On the downhill slide to four years old, Ian has become much more difficult at the dinner table. Don't get me wrong, I have been blessed with two of the best eaters I have even seen! I believe children all reach a point when eating good food that is good for them is not a fun thing to do...so what's a parent to do? (Take them to Mickey-D's for some nuggets? NO!)
I can't speak for what works in every house, but Roger and I have learned that sometimes getting our kids to eat the food I made for dinner is all about creativity and spin. (and positive attitudes! Trust me, there are lots of nights when all we want to do is yell and give time outs and take away dinner, which always comes back to bite us in the rumps!)
I really should start keeping track of our ideas because nearly all of them are successful tactics for us, we just have to use them sparingly. We've done "dinner winner," where the best eater of dinner gets a special treat like a popsicle or "your choice" from the candy bucket. Or just dessert in general since we don't eat dessert every night. We encourage them to line up their peas on the plate, if that's what makes the peas interesting enough to eat. We may have even discussed how much broccoli you'd have to eat in order to turn green like Luigi. We have a rule (as of a few months ago) that even if you don't want what we are having, you have to eat as many bites as you are old. Most of the time, once the actual eating begins there is no more argument or mention of not liking or wanting dinner.
Tonight, I think was one of my most creative, successful moments yet! (I do say so myself...)
Tonight, we were having Italian Beef Soup for dinner. It's a tomato-beef soup that I made up many moons ago. It's a family favorite. We have it for dinner all.the.time. With the exception of the potatoes, Ian loves it. The potatoes are another story... he doesn't like potatoes in boiled, braised, baked or mashed form, but will eat them as wedges or fries. Eh. Not a battle I care to fight. He doesn't need the potatoes anyway if he's filling up on tomato soup broth and veggies. He'll come around someday.
So anyway, back to tonight. Ian was the first at the table after the dinner bell rang. He even said, "Wahoo!" after I told him what we were having, but as soon as his bowl was placed in front of him he exclaimed, "I don't wan't that! Mommy! Get me peanut butter and jelly!"
Ahem. "First of all, that's not how you ask for something. Second of all, you can have peanut butter and jelly after you eat your 3 bites."
The scoffing continued.
Then he said, "Mommy? How do they make Buzz Lightyear?"
And in my stroke of pure parenting genius (haha) I said what popped into my mind, "Start eating your soup and I'll tell you. It's magic soup. It makes mommy and daddy tell stories."
He picked up his spoon and started eating. As I told him how they make Buzz Lightyears in a silly story, he kept eating. By the time I was done he was done. But he was not finished...
"Mommy? How do they make Barbies?"
"Do you want more magic soup while I tell you?"
Bumpadabum! He ate all of his dinner. And seconds.
Creativity and spin. It's the key to parenting at the dinner table. It also has a lot of other applications when you have 3 under 4...but that's a story for another day.