Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sharing Mac


For three weeks, in 2004, my two and a half year old child ate Kraft macaroni and cheese for dinner every night.


Yeah, I know !!

We were on a road trip. A long long road trip ! With a two and a half year old and an 8 month old. We were tired of the dinner time battles, tired of the protests. We gave up. We fed him "mac" as he called it ... every night. Ok ... maybe he had McDonald's a couple of those nights that we were on the road. Even better ...

The end of that trip marked a turning point in our parenting journey. On the way home Rory and I decided that from then on, the kids would be eating what we eat. No more making a meal for us, a meal for them.

Four years later, I can honestly say our children will eat ALMOST anything I put in front of them, with minimal complaints.

I will not try to convince you that this was an easy road ... it sooo was not. They'd cry. They'd refuse to eat. They'd complain. They'd push their food around on their plates, as if it'd go away magically somehow. Meals would last way longer than it should have. Frustration levels were high. But we persisted. I'm so glad. Meal time is now a wonderful time of day for us. We talk, we laugh, we share about our days. And 90 % of the time, we all finish our meals !

The kids still have a few things they do not like. There is a unified hatred of mushrooms among my two ! And I generally make a less spicy version for the kids if we are having curry or chilli. But for the most part, if we're having it, they're having it.

We have a few strategies in place that have helped us win the battle of the wills at meal time.

1.) There are two choices at our dinner table. Eat. Or go to bed. Both of the children have chosen the latter, especially early on ! It happens very rarely now. But, it is still the rule. When the "I'm hungries" start, our answer is always the same "You can have breakfast in the morning ..." And yes, we always stick to that. And no, they don't wither away in the night.

2.) No thank you servings. My Mom did this with us and we always do it with the kids when introducing a new food. It was especially helpful when we first started ! Foods that I knew the kids liked (pasta, rice, etc ... ) I'd give then a normal helping. Foods that I knew they didn't like, I'd give them a "no thank you" serving. One bite. And they HAD to eat it. The next time we had that food, I'd give them a bigger bite ... until eventually, it wasn't a problem. Some nights, they'd have a bowl of rice with one piece of curried chicken, one piece of broccoli and nothing else. But now ... they'll eat all veggies. Except mushrooms.

My kids are pretty willing, now, to try new foods. I love that about them.

3.) Veggie snacks before dinner. I need to start doing this again because the kids have started asking for food like an hour before dinner. I used to respond to their "I'm hungries" right before dinner with "You may have a carrot." I figured if they were not really hungry, they would refuse it. But if they were really hungry and wanted to fill their bellies with carrot ... well, I was happy with that. Alia learned to love carrots this way !! I did it with raw cauliflower, raw brocolli, and tomatoes too.

4.) We don't always have dessert now but when we were first trying to get the kids to eat we had it as an extra incentive to finish their meals. Dessert is usually mango, or watermelon, or frozen blueberries. Sometimes we have yogurt. On occasion ice cream. However, our rule for dessert is not "You have to finish your dinner to have dessert." Our rule is "You have to finish your dinner without complaining to have dessert." Yes, we had to withhold dessert some nights. Yes, it was hard. Especially when one child got it and the other didn't. But ... it worked. We have very little complaining at our dinner table now ... even though we don't always have dessert !!

We've come a long way since that road trip in 2004 ...

... and yeah, we still let them have "mac" from time to time.


Christina November 16, 2008 at 4:30 AM  

We don't do seperate meals here either! And for the most part, she's a great eater. Carrots are actually one of her favorite foods and she requests them all the time :o)

Joolz November 16, 2008 at 8:45 AM  

Hi Bonnie

A very handy post for parents of young children. Wish I'd read this 12 years ago - Ha ha.

I've given you an award - drop by a nd pickit up.

Cheers - Joolz

Khrista November 16, 2008 at 12:09 PM  

Oh, Bonnie...I don't think I am strong as you...we have tried many different strategies with G. It's so hard to be the strict one is just one of those battles I really hate! I am going to show David this post and maybe some of your tips will help us out!

Demara November 16, 2008 at 2:05 PM  

Aw you are such a good Mom, Bonnie! I think those are great rules...I especially like the veggie snack one.

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