Hey, do you have any posts or opinions (and if I know you at all, you definitely have opinions! :)) about eating habits? Both of my kids' grandmothers like to tell me I'm starving my children. My rule is if you're playing at the table or throwing food, you get one warning, and then you're done. Mealtime should not be a time that people (meaning me) dread every single day. Some days we do well and some days not so well, but my children know the rules. And we try very hard to be consistent. Boy, do we try! What's your take on mealtime?Well, I've never posted about it before, but I have been thinking I wanted to write a series about my philosophy on discipline and parenting, and this is as good a place to start as any!
The short answer is
I believe that kids will live up to whatever is expected of them.
Please note that that may or may not be the same thing as what you say you expect of them. For example, if you tell your teenager that he had better not miss curfew again, but in your heart you figure he'll miss it because he has so often before, then I believe he'll miss it. Because he knew that you expected him to anyway, so why bother to try. On the other hand, I have seen impeccable behavior from very small children because they knew what was expected and they simply did it. (Apparently I was one of those children--my parents tell the story of a time when I was not yet 2, and they were at a social function being held outdoors at a park. Apparently I had done something inappropriate, so my father stood me on a storm drain cover for a time-out and told me I needed to stay there for a few minutes until he came to get me. Everyone else at the party looked at him in shock: how could he expect that of such a small child?! But I stayed until he came back for me.)
And so I repeat, it's not just about obedience, it's about genuine expectations. It's about what you truly believe your child can and will do. Kids have a remarkable way of living up to precisely what we expect of them.
In regard to the specifics of mealtimes...
Obviously it's still important to teach our children, and personally I think that a rule establishing food for eating (not for throwing or playing) is entirely rational, logical, and fair. I add to that rule that if someone leaves his chair (other than to get a drink or run to the potty or that sort of thing) then he is done. I don't care if he is still hungry, I don't care if he had food left on his plate, he needs to stay at the table until he's done. (So, Becky, apparently I have one-upped you in the 'mean mom' contest, and you can let your mother and mother-in-law know that you're terribly laid back compared to some people you know. ☺ ) I believe in being gentle with children, but I do not believe in letting them run the house. Mom's needs are a valid consideration in the equation, and I've never met a child who starved from eating only half a meal.
I should add that we do have a few foods that are allowed for snacking almost any time. When a child gets himself booted from the table and subsequently complains of hunger, I do let him eat something...not during dinner time of course, but a little while later, when he's had a chance to feel hungry and develop a little motivation to follow the rule next time.
Incidentally, I understand that my kids may not love every food I prepare. They are required to taste something before they are allowed to have an opinion, but once they have a validly-formed opinion I will respect it and not make them eat something they don't like. I am not willing to be a short order cook, but when Wolf doesn't like sweet and sour chicken then I don't mind if he makes a peanut butter sandwich. Applesauce and yogurt are always available, and "peanut butter spoons" (a spoonful of peanut butter) are very popular with my boys. As before, I'm not forcing them to starve, and I don't force them to eat something they don't like, but they do need to respect the notion of standard mealtimes, and eating with the family.