Family dinner with littles - how do you do it? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 42 Old 06-26-2012, 09:53 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We have a 3 y/o and an 8 m/o.  I would really like us all to sit down for a meal in the evening but when we do it is invariably a stressful experience where we are constantly trying to keep the 3 y/o in her chair, hold the squirmy baby, and attempt to get some food in both of them, never mind trying to eat ourselves.  DH thinks we should just feed them first and then eat separately ourselves.  I agree this is much less stressful but I am wondering how we will ever teach the kids to sit down for a meal if we don't start early.

 

Do you have family meals with babies/toddlers?  If so how do you manage to make it a pleasant experience for everyone?


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#2 of 42 Old 06-26-2012, 10:09 AM
 
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Are you open to making a sticker chart? We did that after dinner got out of control for us (long story but we always had family dinners, then DH started working nights, then things fell apart, then when he is home for dinner the kids act up). After the kids get 10 stickers they can pick out a little prize-- we'll go the toy store and they can pick out something small, or we'll go out for icecream, etc. Some things that are conditions for getting a sticker:

 

-at least trying to eat the food on your plate (don't have to eat everything, but at least make a good effort)

-stay in your own chair

-be respectful (no saying the food is gross, or saying that something someone else is eating is gross, etc., no potty talk)

-asking to be excused and clearing your own plate

 

If the kids make a good effort to do most of these things they get a sticker. We're not too hard-lined about it and that works for us. Sometimes when we have an odd-schedule day (we're out playing til late, the kids are starving but DH and I aren't hungry yet, etc.) we'll still sit at the table with the kids (most of the time!) and then DH and I will enjoy an adult meal later. We try not to do that too often, though. But every once in awhile I think it's a nice thing to indulge in.


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#3 of 42 Old 06-26-2012, 11:06 AM
 
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I agree with your husband. It isn't worth the stress, and you obviously can't teach an 8-month-old to behave at dinner, and it is a long process to teach a 3-year-old. You could work with the 3-year-old, but it will take time and IMO flexibility.

Personally, what I'd do is feed the 8-month-old first, but have the 3-year-old eat with you, but not get stressed if she can't sit through a whole meal at this point. Kids that age have no sense of time and it is a fight over nothing, IMO. I know a lot of people here at MDC fight this fight, but I can't see how it's worth it, because they aren't getting any of the family time vibes you're hoping for if you're fighting every night at dinner, and in a year or two it'll be much easier for them. When my older one was 3, I just let her get down to play when she was finished eating. There was no stress and she'd stay with us longer and longer all the time until at some point she wanted to sit through the whole meal with us and now looks forward to us eating together at dinner, so much that she volunteers and loves to set the table every night. It's a favorite time of hers (she's 10 now), and I wonder if she would have such a positive feeling about it if she'd grown up with it being a battle zone.

I also have a 3-year-old, but she is a really easy kid and sits at the table with us through the whole meal on her own.
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#4 of 42 Old 06-26-2012, 11:42 AM
 
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Aiming for all-together 1-2x/week might be more manageable at those ages, and your dh's idea most other nights might work out.  

 

Our kids often leave the table early to play or whatever (they're 5 & 2) and dh & I like a bit of quieter dinner table time together, so that works out for us.  When we have guests they're more likely to stay at the table and be chatting, and at special dinners they will end up mainly staying at the table - so in my opinion, it's still working out alright.  

 

Dd1, for the longest time, simply ate dinner at her own small table near us, and actually tended to sit at the table longer when we did that for her.  We'd just insist she was wiping or washing her hands in between eating and playing more often, if she was getting up a lot or was eating messily.  

 

I know when dd2 was littler, I'd stop my dinner to clean up her highchair (or else the mess ended up getting too crazy for me, as she'd just turn to playing with her food eyesroll.gif) and then set her down in the dining room with one of a few particular toys that weren't too disruptive for eating (nothing too noisy or that needed lots of help or supervision).  

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#5 of 42 Old 06-26-2012, 01:49 PM
 
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If you're all at the table together for 20 minutes - half hour, does it really matter if you're all eating right at the same time? If the kids have eaten earlier, set the 3 year old up with some crayons and the 8 month old with a toy in the high chair and you an your husband can eat. Or maybe the kids eat and you two just have an appie that you can pick up with your fingers, like chopped veggies or something.

