SO, fellow moms, I had a NON-calm mom moment last night. Recently, I have felt frustrated with preparing multiple meals each night — one kid-friendly meal (half prepared dairy-free for my son who has a milk protein allergy and half prepared with as many dairy products as possible for my cheese-loving daughter) and one adult-friendly meal. With my son slowly outgrowing his allergy and my daughter having just turned five-and-a-half, I decided it was high time for us all to eat ONE meal a night. Last night was one in a string of recent disasters. After a day of work, and picking up two small cranky children from preschool, I slaved over a hot stove (I really did!), put dinner on the table and suffered through an hour of complaining and whining (from the kids) and cajoling and pleading (from my husband and me). By the end of the meal, I had indigestion and I was practically in tears. This is just NOT working!
This morning, now that I am calmer, I am offering up some tips for family meals that I am going to try. I hope you will too if family meals are also a source of frustration in your house!
-Pick your battles: There can be many battles a day with children about behavior, manners, how they treat others, putting toys away, and so on. You simply cannot have a battle about everything. Some parents will choose to have battles over food. I am going to choose not to. When I really reflected this morning, I realized that my kids are perfectly healthy eaters, they just have a limited repertoire. Perhaps I would need to pick a battle if there was some problem/issue with their eating, but really, the problem is being created by ME so I am committing to drop it for now.
-Understand your child’s personality: In case you haven’t noticed, kids born to the same parents and living in the same family can be incredibly different. My son wants to try every bit of food on the table — totally on his own initiative. My daughter would happily eat pasta with parmesan cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week if we would let her. She does not want to try new foods unless they are chocolate. Add into the mix a simple fact — when people are on the fence about changing their behavior or have no interest in changing their behavior and are then pushed to change, they dig their heels in and are even more resistant to change. In other words, when you push, and push, and push a child who is not keen on trying new foods to try new foods, mealtime is going to become increasingly unpleasant. On the flipside, there is research showing that if a child tastes a new food on repeated occasions, they will grow to like it. My question, however, is how in the world do you get it in their mouths in the first place????? If you have had success with this approach, please post it here and let other Calm Moms know!
-Understand your motivation: Whenever we want something to go our way, it is important to think what is motivating us. Do we want to feel we have power over our kids (eat this, or else)? Do we want to prevent some terrible health outcome (don’t eat that, or you’ll get heart disease)? Think about it. When I did this morning, I realized that (a) I want to expend less effort when making meals and (b) I want kudos. I want to cook one beautiful meal and have both children and my husband love it. Well…..
-And then, re-frame your goals to be more realistic: Clearly I need to reframe my goals. Children are not going to give their moms kudos for a delicious, from scratch, homemade chicken pot pie (one of my recent failures). Unless it has chocolate in it, no one is going to say thanks. I need to be okay with this. So, for the time being, I am going to prepare healthy foods the children will actually eat without cajoling and pleading from Mom and Dad. This is not a forever plan — it is a for now plan. Eventually, I do hope we will all sit down to the same meal. But for now, my goals for mealtime are going to be (a) give everyone a healthy meal that they will eat and (b) have an opportunity to catch up on our days and enjoy each other’s company.
-Have some meal times without kids: Parents should most definitely have mealtimes without their children from time to time. Going out is great, but even “date nights at home” work well. Put the kids to bed and make whatever odd foods you and your spouse enjoy. It is so refreshing to not get up and down a hundred times, and if your husband is like mine, you probably won’t need to cajole him to eat your cooking or vacuum under his seat when you are done. As an added bonus, cooking for spouses or friends can earn you those kudos we all need from time to time!
Stay tuned later this week for some healthy and easy meal ideas that can be BOTH kid- and adult-friendly! And, if you have ideas, post them here…please!