Eating together can be very pleasant, but it can sometimes be quite a challenge. Sulking faces or dramatic tears, and food that sometimes literally flies over the table. We cannot promise you that you will never have to fuss at the table again, but with these 4 tips from the book Finding your way in the food jungle you can make the meal a bit more pleasant.
As with dealing with your children’s choice of toys (check your options), you also have an edge (as a parent) over how your child behaves at the dining table.
Sociability at the table really just starts with expectation management. Making sure that your child knows where he stands and what is expected of him. In short, with structure and clarity, from an early age, it immediately becomes a lot more fun.
Useful Tips To Have A Peaceful Dinner With Children
1. Provide regular eating times and announce them on time
Children like structure, which gives them something to hold on to. At the same time, no child who is completely involved in their game will get up on their own to eat. And nothing more frustrating to you than having to shout ten times for you to sit down… So give your child some time to get out of play. Just think about how that goes for yourself. Will you immediately stop your work if your colleague asks you to join us for lunch? Or would you rather finish that one job first? That is how it works for a child too. Tell them ten minutes in advance that you are about to eat and tell it again after five minutes. There is a good chance that he will already be in front of you with the real announcement after one call.
2. Eat at the table
Another important cue for your child – where do you eat? For the main meals, the advice is still at the table. But without TV, tablets and other distractions. That way, your child learns to eat his food mindfully and can feel much better when he’s had enough. Toys at the table are therefore not such a good idea. You better turn the food into a game yourself! For example, you can ask your child to count a number of bites, to name the colors on his plate, or if he is a little older, to point out the different vegetables in the pasta sauce. Even better: pay that attention to each other, take turns telling what you did that day, what was nice and what was not so nice. In this way, your child also gets to know the social side of eating together: eating with attention for each other.
3. Make the food manageable
Sitting at the table to eat a meal is quite demanding from your child. Because we as parents have a whole list of (implicit) expectations, such as sitting still, tasting everything, eating neatly, not playing with the food, not talking with your mouth full, and not just walking away from the table. This is quite a challenge for a seven-year-old, let alone for a toddler. Your task is therefore to guide your child in this and to make eating a meal not only literally but also figuratively manageable. Make it clear what you expect from your child and make sure that you don’t sit at the table too long, about 20 to 30 minutes is long enough. Also, eat on time. Sitting comfortably at the table is a lot more difficult if your child is too tired. Make the food literally manageable by letting your child serve himself or make the plate nice.
Whether or not your child eats his or her plate, don’t say anything about it. If you don’t make it important, your child can’t use it as a power tool. Has everyone finished eating or have you sat at the table long enough? Make it clear that the meal is over, that your child can leave the table, and clear the table.
4. Agree on the rules together
You can already agree on rules when your child is about two years old. What do you think is really important at the table? Choose your battles and choose one thing that you agree on. Maybe that is ‘sitting at the table’ or ‘tasting a bit of everything’. Is your child four or older? Then involve him and determine the rules together. By doing it together, you increase the chance of success. If that one rule goes well for a while, you can introduce a new rule after a few weeks. State what is going well and what you want to keep seeing. It is nice to hear that your child is doing his best. And for you, it is nice to see how happy your child becomes.