 

Usually what we do if the baby won't be happy in her high chair is, I nurse her and eat one-handed... sometimes DH has to cut up my food for me but our big kids are bigger and can manage their own plates. My main goal is for us to spend some time together and share a bit about our day, so we do a round-robin "What was your favourite part of your day?" once we've finished that, the kids can excuse themselves when they're done eating. Sometimes that's just 10 minutes, sometimes we're all sitting around the table for an hour. It all depends on how they're feeling... but I think having low expectations has made supper time more pleasant for them, in general. When it's a big ordeal for the kids to get through, they almost sabotage themselves. 

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#6 of 42 Old 06-26-2012, 07:11 PM
 
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When dd was a baby I gave her finger food like steamed veggies or cereal and ate quickly with her. When she was done eating I let her go play. As dd got older she was able to sit for longer periods of time. I did have to have the food for both of us ready before serving to make this work, especially when she was younger and ate efficiently.
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#7 of 42 Old 06-29-2012, 12:47 PM
 
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I have a 4 yr old and a 9mth old.  The majority of our meals are family meals.  We just find it easier that way/haven't considered anything else.  We all come to the table together.  Both children are involved in their food for at least a short period of time (baby self-feeds/plays with food) during which time adults eat and or talk.  Children can leave the table when they are finished eating, after wiping hands and face.

 

We eat fairly quickly.  Not all meals are exactly relaxed ....  but I look forward to eating at a more relaxed pace or lingering over wine or tea or whatever when they are a bit older or with a babysitter.  Some meals are quite nice though.  And generally, what we are doing works for our family.  Our primary goal is that we share food together.  We eat the same food.
 

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#8 of 42 Old 06-29-2012, 01:19 PM
 
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This might work for the older child:

When my oldest was around 2.5-3 meal time started to be stressful with her not following basic etiquette so the three of us (parents and kid) sat down to develop our rules.  Stay in seat unless excused, ask for food to be passed/don't grab, try a few bites of everything, etc.  Nothing too major.  Then we made a photo list of our rules (kid really enjoyed this) and posted it on the wall.  For a few days before we started the meal we would have a reminder of the rules.  Then we just got to the point that we would just say "Daughter, what is the third rule?" when she wasn't following it.  Long story short, it worked.  She felt empowered because she was in the process with us and it wasn't just us saying "this is the way it is!" (even though we had an idea of what rules we would guide to the list before we started).


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#9 of 42 Old 06-29-2012, 01:29 PM
 
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We try to serve everyone at the same time but focus on getting the kids to eat during that time. Once they eat the can ask to be excused and go play? Then we finish gobbling down our dinner.

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#10 of 42 Old 06-29-2012, 02:41 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AfricanQueen99 View Post

Then we made a photo list of our rules (kid really enjoyed this) and posted it on the wall.  For a few days before we started the meal we would have a reminder of the rules.  Then we just got to the point that we would just say "Daughter, what is the third rule?" when she wasn't following it.  Long story short, it worked.  She felt empowered because she was in the process with us and it wasn't just us saying "this is the way it is!" (even though we had an idea of what rules we would guide to the list before we started).

 

I really, really like the idea of doing photo/picture rules together.  Thanks much for sharing - we might try it out ourselves (with some of the annoying meal-time issues we've been dealing with recently).  thumb.gif

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#11 of 42 Old 07-03-2012, 06:48 PM
 
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I agree with mamazee.  I don't really see making them sit at the table when they're not into it an enriching endeavor.  When they are ready, they will.  For now, we enjoy our meals in the living room.  We don't allow screen time during meals, but otherwise, the kids can eat or play as they wish.  We are actually pretty focused on each other during dinner, though.  It's not that different than a normal meal at the table except a bit more freedom for the kids.  

 

I also feel like when I was growing up, food was always at the center of every social gathering and I am just as happy to let go of the link between eating and being social where ever I can.  I am not sure that I am ever going to make a point of having family meals.  


