Raise your hand if your kiddos put up a stink at dinner time. Yeah. Mine too. There really is nothing more frustrating than making dinner for people who insist, whine after whine, that they "don't want dinner!"
Thank goodness it was a phase and Andrew and I were willing to try a few things that were different than normal. The term "throw in the towel" really made sense to me once when I literally threw the towel because of how irritated I was.
So what did Andrew and I do? There are a couple ideas we tried that helped turn things around. Maybe some of these ideas will work for you, too!
*Note: I wouldn't consider my children especially picky eaters. If your kids are extremely picky, please share what you've tried that has worked for you!
Eat dinner all together as a family without interruptions
When dinner becomes a time when the kids get to have some special time with mom and dad without other distractions or interruptions (I'm talking electronics here), they're much more willing to sit at the table.
Only make one dinner
Everyone eats the same dinner. The dinner that you prepare. You are NOT a restaurant!
Try serving dinner with dessert
I know. Weird, right? But have any of your parents served jello with dinner when you were a kid? Mine did! It made coming to dinner a lot more enjoyable for me and I've definitely noticed the same thing with my kids! I decide how much dessert they get with their meal, and serve it all together! And it doesn't have to be dessert dessert. My kids LOVE rolls. I make a huge batch of rolls on a day when I'm not busy, freeze them, and then I have them ready for the days I need something that my kids like to go with the thing they've never tried before but simply know tastes horrible.
I decide how much they get of each item so that they don't end up eating 73 "little trees" and 1 bite of tater tot casserole.
Can you see how saying, "Finish all your food and then you get dessert" can make it sound like the healthy stuff is just the necessary evil to get to the heavenly heath cake? Another reason why it might be a good idea to serve dessert with dinner.
*if you serve Heath Cake as your dessert, please invite me over.
Don't make them clear their plate
I like the "one bite" rule. We've all heard the "17 (or however many) tries before they know if they like it or not" thing, but you don't have to squeeze all 17 tries in one meal. Just require that they try at least one bite of everything you serve. If you have an issue with wasted food, think of it this way... You can waste food and emotional energy by bestowing it on disinterested children, or you can waste it in the garbage disposal (or you could just put it in a tupperware and save it for try 4 out of 17).
If your kids insist that they're not hungry anymore, warn them that this is all they are getting to eat tonight, so if they get hungry, you'll have their dinner on hand, AND STICK TO IT! No matter how much they beg for something else, no matter how hard the tantrum, do NOT allow them to eat anything other than the dinner you prepared! After a couple of nights of this, they'll figure it out.
If they're hungry, they'll eat
This is the ideology that helped me the most. Once I realized that my children have tummies that are perfectly capable of alerting their brains that they're hungry, I put it in my arsenal. I make sure I feed them a snack no less than two hours before dinner so that they will be hungry at dinner time and I don't say a word about the dinner I've made. I just make the dinner and serve it. End of story.
Do Andrew and I follow these tips every night at dinner? No. Have we completely eliminated meltdowns? No. Does dinner time go over better when I follow these "rules?" Absolutely.
What ideas have worked for your family at dinner time?
Good luck, Mama's!