My kids are picky – although this is changing… slowly – and, over the years, I’ve felt that meals were a bit of a nightmare. Looking back I realise I’ve learnt quite a lot along the way to improve matters.
Get your ‘no’ in before theirs. In my case that’s no toys, no fighting and no messing about. But the toys especially. This applies to grown ups too and their electronic “toys”.
Set the table.OK, I’m not a huge stickler for too much setting, but I’ve learned that it’s important for that the (multi-purpose) table has returned to its function as a dining table. So clear other stuff off it and set it with everything you need for the meal.
Dinner is not a time for surprises. Tell the children what’s on the menu as soon as you can that way they get used to the idea. The worst scenario is that you know in advance what’s not going to get eaten. But, occasionally, it’s given the child time to get used to the idea.
Don’t coax. This is probably the most difficult thing. However, I’ve found that constantly nagging the child for another mouthful or to eat a bit more just gets everyone locked into a battle of wills. The message is: “Here’s your dinner, eat it. If you really can’t stand it, the alternative is bread and butter.”
Make sure everyone can sit in peace. It’s about where they put their bottoms and heading off the fights before they start. Wherever possible make sure that no bar stool or dining chair gives anyone an advantage (height, comfort or spinnyness) over the other.
First things first. No one gets any pudding or to leave until everyone’s finished. Not only is it good manners, but it means the slower eater can still concentrate on his meal.
Make the portion fit the person – or better still let them help themselves. It’s easy to just dish out the same pile to each child, production line style, however, they’ll eat better if they don’t feel outfaced before they begin.
A few crumbs of comfort. We’re engaged in an ongoing campaign to get the kids to eat a more varied (and ultimately healthier) diet. However, when I give them something new or something old done in a new way I always try to make sure there’s something I know they will eat on the plate.
Plan the menu.Get them to talk about what we’re going to eat next week. Chat about types of food and eating, try to make it engaging and fun.
Trust that it does get better. There were times that feeding the kids felt like a thankless and depressing task with me ultimately doomed to dishing out oven chips and turkey dinosaurs for eternity. However, little by little things do get better until family meals are a source of pleasure and your children almost civilised.
This is a partnered post.