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#12 of 42 Old 07-03-2012, 08:06 PM
 
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I have only one kid, DS is 3. He actually really loves & looks forward to sitting down all together. We start with grace, and often light a candle. Everyone shares something they are thankful for. The routine of it seems to help set the stage for the meal itself plus makes it feel more special.

We all eat the same food (I don't make kid-friendly versions or anything). We don't feed DS & never have -- we place food in front of him and he chooses whether or not to eat it. So we can just eat our own meals & don't have to worry about 'making sure he eats' because it's his responsibility. Sometimes he cleans his plate and other times he just has a few bites, but it balances out over the course of a day or two. We also make sure he isn't going to the dinner table hungry -- he is free to taste as we're cooking, or grab a healthy snack, even if dinner is just two minutes away (I might let him know that dinner is almost ready but I don't make him wait for it... over-hungry = not fun kiddo!!)

There aren't really any rules at dinner time. We don't worry yet about table manners or staying still, though we try to lead by example. He usually uses a fork and napkin but sometimes eats with his hands or wipes his hands on his shirt, no big deal to me. We have to engage each other (in other words, family dinner can't be me & DH talking about our days & ignoring DS -- he has to be part of the conversation or else he'd be miserable). He isn't required to stay at the table for any amount of time, he could get up and leave if he wanted to but he rarely does; I'm actually usually the first to get up and sometimes he & DH will linger for a while.

I guess I'd suggest making family dinner seem really special -- and what that means depends on what your kids like. Maybe a special dinner time song or prayer. Maybe using fancy dishes or cute cloth napkins with their favorite animals on them or kid-made placemats. Maybe each person chooses a component of the meal, or dinner ends with a favorite treat. Maybe your family dinner is a picnic on a blanket on the living room floor. Whatever it is that your kids would enjoy, whatever would make them feel a part of it. Once they get used to it, it won't seem like such a struggle. I honestly can't imagine feeding DS separately, it feels like second nature that we all eat together (well, whoever is home; sometimes DH isn't able to be home for dinner) and seems easier this way to me.

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#13 of 42 Old 07-07-2012, 02:48 PM
 
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Sitting down as a family at dinner is not negotiable for us. It's the only meal we all eat together, and while there are rare exceptions (late birthday party or Mom's Night Out), we always sit together for dinner. By the time DS turned 3, he was fine with sitting for dinner. Actually, now that he is closer to 5, he is getting more antsy and leaving the table early where before he really didn't. I'm fine with him leaving when he's finished eating if DH and I are taking a long time to finish (some meals are so good that DH has seconds/thirds and I'm not going to make DS sit through that). However, he rarely ends up with dessert those times, b/c he's already washed up and moved on from dinner. Eventually, he'll figure out that there's dessert on the days he stays at the table (which is "nice manners," to stay until everyone is finished, but I'm not being strict on enforcing that part right now).

 

As far as keeping it stress-free and teaching him to sit, we have rules, and they are enforced. Some days it IS stressful, but the rules are there to keep that to a minimum. I work hard all day (as does DH) and I'm not going to let a toddler ruin my only relaxing meal of the day. So if we can't sit nicely and use good manners, we don't stay at the table. (We don't go off to play, either -- we go to our rooms or the "timeout" chair.) When we are ready to eat nicely, we can come back to the table. But three strikes and that's it. If DS uses up his three chances and still can't be nice, we figure he must not be ready to eat so his meal is over and he goes to his room til we're finished (b/c otherwise he'll continue to disrupt our meal either by yelling/crying/whining or bringing us toys). I don't think it's unreasonable to have a meal together and I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a 3 year old to not ruin it for the rest of us.

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#14 of 42 Old 07-07-2012, 04:38 PM
 
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We just did it.

 

Here's what we did. All the food was on the table when the kids were called. The baby was in a high chair with food on the tray. I hated feeding my babies and they hated being fed. So, they fed themselves. They had to sit at the table and eat. When they were done, they could say "I'm done." and leave the table. Babies got taken out of the high chair as soon as food started hitting the floor by intent rather than messiness.

