Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sometimes all you need is another set of eyes

Up until a few days ago, meal time around here had gotten pretty ugly. The kids' manners had started to fall away and they're attitudes about the meals were bordering nasty. There was silliness at the table, whining, fighting and they were never happy about whatever was in front of them. Every single meal I made was met with whines and eventually, they just quit eating my meals and started living on snacks. So a few weeks ago, I cut out the afternoon snack. That helped a little bit, but I was still enduring ugly attitudes at dinner time. I'd like to tell you that I'm a big enough person that the opinions of a 3 and 4 year old didn't get to me, but that would be a big fat lie. Because it did get to me. I dreaded making dinner because I felt so unappreciated. And I was just.so.tired.of the whining.

And then last week my BFF, Alison, and her darling daughter came to visit. I was lamenting to Alison about meal times and how they were really getting to me and how I needed to do something but I wasn't sure what. She said, "Well, how about if they complain about it, they don't get to eat at all. They won't starve if they miss a meal or two because of it."

Wow. That seems so simple, I thought. Why didn't I think of that? I thought. And then I realized why I didn't think of that. I've gotten a little lazy in my parenting in the last year or so just so I could survive. I've been doing whatever was easiest to keep the peace (and my sanity), even if it meant the kids walked all over me. But now I'm getting past merely surviving and the kids need me to be past that so I can give them more guidance in how to act properly.

So, out of desperation, we started with the new rule that night at dinner. Before I made dinner, I gathered the boys and laid it out....if you whine/complain/make one tiny nasty comment about dinner, your dinner will be over and you will be excused from the table. I knew and prepared myself for the fact that someone would not be eating dinner that night (and I had a feeling I knew who it would be) and then that someone would serenade the rest of our dinner with their wailing. But I had Sweet Hubby and Alison to back me up (and to keep me from caving into their cries). Sure enough, Zachary (the one I suspected would go to bed with an empty tummy) sneered at the broccoli and called it "yuck" (I know he doesn't like broccoli and he didn't have to eat it, but calling it yuck was not acceptable). He was excused from the table immediately and his plate was swiftly taken from the table. And as I also predicted, he serenaded our dinner with whines, cries and wailing. Stephen, trying to earn brownie points, went a little overboard telling me how good the dinner was, Mama, and it was so yummy, Mama, thank you, Mama. I choked down the rest of my dinner, almost near tears because it nearly broke my heart that my child was begging to eat and I was telling him no. But he didn't starve. He actually made it to breakfast the next morning.

The next day, I also added bad manners to the list of "Do not pass go, do not collect $200, you may get down from the table."

We only had that one incident on that very first night.

And I'll tell you what, not only do I have sweet, civilized children at the dinner table, but they are appreciative and actually EATING the dinner. No whining. No complaints. No 489 reminders to keep eating and you need to eat at least one bite of your vegetable. Seriously. It's so much more peaceful.

So I'm convinced I just needed another set of eyes that were way more objective than I could be....and a little kick in the pants to quit being so lazy just to keep everyone happy didn't hurt, either.


Kate said...

You go girl!

Will you kick me in the pants when the time comes? :)

K in the Mirror said...

Good for you!

I tell you what, I can do that very easily to other people's kids during the day, but I've been having the same type of struggles at night with my own kids. Parenting is hard!

mom on a mission said...

Boy, do I appreciate this post!! Why do we need someone to give us permission to actually BE THE PARENT sometimes?!?!? It's not always pleasant or pleasantly received, but it's like they're begging us to step up to the plate and set their boundaries for them. Hooray for your awesome results!! This encouraged me :-)


nicole said...

We have a similar policy. Everyone has to take at least one bite of each item on their plate. After that, if they don't like it, that is fine but they don't eat anything else. So now my kids are finally eating more and whining less and sometimes they miss a meal, but that is their choice. It is nice to know how to be the parent once in a while.

Kate said...

Oh, and this reminds me of the student in class yesterday (HS senior) with a t-shirt saying "My parents never told me no." Ah... That explains a lot.

Seriously, at that age they still crave someone telling them no and setting boundaries and all that. CRAVE it. Yes, they whine, but they love it.

k said...

Sometimes, how VERY MUCH we love them really works against us. We want their days to be full of joyful experiences, as we all look adoringly into each other's eyes. Actually having to hold the line on standards of behavior, while they sob, is SO hard. But it is also very gratifying when they shape up so quickly :-)