A Simple Plan: Getting Kids to the Table and Away from the TV

Jul 14, 2010 by

Today I met Sharon, who told me how she got her grand-daughter to quit eating in front of the TV and start eating dinner and having pleasant conversation with them instead.

Sharon’s daughter, Emily, a single mom of five-year-old Katie, lives next door. Katie had gotten in the habit of eating dinner at a table by herself in front of the TV.

“She doesn’t know what she’s eating, or how much,” Sharon told her daughter.

So the grandparents got involved. They made dinner, set the table, and invited Emily and Katie to have dinner with them every night for a while.

They told Katie that they were going to have dinner together and share stories about their day.

Katie had no resistance to the new plan.

In fact, after a little while, Katie would come bursting in before the meal started to tell her story, and they would tell her, “Wait, we are setting the table and when we sit down we will tell our stories.”

Sharon told me that she thinks Katie might be just as distracted by the stories from what she’s eating as she was by TV, but she thought it was an improvement over TV.

I’d say it’s a vast improvement over eating alone in front of the TV. Instead of being seduced by junk food advertisements and being anesthetized by other mindless or objectionable content, Katie is getting to know her grandparents and mother.  She is absorbing their values, experience and wisdom and is learning how to live in relationship with others. She’s getting positive attention from caring adults and learning to carry on a conversation.

Their success probably lies in not making the change an aggressive confrontation or making it about depriving her of watching TV or making her do something. They didn’t sweep in like reformers to tell her that things had to change. Nor did they assume she wouldn’t want to do what they wanted her to do, or offer her incentives to go along with the program. They were calm, confident, and matter-of-fact. They simply replaced what they wanted to eliminate with something better.

Related Post:

Feeding Kids: How Cleaning Up Your Act Can Make Things Even Worse

This post was featured on Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday on Aug. 6, 2010.