Dinnertime Woes

Messy_childFood is still a sensitive topic in our household. Healthy, too much, not enough, at mealtimes or not, are all issues here. I used to enjoy dinnertime, a relaxing time to enjoy homemade food. That ended when I had stepchildren, then a child of my own. I began to dread dinnertime. I threatened to give it up altogether. A few times I ate ALONE IN MY ROOM to avoid the dinner table. And seeing and hearing other moms talk about dreading dinner, I suspect I am not alone.
When I say dinnertime, I don’t mean going out for date night or having dinner with friends, or a family meal at a restaurant. Those are generally enjoyable once your child is above toddler age and can learn to behave themselves appropriately in public. I mean meals AT HOME. Even when I type that, in my head I hear the sound of movie dread (Dun Dun DUNNNN!) Yes, my child is 4 and I dread dinnertime. It typically involves me leaving the table early to escape having to see my daughter sit there and screw around, accidentally drop her food, ask for dessert 9 times, try to refuse using her fork, attempt to eat like a dog/cat/other animal, get up from her chair repeatedly, burp, talk nonstop, ask for snacks (yes, DURING dinner, and generally do every single thing but eat. My husband and I remind, redirect, threaten, and I usually end up yelling something like “I give up” or “just forget it!” and either try to ignore her or get up and walk away. My husband is more patient and sits with her. Unhappily. And this is an improvement…from 18 months until age 3 or so, she refused to eat a vegetable and most meat. That one nearly did me in. Growing up we ate a meat, veggie, and carb. My child only wanted to eat noodles. One of my stepchildren only ate carbs and dairy and another really only ate processed food. Meats and veggies were frowned upon at my table when they were here, though that is what I cooked day after day. So I was justifiably fearful my daughter would have the same poor diet.

Maybe I’m crazy to expect her to sit for 15-20 min in a chair and eat from a plate with a fork at 4 years old. But I don’t think it is. She is my only child so I haven’t done this with a small kiddo before, and it’s got to be far more difficult with more than one. I’ve heard other parents talk about the dreaded DINNERTIME, and they also didn’t mean having to cook a meal or clean it up afterward. That is the easy part! So I know I’m not alone in this.

So what in the world do we do? Is there a way out of this? Because if so I want to find it. Consequences like no dessert if you’re acting up at the table/not listening/not eating healthy work at times. But during the actual meal, little in the way of behavioral techniques seem to help much. So I did what I usually do, I read up on developmental stages, looked up journal articles about dinnertime behavior (I tend to use APA PsycNet – the Developmental Psychology journal – for scholarly articles, because those on Google are helpful but not typically based on actual research) and Googled, literally, “how to make dinnertime with a child better.” I ended up finding an article I liked in the journal which I cannot share here since they are purchased, and another online, How To Eat Dinner With A Toddler Without Losing Your Mind. I know my expectations may be a bit high but I’m not giving up. Oh, and look up authoritative parenting style. However, I have the feeling that time may be the only thing that will help in the dinnertime situation! So if you’re like me, hang in there. And if you’ve figured out the dinnertime situation for your family or have a similar story to share, please share with us in the comments or on our post on FB!

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