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…

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Picky Kids and Hillary Clinton's 'Strategic Patience' at the Dinner Table

May 27, 2010 by

Are your children provoking you at the table? Are they uncooperative? Misbehaving and refusing to eat their veggies? Are tensions increasing daily? Have negotiations broken down?

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in dealing with a similarly belligerent North Korea, is adopting a policy of “strategic patience” that sounds like a good example of masterly inactivity, an effective strategy for parents of picky eaters.

I can’t say if it will work with Korea, but I highly recommend this wisely passive and purposeful letting alone in the dinner table battle zone. When all seems hopeless, it’s probably time to put stalled negotiations on hold and invest less in diplomacy, not more, to be more effective.

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How to get kids to eat at the table? The Push & Pull Principle

Apr 14, 2010 by

Two totally true stories moms recently told me illustrate a key principle in getting kids to come to the table, behave, and eat what you want them to eat.

Marlena’s kids are very narrow in what they will eat. They’re afraid of new foods. The dinner table is a battlefield of pressuring and resistance. Her overweight four-year-old, Walker, survives on bean-and-cheese tacos, filling up on juice to make it through the day to avoid other foods.

When her children won’t eat dinner, she feeds them whatever they are willing to eat, right before bed, in order to keep them asleep (so they don’t scream during the night).

One evening the whole family was doing the chicken dance after each bite Walker took, because that’s what got him to eat. She also considered it an improvement the other day when he allowed her to spoon chicken and rice into his mouth while he…

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How to get kids to eat at the table, Part III

Apr 6, 2010 by

Answering a reader’s question about how to stop children’s complaining, playing around and dawdling at the dinner table.

Lindsey,

I have some more thoughts on the question.

I think you need a bit less nonchalance about your son’s behavior and a bit more nonchalance—masterly inactivity, a purposeful leaving alone—about the eating itself.

I suggest laying down the law on behavior at the table: we do not come to the table and complain. Nor do we play around and dawdle. I’m sure you don’t want him to get in the habit of fussing and whining and being disagreeable. I know you would not like him to go to someone else’s house and express himself that way. Or treat his wife that way someday. You son needs to be taught that if he wants to eat dinner with the family, he has to be polite.  I’m sure he will decide that, yes, he…

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Foolish freedom: Why some kids refuse to eat, even to the point of harming themselves

Dec 17, 2009 by

“Leave them alone, and they will come home.” — Little Bo Peep

Sometimes a kid can be like a wild mouse, according to some lab studies of mice. Though I oppose the conditioning of young humans with incentives as if they were rats in a lab, test animals’ reactions can sometimes illustrate something about why kids—or grownups—do what they do.

A group of wild mice was brought into a lab and taught to turn on their own cage lights. Given the choice between bright light, dim light or no light at all, the mice would always choose dim light. But whenever the dim light was switched on for them, they would run and change it to either bright light or no light.

In another test, the mice, who for their own good needed and wanted to run about eight hours a day, were given a wheel to run on and also…

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