Friday, April 15, 2011

The problem with Dinner

Some nights, this is what Conan calls "eating all up" his dinner (a burrito, in this case):

Yep, 6 little nibbles, and he's done eating. D-O-N-E. You can coax, you can cajole, you can try to bribe him with promises of dessert if he eats Just Three More Bites! He will stand firm. He may cry when everyone around him has chocolate cake and he doesn't get any because he refused (and continues to refuse) to eat, but he Will. Not. Eat. Another. Bite. Of dinner.

Sure, some days he eats well, even asking for seconds on favorite items. On the whole, he's not a picky eater - he doesn't have anything against veggies, or need the crusts cut off his toast, or generally refuse to try new foods. But dinner is a struggle, more often than not.

We've tried things like letting him eat at the coffee table, eating with his fingers instead of silverware, pretending to be animals - "baby doggy, eat your doggy bone" - but while these novelties might work the first time, so far none have proven to be a real solution.

Serving his favorite foods helps somewhat. Cauliflower, broccoli, rice, grated cheese and anything with ketchup on it are usually good for a few extra bites. But they aren't a guarantee - from time to time he'll refuse even his most favorite foods, declaring "Me no like blueberries!" and other absurdities.

I try not to get frustrated. I don't want to turn dinner into a battleground. Already, I often get wails of "Noooooooo, no dinner! Nooooooooo!" when I mention that it's almost time to eat. (This doesn't happen with other meals - only dinner. Maybe we should pretend we're British, and try calling it Tea.)

I remind myself that not every meal has to be balanced. If all he eats is carbs tonight, I'll just try to get some protien into him tomorrow. Or vice versa.

I remind myself that he won't starve. He'll eat what he needs, when he needs it.

I remind myself that it's more important to model good eating habits myself than to try to force them on him. It's healthy to know when you are full and to stop eating then.

I remind myself that it's a win that he even sat in his chair at the table with us for a few bites. He's two; sitting still doesn't come easily.

I remind myself not to say "No" unless there's a real reason to. If he wants to use his fork to eat soup, fine. If he wants to take his lasagna apart and just eat the noodles, fine. We have four unbreakable rules: no standing up on the chair, no throwing/wasting food, no playing in or with beverages, and we always wear pants (at least a diaper) at the table.

Most importantly, no matter how frustrated I get, I take a deep breath and remind myself that it's only an hour until bedtime. I can get through an hour.

1 comment:

KathyRo said...

If he's eating well during the other meals I wouldn't even worry about it. Actually, not eating a big last meal might be a good habit to learn!