We’ve been fighting mealtime battles a lot lately.
What went wrong? Strict dinner rules have been laid. No tv. No running around. Eat what’s on your plate. Treats only after you’ve finished. My kids don’t snack. They don’t eat candies either. They should be hungry by dinner time because I never give them anything three hours before dinner, except water.
And yet, I had to send the kids straight to bed without a full dinner a few evenings ago. For a few consecutive days prior to that evening, they’ve been balking and gagging at what they were supposed to eat, taking forever to chew and swallow, and doing nonsensical things with each other, like kicking each other’s legs, laughing for no reason and blowing bubbles in their soup. After a few days of that, enough was enough. I gave my last warning to chew the food that was in the mouth (which wasn’t heeded anyway), marched right into the kitchen, grabbed the trashbin, emptied their plates right before their eyes and sent them straight to bed.
Never imagined needing to do that.
I know reality discipline advocates that. For a while, I’ve always tried not to resort to this. I’ll nag, threaten, cajole, play close-your-eyes-don’t-see-what-you’re-eating game and, of course, when all else fails, spoonfeed.
That night, I stayed up to rethink my strategy. I want them to eat – without me having to feed. I want them to love food. I don’t want to send them to bed with the reality of an empty stomach. I don’t want hunger to teach them anything – for now. I want them to have fond memories of the times we spend at the dinner table.
My new plan is to make food appealing to them and hope it whets their appetite.
These days I’ve been cracking my head to see how I can make the food more “picture bento”-like just so they can get excited about eating their dinner. It’s like a project everyday: give instructions to the helper to cook the dishes for dinner, but at the back of my mind, think about how to morph what the adults are gonna eat into fun things on the plate. These were my very humble first attempts.
I’m glad to report that the children look forward to dinner a little more now than they used to, and Ben has been finishing his portions since I tried this out two days ago. He has even made requests to see leopards, pandas and lions in his bento. I’ve much to learn, but am loving every minute of this; and I really hope to announce my decisive win in the Battle of Wills at the Dinner-table soon!