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Can you lot help me with a new strategy for mealtimes because the whole experience is becoming utterly objectionable for all concerned.

(234 Posts)
Slubberdegullion Mon 24-Aug-09 13:00:50

I can feel my gut twisting up into a ball of tension before every meal time because I know it is all going to be fraught.

Every meal (apart from breakfast) regardless of what I serve is met with a constant stream of moaning, whining, complaints, up and down from the table like a bride's nightie and then finishes with THEM setting goals for themselves

"I'm going to have two more mouthfuls and then it's pudding"

How did it all get so unpleasant? I have obiously made a grave error somewhere along the way. They hate eating and I hate cooking for them and then sitting with them while they protest at how ghastly it all is.

I need to start again I think.

They are 4 and 5. The 4 yo is a fussy bugger, the 5 yo is somewhat better but has her 500m badge in whining.

dinkystinky Mon 24-Aug-09 13:03:32

How about you serve it up and leave the room - go put your feet up with a cup of tea and leave them to it until they've finished their main course - then they need to come and get you to show you if they want their pudding. It sounds like they're getting a rise out of trying to push your buttons - at 4 and 5 you dont really need to sit with them during tea time if they're making it so unpleasant for you. Hope it all gets better for you soon.

PinkTulips Mon 24-Aug-09 13:04:19

No help really but lots of sympathy, mine are 3 & 4 and just as bad.

I used to enjoy cooking, now i dread it as i have to cope with the mealtime after it's cooked.

Only thing i will say is mine don't get anything after dinner unless plates were cleared, if they left food then they're not hungry for desert and i'm strict about that, even if they won't touch dinner they don't get a snack to fill up.

Slubberdegullion Mon 24-Aug-09 13:08:34

Yes, maybe I should leave the table altogether. I can't be much of a dining companion. I just feel that if I don't nag and cajole then nothing would ever get eaten.

This is silly I know but on more than one occasion they have called my bluff and gone to bed with no food consumed at all, and then of course I feel terrible, like a Victorian monster housekeeper.

bigchris Mon 24-Aug-09 13:09:48

how about sticking it all in bowls and putting it in the garden buffet stylee and letting them fend for themselves over the summer hols?

Slubberdegullion Mon 24-Aug-09 13:11:33

Tulips, my rule is they have to have had some of their dinner if they want pudding, hence the rise in popularity of "just 2 more mouthfulls".

I've fucked it up big time because they think that the first course is a hurdle of unpleasantness before they get the reward of pudding.

dinkystinky Mon 24-Aug-09 13:12:59

I sympathise Slubberdegullion - DS1 (3 now) is a rubbish eater too but am slowly getting better at just leaving him to it - and he's slowly realising that if he doesnt eat his meals he goes hungry till the next allocated snacktime (when he gets fruit) or mealtime. I find without the nagging and leaving him to it, life is generally less stressful all round.

PinkTulips Mon 24-Aug-09 13:15:20

slubber... dd's dietitian who she was under for extreme weigh issues due to in tolerances told me that bed without any extra food offered is the best approach.

So if it's safe for a malnourished 2 year old i'd imagine it's ok for any well fed child smile

I know what you mean about feeling rather mean though... but you know what? When i say 'Eat it or you get nothing else' they blimmin believe me now grin

doggiesayswoof Mon 24-Aug-09 13:15:56

Mine is 5 and it's a very similar scenario

And the 15mo looks like he's getting fussy already

god it's hard

I sometimes find myself squawking "just eat it or don't, you don't need to moan about it" then regretting it instantly because I've just given her permission NOT to eat it

Sorry I have no advice - will be watching with interest.

doggiesayswoof Mon 24-Aug-09 13:16:48

Pudding also a reward chez nous

Pudding has been off for the past couple of weeks

Slubberdegullion Mon 24-Aug-09 13:17:55

chris I have tried the eating al fresco free-n-easy. Pretty much everything savory is left untouched, apart from bread. Bread is eaten.

Maybe I am a terrible cook.

MrsMattie Mon 24-Aug-09 13:18:44

A few things that have worked for us...

1. Get them involved in the preparation of the whole thing. Let them help cook and serve the meal. Get them to set the table. Let them choose whats for dinner now and then. Dont plate up the meal. Serve from dishes on the table and let them choose how much of each thing they get and have a choice between things 'peas or broccolli?' etc.

2. Encourage conversation - 'what was your favourite part of the day?'. Be really enthusiastic about it. tell them about your day. Anything that will encourage proper, sensible chat, basically.

3. Totally and completely ignore moaning and whinging. Just look blankly past them unless they want to engage in proper conversation.

4. Dont serve pudding. I don't. Pudding is only ever fruit unless it's a special occasion, so there is nothing to 'be good' for. It's either eat dinner or starve.

Celia2 Mon 24-Aug-09 13:20:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

moondog Mon 24-Aug-09 13:23:12

No cajoling, no bribing, no bargaining.
Make one mealfor everyone. Put it on the table in bowls for everyone to serve themselves. If they don't want it and say so, smile and say 'Good! More for me!'

If they start whingeing, ask them to leave the table and come back when they stop.

At the end of the meal , clear up and there is nothing available, bar fruit, until the next one.


My ds (5) is fussy but it is just never tolerated or reinofrced.He often goes without food.

No puddings excpet on specialoccasions in our house.

