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I've been catching a lot of flak lately (from the IL's mostly) because my girls do not sit down at the table and eat "meals". I completely agree that mealtimes are special times for a family, but I also think the social skills involved are fairly advanced, and right now, all I do is try to model them, rather than enforce them.<br><br>
At the moment, we have a small table in the kitchen for the girls, and I keep it stocked with lots of little plates and bowls of various snacks - crackers, fruit, olives, cheese, chick peas - that sort of thing, and they just eat whenever they want. I also keep a plate of snacks for them in the fridge, little tubs of yogurt and dips for veggies, tuna salad, things that need to be refrigerated, and they just help themselves.<br><br>
DH and I usually sit at the table for breakfast and dinner, and the girls can join us if they want to, but I don't make an issue of it. It drives my MIL, especially, wild, that the girls don't have to sit with us during dinner. They CAN, if they want to, but they don't have to.<br><br>
I figure they will come to the table when they are ready to practice the sorts of rules and manners that sitting at the table requires.<br><br>
I'm curious about the general attitude towards mealtimes. Do your children sit at the table and eat proper meals?
 

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We always eat meals as a family. We feel that it's important to connect in that way, AND that children learn by doing...meaning they learn table manners by eating with us at the table. We don't force them to eat, but they do need to sit with us for a reasonable amount of time.<br><br>
-Heather
 

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Yep, and they've done this since they were infants and would bf while I was eating. As soon as they got old ennough to eat they sat for regular meals.<br><br>
I am a big follower of Ellyn Satter's nutritional advice. She is the author of "How to get your kids to eat but not too much." Family meals are fairly central to her advice. I find my kids are good healthy eaters as a result.
 

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Yes, and they have snacks also.<br><br>
We don't force them to eat all there food but they can sit with us as a family for a little while.
 

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We don't actually have a kitchen table. DD eats when I eat, though. She sits in her high chair and I sit at my DH's computer desk (which is in the not-big-enough 'dining area') or on the footstool if DH is at the computer.<br><br>
And I check email and surf MDC while we eat, so I'm not exactly modelling good manners. But we do things more traditionally when we eat out.
 

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another vote for yes, we eat meals as a family... or sort of . lol<br><br>
breakfast during the week i watch other kids, so all the kids sit at the table and have breakfast together, my teen eats quickly before school and i generally eat after the kids are all fed and are playing again.<br><br>
snacks are also all kids at the table (and baby in the highchair)... with a 4yo, two 2.5yos and a 1yo i think it would just get crazy if we didn't. i can imagine finding food and snacks everywhere.<br><br>
lunch all the kids eat at the table with me. Afternoon snack is also at the table.<br><br>
dinner is my family - dh and i, teen and my two kids.<br><br>
on weekends sometimes we'll 'picnic' and i'll put a blanket or towel on the floor for the kids and tehy'll eat and watch a movie and and dh and i will eat at our puters
 

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We occasionally eat meals together. We used to eat together much more frequently, but nowadays hardly anyone is hungry simultaneously. My husband gets up for work at 5:30, and he eats before leaving. I get up at around 7, and I don't usually eat breakfast. The kids get up somewhere between 8-9:30, and they usually eat breakfast as soon as they get up, but they don't always get up at the same time. I eat lunch and dinner, plus a snack or two. But my husband is hungry for dinner at around 5:30-6pm, and the boys usually don't want to eat until about 7 or 8. So we all kind of eat whenever we're hungry.<br><br>
I think if there is a lot of pressure on a family to adhere to a schedule, and everyone is apart all day, mealtime becomes more important. We're pretty laid back and the kids are homeschooled, so we get plenty of interaction with each other away from the table.
 

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We (DS and I) eat dinner together, him in the high chair and me at the table, every weekday. Breakfast and lunch on weekdays I'm also watching my 2 year old sister and it's basically me put food on the exersaucer and whoever wants it comes and eats. 2 year old barely eats anything and I don't push it. If she's hungry she always asks and I always give it to her- no matter what time. Weekends my dad, 8 year old sister, and 19 year old brother are all home. Breakfast and lunch at least DS and I eat together, sometimes the others too. Dinner on weekends we all eat together at the table.
 

