An End to Family Dinnertime Disasters
If dinnertime is your idea of hell, here are some handy tips to turn mealtimes around. Yes, you can have an enjoyable family experience around the dinner table.
1. Involve your kids in dinner plans. For older kids, get them involved in meal planning, shopping and food preparation. For younger kids, talk to them about meal times, what’s for dinner and get them to help set the table.
2. Eat at the same time in the same spot (preferably a family dining table). Dinnertime falls smack bang at a time when kids are at their most tired and grumpy but a routine can alleviate this immensely. Routines make kids feel secure. This can extend to a full dinnertime routine (washing their hands, sitting in a special chair, the order of dishing out food, the topic of conversation, what happens after dinner etc).
3. Give kids the power to make their own choices at dinnertime. This is a hard one for many parents. All we want is for them to take one bite of our lovingly prepared dinner. Just.one.bite.damn.it! High-level negotiations ensue, tensions rise, tantrums are triggered and in the end your kid registers that dinner = stress. The key is to simply offer food – take it or leave it. No alternatives, bribes, punishment or negotiations.
4. Try offering food on platters in the centre of the table and everyone helps themselves. Kids can be overwhelmed by a massive plate of food placed in front of them. Choosing their own food gives kids the perception of power. Remember that most mealtime battles are about control and power.
5. Set a good example. Put away the phones, turn off the TV, talk about the food you are eating and involve the kids in dinnertime conversation. Eat as a family if possible, get everyone to try new food and let the kids see you all enjoying food. Make mealtimes a social activity.
The key is to simply offer food – take it or leave it. No alternatives, bribes, punishment or negotiations.
6. Don’t prepare special kids meals. Apart from the stress of double-cooking, kids need to understand family meals. It may help in getting them to eat that day or at that mealtime, but it’s setting a bad routine and making things much worse long-term.
7. Prepare yourself for the mess. This can be a hard one when you’ve had a long day and all you want is for dinnertime to be over and the kids shipped off to bed. Prepare for messy mealtimes by storing a dropsheet, bibs, wipes and face washers near the dinner table. Remind yourself that a mess is not a catastrophe, but a learning opportunity. You can even involve the kids in the clean up.
8. Allow enough time for dinner, but not too long. Kids need at least half an hour to explore what’s on offer, poke around any new food and get enough into them. Though leave them in the high chair too long and it can lead to a full-blown tantrum. Learn their cues for when they’ve had enough.An End to Family Dinnertime Disasters Click To Tweet
9. Remember that new foods will most likely be rejected. Keep offering them. Sometimes it can take months, but eventually curiosity will prevail and they will give them a try.
10. If all fails and your kid eats nothing, don’t fuss. Remove uneaten food and start clearing the table. A healthy child will not starve themselves. They are probably too tired, distracted or just not interested today. Try again tomorrow.
What are tips for putting an end to family dinnertime disasters? Leave us a comment below.
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