 

We made it a point to talk to the kids and engage them in conversation. They get our full attention during dinner. No TV, no reading, and honestly, very little adult talk. Now that they're 11 and 8, they can participate more fully in conversations that we have.

 

I don't think it's  unreasonable to ask a 3 year old to stay at the table for 5-10 minutes. I think it's much harder to start this routine when they're older because they're used to not sitting at the table. When you start when they're babies, they get used to it. Yeah, some days were stressful. A fair number of meals were interrupted a lot between about 18-24 months. But by the time my kids were 3, they could do it.

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#15 of 42 Old 07-08-2012, 10:41 PM
 
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We've always done family dinners.  I cannot imagine doing it any other way.  For us, that is always the easiest thing to do.  We all eat the same food, so we all eat when it's ready. shrug.gif  My kids are 5 and 2.  We have #3 due in September, but I just expect that means I"ll be eating one handed while holding the baby until she's old enough to sit in a high chair and eat/play with food.  I just give our babies the parts of our meal they're ready to eat on their tray and let them self feed.  I don't prep separate food for anyone, and I've never spoon fed.

 

Over the last two years we've developed some dinner time rituals that I really love.  We eat by candle light, with all other lights out.  We have an annual ring as our centerpiece, and each night at dinner we pull the bead for the day and talk about what happened that day, and about up coming days in the month.  We take turns pulling the bead.  Tonight it was my 2 year old's turn.  My girls are unlikely to leave the table.  They're very social and WANT to be at the table with us.  We often have nice meals with pleasant conversation and everyone eating happily, but it's certainly not perfect.  They do act like kids.  They are squirmy.  They sometimes eat with their hands, wipe hands on their clothes, chew loudly, complain about food, and sing or play silly repetitive games that make me crazy.  When we're all home, we sit together for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and sometimes afternoon snacks too.  I love our family meals, especially dinners. 

 

All of that said, if it's not working for you and your family dynamic, then find something that does.  Needs ebb and flow over the years.  It's ok to go with the flow of what works now.


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#16 of 42 Old 07-09-2012, 12:05 PM
 
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There's time ideas like keeping meal times on the shorter side and not having the kids come to the table until everything is set so everyone can just start eating. There's helping ideas like letting the kids help with cooking and/or setting the table so they will feel invested in meal time. There's trying to make it special ideas like allowing the children to share their favorite things of the day or to say prayers or poems of thanksgiving together. 

For my family, breakfast and lunch were whenever and wherever but everyone would sit for dinner no matter what and no one was allowed to get up until everyone was done. Well ... that really backfired on me. My dd complied and never gave me an issue. Even as far back as barely a year old she sat in her high chair happily but as she got older and started eating more it would take forever for her to finish and we adults were itching to get up from the table. She's just naturally a really slow eater. So I guess I'm saying be careful what you wish for ... lol. 

To really answer your question ... I personally don't like rewarding kids for doing things that should be done just out of respect and common courtesy. I think if eating together as a family is really that important to you then you should explain to your three year old why it is and that you expect him to participate for those reasons.


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#17 of 42 Old 07-15-2012, 04:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the input everyone.  It's interesting to see what different people do.  I'm still trying to figure out exactly what is making this so difficult for us.  I think some of the elements are

 

- Late night dinner: DH often doesn't get home until 7:30 or even later, so we are frequently sitting down to dinner at 8pm.    I feed DD1 some fruit and milk beforehand so she's not starving, but this means she's not super excited for dinner either.  And she's never been that into food, if it's not something she's wild about she just won't eat it. 

 

- Eating all the same food: I make one dinner but so far there are only two things I have found that both DH and DD1 will eat: fried rice with veggies and spinach omelets.  The other nights DD will usually take maybe 1-2 bites of the main meal (with cajoling) and end up eating mainly something else (eg corn, avocado, oven fried potatoes, tomatoes/cukes/olives out of the salad).  Or sometimes I will make a piece of fish just for me and the kids (DH is a vegetarian and he'll just have a cheese sandwich those nights).  So I'm not making two meals but somebody (either DH or DD1) is always having some quickie item instead of the actual dinner.  And the baby has no teeth so her food has to be soft, so I usually make something just for her as well since nobody else is particularly into mushy food.

