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Why I gave up mealtime battles

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See that boy? The boy with the empty plate (save for some peas) and the brand new car napkin? He and his sister were driving me absolutely mad at mealtimes, and in fact, most of their meltdowns were occurring right at the table. I’ve had an epiphany this weekend, and it’s like I’ve got brand new kids.

I don’t think I’m the first parent to have mealtime battles with my kids, but I’m not sure how frequently other parents go through the same thing.

B battles me for:

-His bib (can only be the brown one)

-His napkin (can only be the car napkin)

-His plate color (the one above, purple – otherwise orange)

-His spoon (big spoon)

-Who put him in his chair (me) and WHEN I can do it (after he gets his straps set up)

-Washing his hands in the sink

And of course, this doesn’t factor in his food desires!

B currently doesn’t like:

-Meat of any sort

-Milk

-Basic fruits and vegetables he’s liked all his life until like, yesterday.

-Sweet things

-Pizza

C battles me for:

-Her spoon (little)

-Who puts her in her chair (Daddy)

-Who gets her food (she scoops her own cereal out on the weekends from the box)

-Her hair going in a ponytail so it’s not in her food

For her, the issues are more food related than anything else. She doesn’t like:

-Meat of any sort

-Cheese and peanut butter, except when she absolutely loves cheese and peanut butter

-Rice/Quinoa

-Tomato sauce (except on pizza)

She would eat everything unhealthy in the world, plus every vegetable and fruit that exists. But rice? NO.

So each and every night (and lunch on the weekends), I was battling. Again and again. Screaming from C with big crocodile tears while her brother laughed (“B, crying is NOT. FUNNY!!!!”), chair rocking, head rolling from B with occasional hitting. It’s been a disaster.

Most meals went in this fashion: I’d give them something they like, but then when they were finished, they’d meltdown because the only options left were things they didn’t like. OR, I’d make them something new thinking they would love it, but they won’t even taste it, won’t even try it, and then I’d have nothing for them for dinner but some veggies (and only their current favorites, of course). I found myself growing angry when I put C in her chair and she screamed because she wanted Daddy. When I’d give B his choices and he’d scream, “No, those are NOT the options!!!” My husband and I were stressed and frustrated every night.

Except this weekend.

This weekend, I tried something new. If I already knew what they like and prefer – that’s what I gave them.

B only likes the car napkin. Out of all those nice ones I made, he’ll only use that one. If it’s dirty, I was previously making him choose from the rest of the pile. He refused to do it.

But this weekend, I said, “Your car napkin is dirty. You can either have one I made you or a white paper napkin.” He chose white.

He didn’t want to wash his hands in the sink. He got the choice of the sink or a hand wipe. He chose wipe.

I WAITED for him to fix his straps the way he wanted – not hurrying him along or attempting to do it myself.

If he didn’t want milk, he didn’t have milk.

C likes the little spoon – and I knew that already. Why was I asking her what she wanted if I already knew? Little spoon is on the table at the start, and that issue is solved.

As for food? My kids have eaten GREAT this whole weekend. WHY?

Before, I would give them one thing they liked, and a few they might not have. B has stopped liking peppers and green beans (though they are two of his favorites – I think it’s a temporary boycott). Why was I continuing to put them on his plate?

Now, I’m giving them 95% of what I know they like. B likes salad, C doesn’t. C gets cucumber when B gets salad. B likes pasta with sauce or cheese, C likes it plain. So that’s what C gets.

Do I think some of their food choices are gross and weird? Yes. I can’t get them to try ketchup to save their life, so dipping meat is just out of the question. Why am I still trying??

I’ve given up.

I know what they like, and most of what I’m giving them is just that. No more hoping they’ll suddenly take a liking to meatloaf – it’s not happening. They still eat veggies, they still eat bread and pasta, they still eat cheese.

It feels spectacular. My stress level at lunch and dinner is just about gone. We’ve started enjoying each other’s company at the table, laughing and talking. I know what they like, and I’m done fighting it. They’re getting what they like (within reason), and a little tiny bit on their plates that they don’t like. If they try it, great. If they don’t – next time.

This is all temporary, right? So they say. I’m willing to wave the white flag and let them eat what they’ll eat. Happy twins = happy parents.

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