After a long work day or one caring for your children, the last thing you want to deal with is stressful meal times. Keeping meltdowns, whining, and rambunctiousness to a minimum is a chief concern for parents who have way too much to do and not enough patience to do it with.
Taking your dinner routine from chaos to calm is doable. Here are five things you could do to bring calm to the dinner table.
1. Make sure they are hungry when it’s dinner time.
Hungry children are less likely to be overly active during meals. As parents, you don’t want to feel like you’re not feeding your child enough, but letting them graze on anything other than water prior to eating can spoil their appetite. Plus, hunger provides encouragement for your child to try something they might not like.
2. Get them involved.
Your children can help you in the kitchen--in fact, they would probably be delighted to help set up for dinner. Most often, parents believe it is easier for them to solely prepare the meals for dinner. However, parents who involve their children in preparing, cooking and even serving food have a unique opportunity to teach them about healthy eating. Studies show involving children in this way can positively influence their food preferences, attitudes and behaviors.
3. Turn off all devices.
Implement a hard rule: no screens or devices at the dinner table. Connecting as a family over a shared meal is just as much of a factor in improving dinner time than the actual dinner routine. Eating meals together as a family encourages mindful eating and a sharper focus on family happenings throughout the day. In addition, limiting access to screens and devices during meals promotes a healthy diet and a positive eating environment for the whole family.
4. Don’t force them to eat everything on their plate.
It may seem like good parenting to force your children to clear their plates, but it takes away their ability to govern themselves and brings unnecessary tension to what could be an otherwise calm dinner table. Children are able to self-regulate their eating in response to their own internal hunger cues, which can easily be subverted by demands from their parents. Try this strategy: “parent provides, child decides”.
5. Don’t become a short order cook.
Avoid offering alternatives or entering into any trade-offs with your child. Regularly giving your children personal food options does not allow you to save time, money or stress. While it can be disappointing if your child doesn’t eat or even declines to try the meal you have made, it’s important for the family to share the same meal as much as possible to encourage positive role modeling of healthy eating behaviors.
What are some of the tips and tricks you use to keep calm part of your meal times? Tell us in the comments below!