Roundtable Discussion: Please, Please, PLEASE Eat Your Peas!

20 Jan

I can’t be the only mom experiencing this.  Lately, it is a huge struggle to get my kids to eat their meals.  They’re up constantly, roaming around, playing, and basically making me nuts.  Usually around 30 minutes into the ordeal, I’m shouting “Get back in your chairs!” and basically tearing my hair out.  At breakfast, it always takes me from the “Let’s tackle this glorious day!” attitude to the “I’m running away to join the circus!” attitude.

And I’m not talking about them not eating things they don’t like.  It’s not like I give them a plate of brussels sprouts and then get surprised by their sudden lack of appetite.  I’m talking about regular, simple stuff I know they like.  Peanut butter on waffles.  Mac & cheese.  Fruit.  (And please, no one reply that your kids think brussels sprouts are better than m&ms, or I may really lose it.)

To be fair to them, they’re not complaining about the food.  They’re just NOT eating.  They’re climbing all over their chairs, telling jokes, singing songs, and wasting away half the day.  They’re just having too darn much fun to get the job done, and as a result, we’re missing out on life!

What do I do?  Set a timer?  Send them to time-out?  Make them sit there until every bite is gone, no matter how long it takes?  Stop feeding them altogether??

I need some suggestions on how to make this less painful!

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5 Responses to “Roundtable Discussion: Please, Please, PLEASE Eat Your Peas!”

  1. foods for the soul January 20, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

    When I was little, my mom gave us “Table Points” every time we did something right at a meal. She’d give us a point for setting our napkin on our lap, for taking small sips of milk instead of blowing bubbles, and 5 points for sitting in the chair throughout the entire meal. We got to tally our points on a sheet of paper on the refrigerator after each meal, and we could cash in our points for rewards (a new book, a toy, or anything a kid might want).

    The positive encouragement, as opposed to the negative reinforcement, really worked well for us. And reminiscing about it now gives us something to laugh about at the dinner table during family get-togethers!

  2. Lori January 20, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    I like the points idea! Maybe I should be giving my kids marbles for good manners at the table! Jen, you’re definitely not alone in this struggle. I find for our family, this tends to come and go in spurts, so it only happens until I’m ready to pull my hair out, then I seem to get a reprieve again for a few weeks. I keep breakfasts simple. The kids sit at the bar and have whatever breakfast food I am offering. The most difficult thing for us at this time, is trying to keep the one who finishes first from bugging the other one half to death! At lunch I only have one eater. My school ages child is so hungry by dinner time (even despite her afternoon snack), that she is always all business for dinner. The middle child is the one who has to go to the bathroom five times, tries to get up for water at least twice (even though she has milk at the table), wants to play the piano, go to the backdoor and look out the window, etc. My husband tends to be more strict than I am about table issues. I find that when we are in public, I rarely have issues, but at home, they are more comfortable. He threatens the loss of dessert, which almost always works for our daughter. There. I’ve admitted it. We resort to bribery.

    We actually used a timer before, because our oldest daughter would talk so much it would sincerely take her over an hour to eat. That worked at the time. With her, I have learned she is just a slow eater. I think that’s why she’s hungry later in the day too, she doesn’t have time to eat her whole lunch at school (the kids only get 30 minutes) and she is a talker!

    If you’re in a hurry, maybe try being upfront and letting them know you have to leave in said amount of time, and if they’re not finished eating, they don’t get to finish the meal. Or, you could always try bumping the schedule back a little and letting them have some fun, but the extra time will prevent you from feeling rushed. Whatever you decide, keep in mind that your kids are only young once! They are wonderful, beautiful, smart, talented kids, and most of all, they LOVE to have fun! Mealtime can certainly be stressful for families, but it can also be a great time for learning, getting to know one another, and it can be fun!

    I’ve read about families who have their kids read something before dinner then talk about what they have read. Maybe you could have the kids take turns telling jokes or singing a song, but put a limit on it. After two songs, we need to eat. You can add a natural consequence too. If you two don’t finish dinner in the next few minutes, we will only have time for one book before bedtime.

    Keep us posted on what you decide and what works! I know this is an issue for many of us!

  3. Jen January 23, 2011 at 5:45 am #

    Table points – how creative! We do something similar to Lori’s marbles, but with pom-poms. I think I need to start including table etiquette as something that could either earn or lose pom-poms. And maybe a timer on school mornings!

  4. Lisa May 22, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    I don’t think there’s any way to win these food fights. Seriously.

    FINALLY…after at least 2-1/2 years of begging, bribing, threatening, and dessert-withholding (all terrible tactics)…our son will request baby carrots. But I seriously don’t think anything I did motivated his expanding culinary horizons. I think he decided on his own.

    That said, I love “table points,” too. Next time I serve peas, I’m giving that a try!

  5. Jen May 22, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

    We don’t do it at every meal, but a few times we’ve used the pom-poms as incentive. We’ll set three of them down on the edge of each child’s placemat, and they lose one for each infraction of table rules. Any they have left at the end of the meal they get to put into their pillar! (When that’s full, they get a prize.)

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