Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Q's Kind Nums: Mealtime Mayhem

"It's a war of the hearts" ~ Sade

How I've begun to dread dinner on Guido Street! 'Tis the War of Wills. I realize that it's usually called a battle, but a battle is a one time thing. Around these here parts, it's an almost daily occurrence. And lately I feel like the stubbornness has reached its zenith (please tell me that this is the worst of it). Not only does Q not want what we're serving, he throws food off the table, climbs on top of it grinning maniacally, chucks torn up napkins at Z, and screams when we kick him out of the kitchen. Sounds fun, yes? And hopefully only slightly to the left of typical 3-year-old behavior.

I read some seemingly great advice on retreating from the battlefield and creating a healthier, happier atmosphere around mealtime. No more kind nums (or any snacks, for that matter) on demand. Scheduled sit-down snack times. Family meals of sharing food, eating what we like, and politely refusing what we do not like. T and I choose when and what we eat. Q (and Z) decide how much to eat of what's offered or to not eat at all. No pressure should mean that Q ultimately will feel empowered to decide for himself, learn to self-regulate with foods that make him feel well and avoid too much of what's not so good for him.

Being fed by his future wife (if only she were around for every meal)

So this is what we're trying now and it looks to be a lengthy learning process. But what these articles fail to address is the child who will throw food that's placed on the table across the room. How can I offer food family-style if it always ends up on the floor? At this point, we ask him to help clean up the food or he has to leave the kitchen. And he hates being forced out. We're getting pretty tired of the wasted food and the mess.

And later when he repeatedly tells me he's "really hungee, mama" and makes his eyes all huge and watery like Puss 'n Boots while begging for ice cream, I feel like my heart is ripping in half. I know I should stick to my guns, but why does it feel like torture? Perhaps because I am going against my maternal instinct to nourish my baby. As mothers, we provide. We feed. It's what we do. But ice cream isn't the ideal sustenance, and I know he needs to learn to eat at dinnertime so that he can fill up on food that will nourish him. But what if he asks for something semi-healthy, like the little spinach pizzas he likes, after dinnertime? This is when I don't know if I should be teaching him the importance of dinnertime and eating something of what's offered, or just feed him already because he's hungry and I don't want to deprive him. Ugh. We have a pediatrician appointment coming up, so I will certainly raise this issue with his doc.

It all comes down to another learning process that I must embrace along with my baby. Learning to relinquish some control and to trust my child completely. Getting over pushing my own eating agenda onto my kids. More than having them eating only the healthiest, all organic, sugar-free food, I want my kids to have a positive relationship with food. I want them to enjoy eating. I want mealtime to be fun for all of us.

Mamas and papas, how do you get your kids to sit down for dinner and eat what you've prepared? Do you make something separate for your picky eaters? I'd love to know what mealtime is like at your home.


  1. This is super hard for us, too. One bit of advice I've read that seems to help is to always try to have one familiar food on the table that you think your tot will eat. Then the rest of the meal isn't quite so intimidating. And when Ev throws food, she is done ;p Her latest is to try to STAND on the (glass!) table. Real fun ...

    1. I've read that too, Erin. Sometimes it works, sometimes Q just is stubborn about wanting something entirely different. It's a work in progress for sure!

  2. I still have a picky eating toddler who will, on many occasions, throw food on the floor or refuse to eat. I have a million tips that I could give you on specifics I do, but I think the key thing is to not get too emotionally invested in what he eats and does not eat. In my experience, Nya can sense my stress and she "acts out." Then I get more frustrated and then it just becomes worse and worse. So, what I do is give her the food (offering the least favorite food first) and move on. If she eats, then I'm happy, if she doesn't eat it, I offer her next option. I don't get upset or ask why. I just move on. If she doesn't eat anything I offer, I let her get down from her highchair and do something else. She'll eventually get hungry, so I'll give her the same options again. Usually she'll eat them because she's hungry enough to accept them. It's tough. But this is what works most times. I have lots more to say, so email me if you need me to explain anything.

    1. I think you're completely right, Jessica. Not getting too stressed about it seems key. But now that Q is a little older, I want him to start learning that he can't just snack on demand. It's not easy, but we're trying to set some more boundaries.