Please sit down and eat. I must repeat this sentence 20 to 30 times a day. And no, this is not an overstatement on my part. Every meal at our house starts with the same prompt: “please sit down and eat”. After the kids have gotten up a few times, it turns into “come here and sit down to eat”. It’s all downhill from there and I usually end up barking “SIT DOWN ALREADY!”. And we’re not even halfway through the meal.
I have a problem. A meal eating problem. A serious and exhausting problem. My kids won’t sit down to eat. If they’re hungry, they’ll cooperate and get to the table when prompted. Their buttocks will touch the seat of the chair for just a few minutes when they decide to take off with some mind of their own. I swear the buttocks control their bodies, because my kids will walk aimlessly around the room until I remind them to come back to the table. It was never a problem while we used high chairs and boosters we could strap the kids in. But let’s be realistic, no five-year-old will fall for this trick again!
I’ve mostly solved this problem at dinnertime. We don’t have cable TV so the kids can’t plop themselves in front of the idiot box hours on end. Instead they get to watch DVDs during dinner. Curious George, Elmo, Blue’s Clues and Charlie & Lola help them stay seated long enough to eat their meal. I usually sit down with them and have dinner too, and we get to discuss the video we’re watching. I know all the experts advise children to not eat and watch TV at the same time, but they clearly don’t have to feed my kids every night. I draw the line of video watching at dinner, so breakfast and lunch are still no-sitting zones.
I’m not sure what my kids’ problem is. My youngest is often the hungry one so he’ll sit down promptly. His temporary state of hunger will entice him to make a dent in his meal but as he gets satisfied, he’ll often get up to “get something”. If my oldest could survive without ever eating anything, he probably wouldn’t put any food in his mouth, except to enjoy the taste of it. Although he’s an adventurous eater and likes good food, he’s rarely inspired enough to sit down for more than a few minutes. Unless I remind him he’s supposed to eat, he’ll go through the whole meal without putting a forkful in his mouth.
I’ve tried it all, the easy way, the hard way. I’ve put the food away when they weren’t interested, ending up with hungry, cranky, whiney kids an hour later. I’ve allowed toys and books at the table if it will help them stay in their seats. Unfortunately they always want something else to play with, something else to read… I can read books to them during the meal, but it means I don’t get to eat. And clearly my conversation topics are not interesting enough to keep them at the table long enough.
So I turn to you, parents of younger and older children. Have you experienced the “ants-in-the-pants” behavior at the dining table? How have you dealt with it? What has worked for you? Thank you so much for sharing your successful parenting tips.
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