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Dinnertime Drama March 10, 2011

Filed under: everyday life — Elizabeth @ 4:00 PM

I’m having dinnertime woes.

Actually I was having dinnertime woes.  Then it started to include lunchtime woes, and now it has even extended to breakfast woes.

Woe is me.  Three times a day.

And this has nothing to do with the normal mama “what to cook” woes that we  all face.

The problem is my wild child, Isaac, who, during mealtime,  does everything BUT eat.

Prayers?  Check.  Poopy jokes?  Check.  Making funny faces in the wall mirror?  Check.  Annoying your brother?  Check.  Staring into space?  Check.  Eating?  Kind of lost in the shuffle.

Now I am not one of those mothers who makes my kids clean their plate.  I try to make sure they have 4 things on their plate at night–the main course, a vegetable, some kind of fruit, some kind of bread or cheese.  That way I know there are things they definitely like.  So the rule is, eat what you want.  BUT, you will not get any dessert unless you eat a significant amount of each portion.

Let me just pause here and publicly thank God for Matthew, who is simply a great eater.  He actually makes it fun to prepare new meals because he enthusiastically LOVES everything.  Meat, vegetables, fruit, bread, pizza, spicy, sweet.  He really never complains and I LOVE him for that!!!!  Not to mention the fact that he gets down to business and actually EATS while we’re at the table.

But back to Isaac.  Here is how bad it has gotten.  It’s not just that we all finish our dinner before him—at this point we all even leave the table.  I clean the entire kitchen, and he is STILL there.  And I tell him, you don’t have to finish!  I don’t even care! To which he answers, but I want to! And then continues to play and preen in the mirror.

It must be bad at preschool too, because he is coming home with some of his lunch still in his lunch bag.  When I ask why he didn’t finish, he just says because Miss Gena said lunch is over—which means he must be driving her insane too.

Two nights ago, I started implementing “timed meals”.  I explained what was going to happen all day and when dinnertime arrived (right after prayers), I set a digital timer for 20 minutes and started it.  I told him that whatever was left on his plate when the timer buzzed would be thrown away and if he hadn’t eaten enough for dessert, it was too bad.  No second chances.

The first night went well, with about 35 reminders from Jason and me to pay attention and EAT.  He finished enough to get dessert–homemake shlock-wet footing (homemade chocolate pudding, and we’re all clear on the fact that homemade means a box of powder and some milk, right?).  Last night was not so great.  I realized too late that I put too much food on his plate.  The timer beeped and he hadn’t even tried his meatballs, so I had him take 2 bites of meatballs then took his plate away.

I don’t know that this is going to be our ultimate solution, and I am open to suggestions.

Does anyone else have a serious dawdler on their hands at mealtimes?


7 Responses to “Dinnertime Drama”

  1. Lori Says:

    Jack either eats or doesn’t according to his feelings about the food that day so we have some food issues but nothing that has caused many issues so far. When he does like food, he goes NUTS with it! I will say that this is the best solution I’ve heard for this issue from anyone so I hope it works. It sounds great to me!

  2. Yvonne Says:

    It sounds like a good system to me – we are using this same approach for cleaning up toys. 10 minutes – whatever isn’t picked up after that time is put in time-out indefinitely. It has made a difference!

  3. Kristen Says:

    We are having the same problem w/Andy! No focus whatsoever on eating in a timely manner, but then he’s shocked if we tell him (after like 45 mins) that meal time needs to be over. Its hard b/c he’s not misbehaving at the table, he tells us he’s eating slowly so he won’t make a mess or choke and he’s talking to us, which we don’t want to turn into a negative. Spending time together as a family is one of the reasons we make such an effort to eat together in the 1st place!

    Lately, I’ve been sitting the boys down for dinner while Chris & I are still getting settled. I make their plates 1st and they start eating while I get everyone’s drinks poured & put together Chris’s food & mine. That seems to be helping b/c he has a few mins to focus on eating w/o the distraction of so many people to talk to. I also moved the kids seats so that I’m in between the boys and that’s helped Andy not get fixated on what Aidan is doing, how much Aidan has left to eat, etc. and also keeps them from doing silly “brother” things.

    I’m interested to hear how the timer idea works out for you. I think its a good one and 20 mins is definitely a reasonable amount of time.

  4. Jen Says:

    Come on up- we have a fantastic eating clinic up here. LOL!!

  5. Christy Says:

    Ben was a seriously picky eater. He’s gotten better which is a blessing. At 7 he now realizes that he may as well get it over with and isn’t a dawdler anymore BUT it used to be torture. Breakfast still can be but that’s a different issue all together (2 kids fooling around and incessant talking – they forget to eat even though they like the food).

    We did the timer with him but it didn’t work well. He would start to panic the moment I started the timer and he’d start crying and nothing would get eaten. It was miserable. What worked best was giving him VERY small portions but telling him to clean his plate. He knew exactly how much he has to eat but it’s extremely small, reasonable portions. If he’s still hungry he can have more (or something that he likes better once he’s had dinner)

    Ella is a dawdler now (b/c talking is more interesting than food, and b/c she’s 4). The timer works well for her. She rarely loses her dinner. We don’t do it every night though. We usually just start it when we notice she’s being slow. We’re all eating and nothing is disappearing from her plate so we set it for about 15 minutes (she’s already had 10 or so minutes of not eating much). She usually gobbles it down then.

    Glad to hear our homemade pudding recipes are so similar. 😉 Good luck! Keep us posted. Hope Isaac starts eating a bit better. It is so nice to look back and realize how far Ben has come – that will be true for you too! Soon, I hope!

  6. Grace Says:

    take 2. (i tried to comment yesterday and it all got erased. blah!)

    so, i don’t have any advice, but some encouragement/humor for ya. my mom loves to tell anyone with picky/slow eaters about what an awful eater i was as a child. i used to really dislike eating and would regularly fall asleep at the table. my parents (still) joke that i would finish breakfast by lunchtime and lunch by dinnertime, etc. it was hard on my mom, but i eventually grew out of it and now i loooove food and will try almost anything at least once. so…hang in there, it might be a few years (i think was that way until about 10), but he’ll grow it of it…i think!

    oh, and as for suggestions, this one is probably a reach, but if talking is the issue, maybe you could try talking tokens? we use these at professional development meetings so certain people don’t hog the conversation. maybe you could give him 1 or 2 token for a every 5 minutes or so and once he’s “cashed” them in, he can’t talk again until the 5 minutes are over? totally reaching here…

    good luck!

  7. Cindy Says:

    I just found your blog, but I thought I’d comment because the slow-poke eater is dear to my heart – I have me one of those! We switch it up – timers, contests, and rewards. Plus, the dreaded “there will be no snack later” and “if you don’t finish, then you’ll be getting it for the next meal”…went through three meals with the same food (eggs) until it got eaten, but he got the point, and now knows we mean it. My rewards can be either a quarter, a treat, or a coupon. I give ’em coupons for doing over & above, and it’s for whatever I can come up with – slurpee (I know, bad mom), movie, ice cream cone. Every once in a while, nothing works…and I just take the food away when the time is up, and nobody dies. The funniest is when I tell them it’s a double down – they earn double the reward if they eat in a short amount of time, or even better, if one person finishes in time & the other doesn’t – the one who finishes gets BOTH. They don’t know whether to cheer for the other or stay quiet (& no doubt pray for failure!) Anyhows. My 2 bits.

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