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October 30, 2012

Attitude at the Dinner Table



I have long prided myself in what and how our girls eat.  They have very adventurous palates, eating everything we eat with the exception of raw sushi (which they desperately want to try!).  They eat a very balanced diet, and they truly love so many wonderfully healthy foods.

I have taken a matter-of-fact approach to food (since the girls were 15 months old or so).  "This is what we're having for supper."  There's no begging or pleading or threats.  "If you are finished, you may be excused."  I usually serve a variety of foods on our plates, and ultimately I rationalize that it's against human nature to starve oneself.

The only real power struggle we have had was when the girls were about 22 months old.  I was trying to coax them to eat with a spoon, so I gave them some flavored yogurt after supper one night, something they’d never really had before.  They LOVED it, and they worked SO hard to get it from the bowl to their mouths. 

The next day, I did the same.  The third day, the girls started crying when I gave them their supper.  YOGURT!!!” they demanded.  They absolutely refused to eat any of their supper.  And I absolutely refused to give them yogurt.

I took them out of their high chairs and put them in the den.  They SCREAMED.  I asked every five minutes or so if they were ready for supper.  It took a good 30 minutes before they finally accepted they would be getting supper – not yogurt.  (And that, by the way, was the end of the yogurt experiment!)

I remember that exchange so clearly, even though it was close to two full years ago. 

Over the past couple of days, Baby A has tried to show some attitude.

I will often treat the girls to a tiny little afternoon treat if they’ve had a good nap (or these days, if Baby A has played well during “quiet time”).  Yesterday, nap / quiet time was abysmal.  I gave the girls a very “standard” snack, a few cheese crackers and some almonds.  They certainly were not deserving of M&Ms, which A asked for.

I told her no, and gave the snack bowls to them.  Baby A then started whining that she didn’t have enough.  I told her that she hadn’t eaten a good supper the past couple of nights, so I wasn’t going to give her a big snack.

She got so mad, she got up from the table and emptied her bowl into the trash.

Wha???

And then she started to cry (and cry and cry) that she was hungry. 

I remained matter-of-fact, and told her that she threw her snack away, so she wouldn’t be getting anything else.

It was so painful – on many levels! – but I had to stick to my guns.

To quote my friend Julia, “I will not respond to terrorism.”  [Don’tcha love that???]

I just hope the turn-around is as quick this time as it was two years ago.  Fingers crossed that today’s afternoon snack goes more smoothly.  Even once every two years, these terrorist attempts weigh on a mama!

11 comments:

strongblonde said...

I think sometimes it is painful b/c we know that they can't future think, right? She threw her snack into the trash to make a point, but didn't realize that she wouldn't have a snack after that.

my new mealtime mantra: they'll eat if they're hungry. they must try one bite of everything on their plate. if they want to get down after that, they may be excused (and they ask now, too, it's so cute "may i be excused please?"). snacks are snacks. i don't make them bigger if they didn't eat a good lunch/breakfast/whatever. i like to think that it will all even itself out, right?

oh...and i should mention that we had two episodes of vomit at the table within one week. (one from each kid), when i was trying to push them to eat more and more and more of something. HA! i learned my lesson. kids know when they want to eat.

and you're right. it goes against human nature to starve oneself. ;)

Johanna at The Baker Twins said...

Oh, how those learning opportunities are hard... on us and them! But, I guarantee she learned something from that. Or two things, if you count that she knows you are not a pushover! Good for you for sticking to your guns. We do dinner the same way, and my girls are the only kids I know who polish off their vegetables before heading on to anything else on their plates.

Now that it is behind you, you kind of have to admire A for her spunky, stubborn personality, right? :)

Marcia (123 blog) said...

I love that you stayed strong and stuck to your word. You're right, they won't starve and my rule is if they starve for one meal, they definitely will eat well at the next ;)

How did today go?

Olusola said...

Yep, it's the era of natural consequences. It's good you stuck to those guns. Bad habits are so easy to create and hard to get rid off. I still don't know when my girls are actually old/mature enough to face the natural consequences of mealtime squabbles

championm2000 said...

I was meant to see this post tonight!

Our two have been pushing all kinds of boundaries lately, especially with sleeping and now eating.

Emily refused to eat most of her dinner, demanding her fruit instead. Um, no.

I refuse to cook two separate meals--one for us and one for them. Until now, that has worked well for us.

My guess is she will be extra-excited for breakfast in the morning, right??

Mandy said...

Confession: I love when they do this. I laugh, although not in their face, but I do get a kick out of it. The power struggle entertains me so much!

C is getting terrible but I am not a short order cook!

Louisa said...

Good for you - sticking to your guns!

I fully agree with that approach. Nicola doesn't have to eat if she doesn't want to, but she can't sit there demanding to eat whatever she feels like...I don't run a hotel. It's eat it or leave it.

cat said...

Oh good heavens yes, we have a lot the same attitude that you have but we have been having a lot of attitude the last few days from the boys. I just gets so much to stand your ground, but stand it we do!

Julia said...

Good for you for sticking to your guns! Terrorism is rough sometimes :) We've been having attitude surrounding food lately too. Argh! It's so frustrating! If they are just a little bit hungry (usually of their own accord i.e. playing around rather than eating well at a meal, etc.) there are meltdowns, and really poor behavior. So, I sit them in their "peace chair" till they calm down. And I say---"Being hungry is no excuse for bad behavior" over and over and over again :)

I've been wondering if there's not some sort of a growth spurt going on?? I don't know. Maybe I'm just trying to rationalize their sudden behavior issues??

No easy answers in parenting.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

Sticking to your guns is hard work but soooo worth it! My girls used to love to eat a few bites and then ask to be excused. Of course, half an hour later they were hungry again. Too bad. When the kitchen is closed. It is closed.

Barbara Manatee said...

We have this battle almost every single evening. Adam NEVER eats dinner. Seriously. Never! They say he's one of their best eaters at school for breakfast and lunch...and I guess he gets his fill b/c he almost never finishes a dinner (let along even eat 1/2 of it.) He's extremely stubborn and picky. He's definitely not starving so its just become the 'norm' around here -he watches his siblings get a piece of candy after dinner most nights while he gets nothing in reward. Doesn't seem to faze him (most nights at least).

Thankfully Jacob ALWAYS eats a good dinner - if he doesn't finish, its likely he's sick. Sarah's totally in between the two of them!