Mealtimes in our home had once become my most dreaded time of the day, as I knew the struggle of getting Mr number 2 to sit and enjoy our family dinner time was ahead of me once again. Everyday I’d grit my teeth ready for the battle that lay ahead. All of the meals that I’d lovingly prepared were refused and I spent what felt like hours every mealtime coaxing him into eating. It didn’t seem to make any difference how fun I tried to make meal times or how exciting I tried to make his food look…nothing seemed to work. Mealtimes commenced everyday with the words “I hate that” despite not even knowing what it is or even trying it! Worse still, the attitude towards mealtimes was starting to rub off on his younger brother and sister too. Yes I am sad to say that meal times had become an epic battle and something needed to change.
In contrast, Mr number 1 sat every single mealtime eating his food without any complaints or attention from me, as I put every ounce of energy I had left into desperately trying to avoid my twins following the same ‘fussy eater’ path as number 2. This balance didn’t seem fair and I had a guilty feeling eating away at me that I was failing all of them in one way or another.
Then, one night, the feeling of failure and guilt overwhelmed me and through a few tears and a glass of wine, I confessed to my husband that I just can’t go on like this – I am not going to try to force him to eat anymore …surely he won’t starve himself if I don’t?!?! Little did I know at the time but this was the turning point and life was about to change!
The next day we sat down at mealtime and right on queue Mr 2 said ‘I hate that’ and with a smile I replied, “That’s ok you don’t have to eat it”. The look of shock on his face was priceless, I could see the thoughts and disbelief going around in his head….did I really mean it? Then he sat back and smiled and looked very pleased with himself, at which point I proceeded to tell him “But there are some rules you need to follow if you want to choose what you do and don’t eat”.
You must never be rude about food. After all someone has lovingly created it for you and being rude will hurt their feelings…how would you like it if you spent ages making Mummy a picture and I told you that I hated it? That’s how I feel when you say that you don’t like my food. Instead, if you don’t like something just politely decline…a “No, thank you” will do.
Everyone is only allowed 3 things on their list of food that they don’t have to eat. So choose carefully as you don’t want to use up all of your options in one go.
You must always just taste everything; even if it’s just a tiny nibble. Our taste buds change all the time and something we don’t like today might taste nice next week, so it’s always a good idea to check.
At the end of every meal, everyone has to thank the cook for making the meal and help clear up …even if we didn’t like it. If you want to be a big kid and make your own choices then you must behave like a big kid, by using good manners and helping the family.
The response I got was a simple “Ok” and he pulled his plate towards him, tasted each item and decided which he would nominate as the first on his list. He then proceeded to eat the rest. I was dumbfounded….all of these years I had struggled with him and all he wanted was some control and a little bit of reasoning. I couldn’t help wonder how different mealtimes may have been if I had been more relaxed from the beginning.
The next few weeks improved massively and while number 2 needed reminding of the rules every now and then, we had finally turned a corner and I began to dare to enjoy sitting at the dinner table with my 4 little ones. In fact he is so careful not to use up all of his 3 foods that he doesn’t want to eat, that he still only has one on his list!
Now that Mr number 2 has turned 6 he is trying all sorts of foods all of his own accord…he even wanted to try a chilli the other day! Mealtimes are so much better in our house with our new rules and even my 3 year old twins are getting some tuition from Mr 6 on how it’s done. This leaves Mum time to enjoy sitting at the table at meal times chatting to each of them about their day….it’s a success for all of us!