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Ds is only 3, but meals for us work like this:<br><br>
We serve up our plates in the kitchen. Then usually dh and ds sit at ds's little table in the living room, and I sit in the easy chair right next to the little table. Dh and I eat at the same time, and ds eats, runs around, eats a bit more, runs around. We usually leave his plate there for awhile after we are done because he will continue picking at it.<br><br>
We have a dining room table, but it's always covered with crap, so eating in the living room just works better. (The tv isn't on though.)<br><br>
So do we all eat together? I guess technically yes. Do we all sit at a table together? Technically, no.<br><br>
When we are at a restaurant or someone's house, ds sits just fine at the table. Well, as well as any 3yo does - he gets antsy after awhile, but I am not into forcing kids to sit and watch other people eat.
 

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Meal time at our house is a lot like you describe, JuniperJoy. We (me and DP) eat at the table, or picnic style on a blanket, and we make plates up for the little guys. Sometimes they stay and eat for a bit, other times they're more like hummingbirds and dart about in-between bites. Also, sometimes they're just not hungry at the times we are- they tend to eat lots of very small meals throughout the day.<br><br>
We've never had a problem with manners at restaurants and the like. Works for us <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/orngbiggrin.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="orange big grin"><br><br>
Also, I definitely grew up with the "clean plate" priority- and I think I lost my ability to tell when I was full as a result. I don't want the little dudes to get into all that.<br><br>
I'd tell your ILs that it works for you, and maybe if they want to have a different rule at their house they could?<br><br>
Kaly
 

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Erm .. no. *lol*<br><br>
We have a super picky 6y/o, and garbage disposals of a 5y/o and 4y/o .. The 3y/o will pick all day, and the baby (1) usually has breakfast and dinner (cereal w/fruit for breakfast, and usually whatever we have for dinner) .. but we rarely eat TOGETHER. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/orngbiggrin.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="orange big grin"> Dh usually sleeps in the afternoon, because he works nights, so mealtimes that we're all eating together are really rare. Once he's up though, he and I usually have dinner together, if the kids want to join, they can, but normally they eat 4-5 smaller meals during the day, so they're not hungry, and they're more tired than anything else.
 

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Yes, my children sit at the table and eat meals and have always done so. It is part of our family culture.
 

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Now we do, but not until my daughter was a little over 2 and a half. Now that we do, my son does too, even though he is much younger than Halle was when I started asking her too. And now that we do, I enjoy it.<br><br>
Halle (3) helps me set the table. I don't ask the kids to sit down until everything is ready. We all sit down, and I serve the food. As soon as either kid is done, they can get up. I'm not into enforcing them to sit. But we talk to each other and Halle usually will sit for awhile. Ari (1) gets up when he's done - which I can tell by the amount of food being thrown on the floor.<br><br>
I never used to ask the kids to sit with us. I would offer Halle a seat, and she would usually say no. When I was at my in-law's houses they would try to say she 'had' to sit in a highchair - but I would always tell her she didn't have to. I wouldn't let her walk around with food, but no thanks to making up rules for my kids. They pretty much think we're cave-dwellers that aren't teaching our kids manners.<br><br>
My kids do have a hard time at restaurants, but we go every so often, and try to explain to Halle that we sit at the table quietly and that no one else wants to hear us while they are eating. I try to pick family friendly places, not really quiet places big on atmosphere.<br><br>
If your kids are eating well, I'd say stick with what you're doing. I don't know how old your kids are - but instead of changing what you're doing radically, maybe just start having one or two meals a week together, and let them eat the way they are now the rest of the time.<br><br>
Take care,
 

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We generally sit together at the table for dinner& the kids eat together at the table for b-fast & luinch. This is mainly because with 4 kids I have enough mess to clean up & don't want even more food to clean off the floor, lol. As well as the fact that going back & forth, up & down from the table would drive me batty. But this is just my personal feeling. Since this doesn't bother you though, I say don't change your house to please others.Hopefully they are the type of chilkdren that adjust well when in a situaion this is not possible in & do need to sit. Keep doing what works for your family!
 

