We have all read studies on the importance of sitting down for dinner as a family. As a parent, we pour our souls into making these meals delicious, nutritious and a valuable time to come together at the end of our day. Unfortunately, children don’t always take the time you invested into consideration when deciding if they are going to eat your meal; sit still through the dining experience, or even articulate the events that occurred during their day. Instead, our idealistic image of family dinner is riddled with constant bickering: “please use your fork”, “let’s not argue over who sits where, or whom gets the blue cup”, “please try it”, “you do like that fruit/vegetable you had it last week”.
What are we to do with our fidgeting picky eaters? I have had numerous conversations with friends on this very topic. From my survey of parents, some have caved into creating separate kid-friendly meals, some allow their children to eat a portion of what is being served and snack throughout the evening. Personally, fine dining is one of my favorite pastimes. I would love to eventually incorporate my children into this activity. In our home, we present one meal for the entire family. If our children decide not to partake they do not get the reward of dessert and we also “close the kitchen for snacking”.
According to WebMD “a toddler's appetite can temporarily wane when teething or ill, causing temporary disregard even for tried-and-true mealtime favorites. Older toddlers may reject foods to garner attention or as a way to assert their independence, or both, because it's fun to watch their parents react.” It may be beneficial to speak to our children about polite ways to state their preferences for certain foods. Consider giving choices; perhaps you are firm on a protein and vegetables, but would like to offer two choices for grain (either of which you are content with them choosing).
Remember their bodies won’t allow them to starve, so one night of non-compliance will not be detrimental to their well-being. When composing meals consider texture and color. It may also help to get the kids involved with cooking and table setting. My advice is to find what works for your family but try to make a sit-down family dinner.