 

- Sitting at the table: I don't mean I need DD to sit there for an hour or anything,10 minutes would be fine with me, it's that she won't even come in and sit down.  She'd generally rather play or watch TV or whatever rather than come to dinner.  I would be willing to make this a hill to die on and have the battle every night, but DH doesn't feel the same way and it's hard to enforce when both parents are not on board.  DH is totally fine with having DD1 play around on the floor while he goes over and sneaks bites of food into her mouth every so often.  I think 3 is too old for this but it's hard to get DD1 to toe the line when she knows DH is totally happy to feed her while she plays.  And when I do get her to sit at the table after thirty seconds she wants to sit on my lap instead of on her chair, and will throw a tantrum if I don't let her.

 

- Baby doesn't like the high chair: She is OK there for up to maybe 10 minutes if you give her things to play with (new ones every couple of minutes).  After that she won't tolerate it any more, somebody has to be holding her and she is so squirmy and grabby it is really hard to eat that way.

 

So DH is right that dinner is better without the kids, because when they are there they are inevitably both wanting to sit on my lap at the same time, which makes it impossible for me to eat my dinner, which makes me super grumpy and negates the whole point of trying to have a nice family dinner. 


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#18 of 42 Old 07-15-2012, 05:15 PM
 
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Hmm the problem might be partly how late dinner is. My 3-year-old goes to bed at 8. Their body clocks might be out of synch with your meal times.
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#19 of 42 Old 07-15-2012, 05:45 PM
 
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What about family breakfast? Or start with a weekend family brunch/lunch? 8pm seems rather late for dinner... and maybe your kids would be in better moods earlier in the day & more willing to sit for breakfast? And maybe it would be easier to find breakfast foods the whole family would eat?

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#20 of 42 Old 07-15-2012, 07:08 PM
 
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You've had loads of good ideas suggested, so not sure if you'd like one more...

 

A few things that work for us (DS is 2.5).  

 

First of all, he absolutely needs to be belted into his booster seat.  He is just that kind of child.  He absolutely needs to be restrained in order to eat.  He is fine with it and doesn't protest, but if we gave him the choice to sit in a regular chair with no belt, he'd be gone in 30 seconds!  Can't tell if your daughter is belted or not, but perhaps it would help?

 

We also put away all the toys at dinner and we make a big deal about what music we are going to listen to  while we eat.  DS likes to throw out suggestions ("Bon Jovi, Bob Marley, etc) and we try to mostly honor them :-)

 

Once DS finishes eating, we keep him at the table with us for as long as possible by giving him books to read.  We keep a big basket of books by the table and just feed him one after another for as long as he will tolerate.  Sometimes it lasts as long as 20 minutes.  It helps a ton. 

 

Hope something works for you!

 

Oh, and I almost forgot, we light a candle, too, which DS gets to "blow out" at the end of the meal  (we do it, but he thinks he is blowing it out!)

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#21 of 42 Old 07-16-2012, 02:48 PM
 
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We've always had dinner as a family. DD1, when she was little, basically didn't eat dinner. She grazed all day, and had very little appetite at dinner. So, she had to sit with us to start the meal. If she felt like getting up, we let her. If she wanted to talk to us, we told her to come back to the table. If she was doing something distracting, we said, "we're eating right now - that has to wait until later". Even though she didn't have to sit with us for the whole meal, she figured out that mealtime was mealtime, not "run around and be crazy" time.

 

I've never enforced any kind of "stay at the table with us" rule. But, they have to eat at the table, and ask to be excused (I actually don't care for this, but it's important to dh).  They're allowed to come back - once - if they decide they're still hungry. DD2 has no dinnertime rules, aside from not yelling, and she can't 'take food away from the table. Over the next couple of years, we'll tighten up the same rules as the older kids. Basically, those rules are to be at the table at the beginning of dinner, don't interrupt, use basic table manners, such as not taking all of your favourites from the serving dish, asking politely for dishes to be passed, eating reasonable sized mouthfuls of things (ds2 still has trouble with this), and ask to be excused before leaving the table.

