots of FUN things to talk about, but then if we turn it over we have a white board! They draw on the whiteboard while I get their plates ready which is a fun way to have them around me during dinner time without bugging me. Also, it is fun to draw little faces or shapes and have them put little pieces of food in the shapes. This makes eating a game.
- Right Language!!!! The book Talk So Little Kids Will Listen taught me a lot about using the correct language with food. My go to is “Eat up all your food or you can’t have a treat!” or “If you eat all your food, I will give you a treat!” Threats and rewards baby 🙂 The book explains that threats and rewards do not always work as well as we hope they will. Do you like to be threatened into doing things? No? Well, I guess our kids don’t either…go figure. A reward tends to sound like a threat in disguise, so it leaves the child still feeling a little in fight mode. I am trying to get better at rewiring my language because I have noticed a difference in the outcome. I have found a new way to say the same thing is, “AS SOON AS YOU EAT YOUR FOOD we can eat a yummy treat!!!” Maybe a lot of people would say eliminate even the idea of a treat. It makes your children think that you just have to eat the “yucky” food to get to the “yummy” food. I feel that kids are going to like what they like regardless of most things I do. And let’s be honest….no way of talking is going to convince my child that lettuce is JUST as good as ice cream! But, thats just my opinion. So, if the idea of a treat comes up regardless of what you do or don’t say because your children like to eat them (like mine)…then try the “as soon as….” It usually makes Boss want to eat faster instead of initiating a “but I don’t want to” war.
- Put your child in control!!!! You guessed it, same book…more great ideas! You gotta read it! Let your children decide how much and what they want on his or her plate as you feel comfortable. I realize that most parents do not want the child to LOAD up only on mashed potatoes and eat no protein or veggies. However, try this method a few nights without much intervention and just SEE what your child does. There is a good chance they they will have so much fun just being in charge of dishing that they will be more excited to try out all the different bowls of food. Maybe the first night they get too much! “Oh, I see you put a LOT of food on your plate, and you do not want to finish it. Can you think of a good solution for next time so you do not leave a lot of food on your plate?” Then see what they do the next night. Sometimes it is fun to parent this way. Let your child take the reigns and it might go terribly, but you do not know until you try!!!
- You don’t want to eat? Ok!!! When Boston goes through phases of not wanting to eat lunches or dinners, I stop giving him any snacks. This way I know he should be really hungry at meals. Then, at meal times I let him decide if he wants to eat or not. I tell myself, “I have given him the opportunity to eat and he is not going to STARVE.” Sometimes he will barely eat all day. After a day or so of this he always jumps back into eating decent meals. I know this would not work for a lot of kids. Some are already so tiny that just not letting them eat would be too worrisome. Or some get WAY too grumpy and angry when they are hungry. Every child is different. These are just ideas, and I realize that they in no way will work for every child or even every time.
- THEMES!!! I have mentioned this in my other post about making dinners more enjoyable for you as parents here. It is so fun to make dinner a bigger deal every once in a while and theme it up!!! Make the whole dinner around one color! Make the whole dinner about music and have everyone play the drums on the table after every bite! Make dinner a dance party and dance in between bites. Make the whole dinner a beach theme and eat on a beach towel and with plastic shovels. Make the whole dinner a cupcake theme with meatloaf in cupcakes, broccoli in cupcake liners and cupcakes for dessert! Really, the possibilities are endless!! These WEIRD ideas are memories, people.