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I think what you are doing is fine.<br><br>
You don't say how old your children are, but I've never been concerned about enforcing "family sit-down meals" when I feel the children are not really ready for it. I also don't believe that waiting until they are ready will have any repercussions. Much like we don't potty train when they are infants, I don't see the need to enforce sitting at a table too early either. If you can do that with absolutely no strife or effort on your part, then go for it. But, for me, it is not worth disrupting MY meal to enforce something a child may be too young for (sitting still for any length of time is HARD for toddlers, and many of them prefer a grazing style of eating).<br><br>
When DD was a newborn, she was held by either me or DH, and we ate in shifts. When she got older, and could use a high chair, we fed her in that but she was allowed to come down as soon as she'd had enough. At that time, we weren't doing sitdown dinners, we all ate around the coffee table and TV (we were living with my Mum and that's how we did meals...it was still a "family" time and actually we all quite enjoyed ourselves). In our current place, a temporary home, we have no dining table or chairs, so the living room is it. DD used to wander and play while coming to DH or I for bites of food that we fed her from our plates (this reduced the mess substantially). This has worked very well for us.<br><br>
Recently, DD has preferred to sit next to one of us for her meal. She's also eating substantial portions now, and feeding her is getting in the way of feeding ourselves, lol. We are moving in 3 weeks, and we'll have a dining table this time, and plan to start eating dinner as a family. I know DD is ready for it now, and don't anticipate any problems. She has been to restaurants with us and is quite happy to sit for the length of a meal (thanks to the crayons, etc that are provided, lol).<br><br>
Anyways, what I"m trying to say is that I don't think there is anything wrong with that at all. If you are happy with it, then continue. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/thumb.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="thumbs up">
 

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We have breakfast and dinner together as a family. I love starting and ending the day together. Since both of us work its a great way to connect in the AM and regroup at night. Our son is now 3 but we have been doing this since infancy. First with me nursing and/or holding him while we ate, then with the clip on style high chair at the table and now he sits with us. However they are not "forced" or even formal dinners. My son eats till he's full then he can leave the table or stay as he sees fit. Most often he leaves for a few minutes then comes back when he see us laughing or talking about what our day will bring or what we did during the day. As he get older he get more responsibility at meal times like putting out the napkins, carrying his plate to and from the kitchen, etc. He really enjoys "cooking" too. He now is in charge of saying grace. Of course we have to hear “god bless all the dogs by name, all his cousins, the new kid he met at the playground, all the Thomas characters, mommy, daddy, all the animals in the forest, etc etc….” <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/orngbiggrin.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="orange big grin"><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/love.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="love"><img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/orngbiggrin.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="orange big grin"><br><br>
I also LOVE Ellen Slayters books. Food was a huge issue during my childhood and her books have really taught me balance.
 

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We have meals together. My ds sits in his high chair. We don't make him sit longer than he can sit, when he's ready to get down we wipe him off and get him down. He doesn't have to eat what he doesn't want to eat. (Anyway you try "making" an 18 month old eat!) Usually he has some of what we are eating, and some supplemental foods that I know he always likes, like hardboiled eggs, olives, grapes, tomatoes. Maybe it's his age, but he doesn't mind trying whatever we are eating.<br><br>
He's a slow eater so we generally get enough time to eat our food.
 

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We are definitely an "family meals are sacred" sort of family. Unless someone is away on business (or a day trip that required leaving before dawn), we all eat breakfast and dinner together--myself, DH, DS (nearly 5) and DD (18 mo.). The kids eat lunch with their preschool or daycare family during the week and we eat family lunch on weekends. Snacks however, are a whatever-whenever-whereever deal -- the kids pick up whatever they want from the snack shelf in the pantry or fridge. Sitting at the table for meals was started along with solids for both kids.<br><br>
That said, neither child is forced to eat what they don't want or to sit longer than they want to. And how long a meal has lasted has changed from when they were 1 to now. They get down from the table when they are done and, after dinner, watch a video until my DH and I are done and the kitchen in cleaned up. Then its on with the evening routine.<br><br>
For us, this is an important part of being a family, a time to talk, a time to model/teach table manners and conversation skills, a time to pray together, just part of our identity. But if you are comfortable with what you do, then don't let others (especially inlaws!) push you towards something that isn't comfortable for you.
 

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No, not really. We do not eat at the table unless it is a big meal (and then that would mean it's usually a holiday situation of some sort) We use the table as a "food station" usually. It's more buffet style with the plates and silverware on it and foods placed there for everyone to dish up what they want to eat. We often eat in the front room, or on the back deck or wherever we want.<br><br>
In addition to that, we do not always eat the same foods at the same times. The children make their own stuff at least 50% of the time, and everyone prepares foods they want at different times of day. We all have the same dinner 2 or 3 times a week maybe. When we are guests we usually sit wherever they sit to eat. I have never forced the kids to eat at the table or to have a "meal" time. It's simply never been an issue for us. Kristi <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile">
 
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