 

They also have to try things they don't think they like, but only one bite. If they genuinely don't like what's on the table, they can get a sandwich, piece of fruit, boiled egg, or whatever, from the fridge. I was a picky eater, and people's constant attempts to make me eat things I really didn't like caused me a lot of issues with food avoidance, in addition already disordered eating. (In my case, I now realize there were sensory issues involved, and I know dd1 has them, too.).


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#22 of 42 Old 07-16-2012, 02:51 PM
 
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Okay - I just read your second post.


Since your husband gets home late, and he doesn't feel this is as important as you do, have you considered having a sit-down meal with the kids, before he gets home? You could just take a few bites, or whatever. Then, when your husband gets home, you can sit with him while he eats, and eat your dinner then. Since this isn't important to your husband, and his schedule is so late, it might work better to focus on the "sitting together at the table" thing, outside of his dinnertime. (You could work on it with lunch or something, too.)


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#23 of 42 Old 07-16-2012, 03:44 PM
 
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I find it harder to get DH to the table and to keep him there than I do to get the kids there.  I was more annoyed when DH had me bring him a plate in front of his video game or else would come late to the table and then snarf his food and then leave to smoke a cigarette outside and go back to his video game stuff before the rest of us were done. (He was always playing multi player games so he would be in a hurry to get back to his group) Annoying. He's gotten tons better when he FINALLY got that if I'm going to put a family dinner together he darn sure better give me the respect to eat it properly.

 

Anyway, since this thread isn't about DH's but about kids... Luckily both of my kids love food.  We try to have a no snacking rule during the day, so when meal times come, they're ready to eat.  Normally I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with them, but now that I'm pregnant and nauseated most of the time, I set their food up and have the two of them eat alone.  It's kind of sad, but it's better than mama dry heaving at the table.  I miss dinners with them and they definitely act sillier now without adults to keep them company.

 

I guess it was just never a negotiable thing for me.  I made dinner, so you're going to sit and eat it.  Even when they were babies they would either sit in my lap or later on in their high chairs, and either nurse or self feed.  I never fed babies, and also never made special foods for them.  I do like to cook and they like to eat.  I would have them help set the table from a very early age and they help clear the table too.  I do freak out a bit sometimes if they're being super messy or silly, but generally it's a low key affair and we all concentrate on our food more than anything else.  It also helps when they help me make the food so they're already looking forward to sharing their creations.

 

I too look forward to the days when we will be able to linger a little longer at the table.  I remember when I was their age lunch would be a long drawn out affair with several courses and lots of adult conversation and I was expected to sit there quietly and eat politely off of real china dishes and table cloths and not get antsy, etc.  They're not quite where I was at their age but they don't do too badly, overall.

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#24 of 42 Old 07-16-2012, 07:45 PM
 
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We do family dinners with our 3 year old and 8 month old regularly. It's not always pretty, but we do it. The three year old does often get up from the table, but doesn't wander far. I put the 8 month old in the high chair and share bites off my plate with her. My only rule with the three year old, is that she must be interacting with us and she must be working on her meal. Sometimes that means she is standing next to the high chair, giggling with her sister about what a mess she's making. Sometimes she is sitting in the seat talking to DH or me. And there's a lot of in between. I guess I'm just pretty lax about that. The 8 month old is perfectly happy to play with the food and laugh at her sister. Our meals are messy, but they're fun. Also, any family member can be excused from the table if they are done eating. 


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#25 of 42 Old 07-17-2012, 07:11 AM
 
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I'm not quite at the ages your kids are at, but DD is 16 months and I have another one on the way.  DD has always sat at the table with us for dinner, we have dinner together nearly every single night.  Even when she was a tiny baby she hated being away from us at dinner...she wouldn't sit in her swing even 3 feet away!  So I would hold and nurse her and eat with my free hand.  I got good at eating left handed for a while :)

 

When she could sit unassisted at about 6+ months she went into her booster chair at the table (it has clips that keep her strapped in.  That was pretty important to me, so that she would be at table level with us not away in a high chair.  We did baby led solids, so she always ate what we ate, even if it was only to taste, look at, suck on, squish up, then throw on the floor for a few months.  She still sits in her chair, but now eats 3 full meals per day (plus nursing), and will eat nearly anything.  She's actually a really slow eater, so DH and I are always done before her and we just talk to eachother and to her until she's done. 

