So, at my house, my rules are pretty lax when it comes to eating and sitting still at the table. My kids are allowed to walk away in the middle of the meal and pretty much do what they want while eating. Our meal times are free and they can spend as long as they want to finish. I do it this way, because we struggle with our son's eating habits as he is a picky eater.
As a mother who is alone most of the time, this seems like the method that works best for us. (My hubby is often working during dinner time).
Anyways, we spent our vacation time (one month) with my sister and she has very strict rules at the dinner table. No one can get up until everyone is finished eating and they must eat everything on their plate. My kids are not used to this and I want to know how to handle this situation where our dinner time rules differ from our host.
When we are with people who require kids to eat all on their plate I make sure to prepare my dd for that and give her only small servings of things I am sure she will like or at least be able to eat without fuss. I agree with deciding on the expectation you want them to follow and telling them, maybe practicing it a bit before going. I think that the one that will be the biggest is staying at the table without playing around until most people are done, I wouldn't require them to stay while one child is picking at their food slowly though.
Wow, after a month you and your sister might 'hate each other'.........(you know what I mean) . But we've been thru something similar.....my niece sounds like your children...........food problems, long time to eat, etc......But for some reason, when she comes to my house, she's actually excited to follow our rules......she loves the 'structure'...........So first, don't stress........you child may do what the cousins are doing ------and second, it's your sister, Sisters always know what's going on.......she knows how your child eats, etc and something as simple as talking with her about meals can help................I'd try to have your kids stay at the table while everyone is eating (maybe create a kids table).......but don't be afraid to tell your own kids, "aunt mary has her own rules for cousin tom and cousin sara, but you still need to follow my rules........".......and your sister can tell her kids the same thing. Good Luck.
If you have a different rule that is more restrictive than your sister's rules, you might mention that a bit. Like- "I expect you not to put your feet on the couch even if Billy is allowed to. Just like Aunt Mary expects cousin Billy to finish his food, families have different rules for what is important to them." Then it comes across as families following their own rules in each others presence, not you defying your sister's household rules. You could also go the other way about a rule of your own and say, "I think that since we're staying with Aunt Mary and we are all doing things a bit differently together, you may play catch inside the house. But when we get home we still have the rule of no throwing balls in the house."
Modeling give and take on rules that can be changed vs family rules that are always in effect might help smooth things over.
No way would I make my kid finish their plate due to someone else's rules. I would make sure to give portions that meant the kid was likely to finish everything, but I wouldn't enforce that rule and I wouldn't let my sister enforce that rule for my kid. She could enforce rules about household safety, etc.
How close are you with your sister? Seems to me the two of you should reach a compromise in rules before this starts.
For what it's worth, since it is your sister's house, I do think many if not most of her rules should be respected and followed. BUT you do have kids used to certain things. A total 180 rule switch will just cause chaos for both parties.
I would go for a compromise. For instance, in my house, the deal breaker would be leaving the table with food or drinks.
For us, the meal is over once you leave the table (unless it's to get something or use the restroom)
But, I might compromise on that a little.
I think there's a happy medium here. Walking around with food is not ok here. Even if the child hasn't eaten in a month, if they are hungry enough, they'll do it at the table. But, I think kids can learn different rules, and still survive, and things might even improve by being exposed to differences.
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