Dinnertime. Does the thought of it sound a little scary, at least if you have children? Do you imagine squabbles between siblings, whining about the taste of the lovely roast you worked so hard to prepare, splattered food on the dining room chairs? Perhaps some of you can happily say that "no, meal times are a wonderful family bonding time." Others of you may have some contrary views of the event and be at a loss for how to make it feel more like a dinner with the Brady Bunch than the Simpsons. My final post about Dr. Phelan's 1, 2, 3 Magic addresses this very relevant subject of meal times.
See the video above to hear a quick summary of how meal times can be more enjoyable.
Basically, here's the thing. As parents, we often want to take things personally from our kids that we shouldn't--like the fact that Susie doesn't like the roast we slaved over for hours, or the fact that she scrunches her little nose up at those infamous peas. However, if we let our emotions dictate, things get messy fast. This has been one of the main lessons in the book. So, as parents, we first have to mind our own manners before we try and mind those of our children. Once that is settled, try to remember to be realistic. Kids often do not eat much and what they like one day, they may not the next. If you don't push them too hard, howver, they will inevitably come back to it. Just keep giving them the option to eat lots of different things and don't be too worried if they don't get the recommended daily dose of fruits and vegetables. Things will eventually balance out. My three-year-old has gone through stages where she loved peas, sweet potatoes, corn, and many other things, only to despise them the next day. I learned awhile ago that rather than forcing her to try and eat the entire plate, we would discuss how many bites, usually somewhere between 2-5, 3 most days. This was a much more tangible goal for her and she felt accomplished at the end. If she completed the task, she earned dessert! Another tactic is to use a kitchen timer set for about 20 minutes to complete a meal. It does the "talking" for you, mom and dad, so that your child doesn't tune your voice out. Remember the "wa wa" voice on Charlie Brown that represented the parents? We don't want to just be an annoying noise in the background; we want our words to count!
Spurred by my time in residential eating disorder centers, I especially agree with a comment by Dr. Phelan in the video. Extremes with food can lead to eating disorders. Whether you are a health-nut who wants to ban all processed foods and sweets (which is virtually impossible it seems these days!), or you demand that kids eat every last bit of food on their plates, or you let your children eat whatever they want whenever and do not provide healthy options because of your own poor eating habits, you may be setting your child up for some real challenges. Vilifying any food as all bad and dangerous can lead to anxiety and fear and a lack of balance. They may also begin binging in secret and hiding the sweets they are forbidden to have. On the other end, not educating children about nutrition can leave them with some deficits in their health and growth and set them up for a lifetime of weight issues or things like diabetes. Try to more appropriately use the motto that "all foods fit" in moderation and make a healthy choice most of them time.
Food is a powerful thing. It sustains us, excites us, and sometimes frustrates us. Finding a balanced relationship with food will lead to a happier and more fulfilled life.