 

When the new baby comes, I expect to hold/nurse this one while we eat until he or she can sit up, then will move them to a booster chair too.  Maybe strapping in the 3 year old will help a bit?  And maybe putting the 8 month old at table level will help so they feel like part of the table atmosphere? 

 

Oh, DD hates to wait until 7:30 or 8pm to eat too, she's just too hungry by then. We don't snack during the day, but if dinner is running late she'll usually have a banana or something to hold her over.  She does great when we eat at 5:30 or 6pm instead, so we do try to get dinner started early-ish.  If DH has to be somewhere around dinner time then DD and I eat together and he'll eat later, maybe that's the way you could do it until schedules change a bit? I think the point is to sit down together and appreciate the food that is prepared, and to have even just a little bit of focused family time together.  It's wonderful if everyone can be there, but if work schedules don't quite allow it then having as much of the family together as possible is what I would do.


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#26 of 42 Old 07-17-2012, 11:35 AM
 
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Great thread! I actually considered starting a similar one because nightly dinners have been a battle for us from the very beginning (DS is 26 months.) I actually don't care if DS eats much of his food (he's more of a grazer and eats a lot earlier in the day) or if he wanted to get up and play after a bit, but the issue is that he won't sit still and he won't leave the table---he wants to be with us while we eat. Throughout the entire meal, DS gets out of his seat to come over and pick things off our plates, or pour his water out, or try to grab the salt shaker, or dump his plate on the floor, or...... When I get to the point where I've had enough and ask him to leave the table, he has a major meltdown and things rapidly go down hill from there. I may try one of those buckle seats---he refuses to sit in the high chair these days. I'm super envious of all the mamas who kiddos will sit through a meal (or even part of one!) What about mamas of other wiggle worms? How do you do it!?


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#27 of 42 Old 07-18-2012, 01:43 PM
 
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Lots of great suggestions.  We have two one year olds and dinner together doesn't work.  At least a couple times a week, we all are together at the dinner table and to make that happen takes a lot of effort.  The boys either have tons of food and snacks and I start them before us so that I can sit down and eat or I've done the crayons and a piece of paper which at least buys me 5 minutes.  Most of the time, I feed the children and then we eat afterwards while the boys are content with toys, books or have something to entertain them on their trays.  It is less stressful than jumping up and down and trying to grab a few bites of food.

 

Again, good suggestions.  I need to try some of these.

 

Great post! 

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#28 of 42 Old 07-18-2012, 01:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So last night it was just me and the kids because DH had an evening meeting of the homeowners assn, and it was actually way more stressful.

 

6:30 I put DD1's food on the table and start feeding DD2 in the high chair

6:40 DD1 comes in after repeated requests, sits in chair for a microsecond, takes two bites of food, starts playing with the belt on DD2's chair.  DD2 stops eating and starts watching DD1 and laughing.  I tell DD2 to stop playing with the belt and get back in her chair but she ignores me.

6:42 DD1 says she has to poop and goes to the bathroom.  Simultaneously DD2 tires of the high chair and starts yelling to get out

6:43 I remove DD2 from chair and put her on the living room floor with toys so I can help DD1 clean herself.  DD2 starts screeching and continues to do that until I am done helping DD1.

6:50 I come back and find out that DD2 has also pooped.  (I really think they time it, this happens all the time.)  I go change her diaper.

7:00 I return to the kitchen and find DD1 standing on a chair opening a box of lollipops DH bought.  I say she can't have a lollipop until she eats some dinner.  She throws a tantrum. 

7:10 tantrum subsides and she asks for milk.  I say she can't have milk until she takes one bite each of three items on her plate.  She has another tantrum.

7:20 she eats the three bites and I give her the milk.  Dinner effectively over (once she gets milk she won't eat food anymore, she drinks at least a quart of cow's milk a day and I'd really like to cut that down in favor of more solid food).  Nobody ate much.

 

So much for family dinner.  I really do not know how to fix this.