Slubberdegullion Mon 24-Aug-09 13:27:25

OK this is good. I will absolutely try the serving bowls on the table and help yourselves strategy.

Pudding does tend to just be fruit or yoghurt here. I really need to push the fruit as dd2 has chronic constipation. Perhaps I should do the fruit bit at breakfast and just say pudding is off atm. It's become so deeply ingrained as a reward though.

If only I could ignore the moaning MrsM. It's fingers down the blackboard for me. If I drank a large G&T before meal times would that help??
[pleading eyes]

neolara Mon 24-Aug-09 13:29:42

I know it is hard to do, but try to ignore everything annoying.

As soon as one of them does anything pleasant give lots of praise e.g. "Well darling, you are eating your peas nicely" even if he / she has just put one pea in their mouth.

If they don't want to eat anything, I would just say (in a zen like fashion), "That's fine darling, but that is all there is for supper, so if you don't want it then there's nothing else" and then waft off somewhere else in a state of supreme calm - even if you are seething underneath.

They won't starve through not eating a meal or two. If I were you, I wouldn't get into negotiations about eating a few more mouthfuls in exchange for pudding. It'll be exhausting and probably counter-productive.

Sidge Mon 24-Aug-09 13:31:19

I do the same as Moondog (except no serving dishes).

It's put on the table, they are told "that's your dinner, tuck in" and then largely ignored. Whingeing means go away from the dining room so I don't have to hear it.

No negotiations, no bribery - nice behaviour and eating gets a smile and pleasant conversation, messing about gets the same treatment as whingeing.

I have learnt this The Hard Way after DD1 was an awful fussy eater and mealtimes became like a staff canteen with 2 or 3 things on offer - bollocks to all that now!

No puddings here, just fruit or yoghurt (and sometimes ice cream after Sunday dinner if they ate well). I don't offer pud as a reward for eating veg/main course as then that reinforces the idea that pudding is best and only to be enjoyed after you have endured the horror of vegetables wink

notwavingjustironing Mon 24-Aug-09 13:32:33

For me though, it's the waste of food thing. I make them something that they swear they loved last week, then they look at it and pick it to pieces.

I HATE throwing food away!

DS1 could mutinously sit in front of a bowl of pasta for an hour and only eat one piece. It becomes a battle of wills, and one which I'm not very good at. I can feel myself wanting to snatch it all off and flounce it into the bin. Which I admit, is not a great strategy when you're supposed to be the grown up.

Smithagain Mon 24-Aug-09 13:32:39

Putting food in serving bowls has been good for us. If they serve themselves miniscule portions, so be it. But pudding is fruit or yoghurt. Or sometimes "more vegetables" if they are really taking the mickey with how much they eat and then demand pudding.

Having the children sitting separately, on opposite sides of the table, out of reach of anything they can fiddle with, helps to reduce fights. And then making sure they are both included in the conversation, not just listening to DH and I talking about boring grown-up stuff.

Terrible manners or appalling whining results in being sent away. They normally get to come back after a few minutes, as long as they are going to behave reasonably. Low-grade bad manners/whinging gets ignored.

We don't always eat together. I used to beat myself up about every meal being all together, but have decided that breakfast is more pleasant all round if we just grab what we want when we're ready. Lunch too, sometimes (e.g. I might grab a sandwich in the kitchen, instead of sitting down, if I need a bit of head space blush) Dinner is always sitting at the table, all together, though.

I'm sounding really virtuous now, aren't I hmm. Sometimes it's still hellish, but overall the above things have made things more civilised. The DDs are 4 and 7 - which is also possibly easier than 4 and 5!!

francagoestohollywood Mon 24-Aug-09 13:32:44

I'd keep fruit for snacks between meals... Do they eat at school?

Slubberdegullion Mon 24-Aug-09 13:34:31

I need to practice wafting in a state of supreme calm, I'm sure gin would help to achieve this, non? grin

This is great guys, thank you.

MrsMattie Mon 24-Aug-09 13:35:26


It's so hard. But it's possible. Just don't respond at all to moaning. Become a zombie. The G&T might help wink.

When they're cheerful and sensible, you act like a Blue Peter presenter - lots of toothy smiles and positive praise and Nice Mummy-ness. When they whinge, you shut down and act like a zombie. That's the rule. It works so well.

Occasionally it falls apart and I screechreally loudly 'GO TO YOU ROOM'.

Slubberdegullion Mon 24-Aug-09 13:43:10

Franca (hello smile) tbh I have no idea what or how much dd1 eats at school. She doesn't come home starving so I'm taking that as a good sign. dd2 starts in a few weeks. I'm in a state of denial that she will eat any of her school dinners.

Smith, we can't eat dinner together as DH comes home late. I think I would be better at the wafting calmly if I didn't sit at the table with them, can I just pootle about in the kitchen while they get on with it, or is that bad/rude?

francagoestohollywood Mon 24-Aug-09 13:51:26

I'd be optimistic about school dinners. I've always thought they eat more when they are around their peers. But I might be wrong, I'm stupidly idealistic...

I've no idea what's the best etiquette when eating at different times. If I had to sit around I'd end up eating all their food hmm.

I second the g&t and I'd probably leave them to it. Pretend to be busy...

francagoestohollywood Mon 24-Aug-09 13:52:14

Hello, of course, it's nice to see you around slubbers smile

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