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#29 of 42 Old 07-18-2012, 02:43 PM
 
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This is also what my family does.  There have been times when our now 4 year old ate earlier than us, and then went immediately to bed.  Those times, for a month or so at a time, usually were precipitated by a significant nap time change.  Family dinners then came back.  the 2-3 times we have put family meals on hiatus in favor of sleep were actually nice for us in away, like the aforementioned wine and conversation wish above.

 

We focus on conversation more than food at the table.  We have a sign for "I have something to say but my mouth is full (and I just can't stand it!!!!)"  Since two years old we have used this sign, one hand patting the chin, and we always acknowledge the hand patter with a turn as soon as the bite is finished.  it also became a family reminder,meaning you are talking with your mouth full, so that we were not saying this over and over.

 

Like others I have talked to with four year olds, we went through a trouble-staying-in-the-seat-time at 3 1/2 years old.  We introduced the good old "may I be excused"  and now we are through it.

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#30 of 42 Old 07-18-2012, 03:25 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mambera View Post

So last night it was just me and the kids because DH had an evening meeting of the homeowners assn, and it was actually way more stressful.

 

6:30 I put DD1's food on the table and start feeding DD2 in the high chair

6:40 DD1 comes in after repeated requests, sits in chair for a microsecond, takes two bites of food, starts playing with the belt on DD2's chair.  DD2 stops eating and starts watching DD1 and laughing.  I tell DD2 to stop playing with the belt and get back in her chair but she ignores me.

6:42 DD1 says she has to poop and goes to the bathroom.  Simultaneously DD2 tires of the high chair and starts yelling to get out

6:43 I remove DD2 from chair and put her on the living room floor with toys so I can help DD1 clean herself.  DD2 starts screeching and continues to do that until I am done helping DD1.

6:50 I come back and find out that DD2 has also pooped.  (I really think they time it, this happens all the time.)  I go change her diaper.

7:00 I return to the kitchen and find DD1 standing on a chair opening a box of lollipops DH bought.  I say she can't have a lollipop until she eats some dinner.  She throws a tantrum. 

7:10 tantrum subsides and she asks for milk.  I say she can't have milk until she takes one bite each of three items on her plate.  She has another tantrum.

7:20 she eats the three bites and I give her the milk.  Dinner effectively over (once she gets milk she won't eat food anymore, she drinks at least a quart of cow's milk a day and I'd really like to cut that down in favor of more solid food).  Nobody ate much.

 

So much for family dinner.  I really do not know how to fix this.

 

Here's mine:

 

6ish (OH comes in between 6 and 7pm, he sends me a text when he leaves work and gets home 20mins later, almost without exception we eat together as a family): i call DD1 (6yo) to the kitchen to set the table - our plates are heavy so i help her as i finish dinner.

Then i send her back to the livingroom for tv or music (depending on how much tv they've had already) until OH walks in.

I call them to the table, telling DD1 to turn the tv off as she comes, lift DD2 (2yo) into her chair (a normal dining chair with a kids car-booster bungeed onto it for height)

We sit and i serve

DD1 often mucks about, we both tell her firmly to sit down and eat her food, and usually ask her a leading question to get her talking instead of messing about.

DD2 laughs at DD1, we remind her to eat her food and again, distract her with conversation.

I ask OH about his day

OH asks us in turn about our days me, then DD1, then DD2.

Eventually the kids, having eaten 1-90% of their food (i honestly do not keep track) lose interest.  DD1 is required to ask "please may i leave the table?", DD2 gets away with "down please".  I let them go but OH and i stay to chat.

When OH and i have finished eating dessert (usually fruit) is offered.  

Whether the kids take it or not i remind them it's nearly bed time.

OH clears the table and makes us a cup of tea, we continue to talk.

We drink our tea.

Whoever is doing bedtime gathers the kids up and herds them upstairs for bath/teeth/stories/bed.

 

Basically to me if everyone sat at the table and was able to chat about their day and (even if it took repeated reminders) didn't disrupt anyone else's pleasure in the event too much, and at least tasted their food then it was a success.  I don't regard it as my job to make sure they eat, that's up to them, i have enough to worry about :D

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