Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mealtime/Bedtime Routines

Throwing out another question for all the mom's (or anyone else who cares to comment) out there. Lawrence and I have discussed and tried MANY things, and we've prayed considerably about the various ways our household functions on a daily basis in the mundane tasks of life. One of the areas where we have met little success is mealtime and bedtime with our children, specifically our boys. :)

Specifically, we have daily battles with our boys to eat. They're picky about what they eat and pokey when they eat. Truly, we have tried nearly everything (or at least what we see as viable options for making them eat and moving them along when they eat). Currently, I make one dinner, will improvise a tad to make the meal more palatable for 3 year olds (almost 4), and now have begun setting a timer at the beginning of dinner time for them to eat in an allotted amount of time. We have begun at 45 minutes. Last night, they finished in under a 1/2 hour. Woo Hoo!!

We've disciplined for not eating and/or for playing at the table. We've bribed with dessert (something I never thought I'd do). We've made them go to bed hungry. We've tried saving their dinner for the next morning. We've tried making them separate meals just so they'd eat anything. (I will not do this with any kind of regularity.) We've tried the 2 bite rule. We've bought food type videos for them to watch with the hopes that they'd get excited about eating. We've eaten with other families whose kids are better eaters. We've allowed them any and every kind of dip they'd like. Ranch dressing is working for one of the boys currently, and I am so grateful. We still impliment many of these things, sometimes all of them on the same night. Needless to say, mealtime is EXHAUSTING. And, sadly, it's not only dinner anymore. It's breakfast, lunch and dinner. I feel like a cattle herder, prodding them along at every meal to finish their meal, even breakfast, which never used to be an issue.

Anyone want to offer any suggestions and throw in hope for good measure?! :)

Another area we have trouble is bedtime. We have a routine down pat (except for cleaning up their toys...that is hit or miss at our house still). It takes us easily a half hour to get the kids down completely for bed, and this is without baths on a good night. When we throw in a bath, it could easily take an hour! Again, it's either the constant re-directing, re-focusing or a whole lot of discipline, sometimes both. Is this just normal life having toddlers, particularly two toddler boys of the same age? (Maybe Laurie or Suzanne could chime in here). Again, we're open for suggestions and hope! :)


bethyoung said...

Oh my! You finish dinner in 45 minutes? It only takes you a half hour for a bed time?

I think you need to be writing about how you do it, not requesting help!

Our bed time for our daughter is 5 minutes, our son almost 2 hours. Not a joke.

Dinner takes at least an hour. They aren't very good eaters all of the time, especially my son.

So, I think to be patient and continue what you are doing is my answer. I know that you must think I give horrible advice on your comment boxes, but I think you are doing everything right that you can do. They are children, not robots. One day you will look back on their smaller years and their little funny idiosyncrisies about food and bed time and different dips and briberies that you used and such and you will laugh.

Every child is different. There is no perfect way to parent -- besides showing them your love, God's love and praying with them and for them.

Again, sorry for always giving you something that seems the same, maybe unhelpful -- but it is my advice :-)

Sarah said...

As a babysitter to different families, this really doesn't sound that unusual. I'm sorry it's not much in the way of advice, but maybe it offers you hope that there ARE other kids out there who make meal and bed time exhausting.

Kristin said...

When I was that age, apparently all I wanted to eat was Cheerios. Finally one day my mom said no more Cheerios and I would either learn to eat regular food or I would go hungry. Well the story goes...I didn't eat for 3 days straight and finally my dad started crying and gave me some Cheerios. Moral of the story? Hopefully they'll grow out of it? Course I still go for a good bowl of Cheerios for dinner now and then! :) I'll be praying! I'm sure though the consistency that you are setting with your boys in these routines are going to pay off one day even if it is exhausting now.

Jessi said...

I have to say I would agree with the other commenters. Your post all sounded very familiar and very NORMAL to me. I went into parenting with the notion that MY kids WOULD do certain things...but there were are lot of those 'certain things'. (Admittedly, there was an awful lot of pride in that, that I've often found myself repenting for!!) Now I've learned that not nearly so many of those 'certain things' are as important as I thought. I still have to weigh many times throughout a day if "this situation" is a battle that's worth it, or one to let go.

Here's some thoughts I've had beyond the typical "try this" advice... Is it (the behavior) really something that is a heart/soul issue that needs to be addressed or trained, or simply a child being a child? I don't see eating slowly as really a heart issue, nor is poking around/goofing off, whatever in the bedtime process. Frustrating? ABSOLUTELY!! But probably not a hill to die on. Now, other stuff like blatent disrespect, lying, hurting others - definitely heart issues. Something you want to explore deeper and take the time to correct on a more serious level. I've been thinking that we can really look to Jesus and how he handled people and situations, and his teachings, and find some really practical parenting answers.

Some of the offenses I mentioned above that I consider serious are because they really don't line up with what Jesus said was the greatest commands "Love the Lord your God...and love your neighbor as yourself." This might be helpful in breaking down some of what really needs to be dealt with from the get-go with our kids, and what things they will just learn as they grow and journey.

I understand the pokey-ness and playing at mealtime could fall under disobedience, but it's not because there's a sinful root issue so much as they are little, and just don't comprehend the need to hurry, or be serious, or eat things they don't like. One of my biggest struggles (and it sounds like from some of your questions you might be similar to me in this) is to just let my kids be KIDS! I used to freak out about stuff much more; now as I am seeing my kids get older and have more of an understanding WHY I need them to do certain things, they seemingly have "outgrown" some things.

Don't get me wrong - we still have eating issues. But I handle them much differently, my expectations are more adjusted to their individual levels, and when the issue moves away from the food to the attitude, then I can deal with it a lot better, since they are able to understand what about their actions is wrong or inappropriate.

Hope that helps some...sorry I was so long-winded!

Briana Almengor said...

Sarah, I appreciate your comment. You have a unique vantage point being a sitter for many families with kids of varying ages.

Kristin, we loved your story. I'm sure it wasn't so funny for your parents, but it helps w/ perspective. One day my kids will be talking about all the crazy things their mom did to get them to eat. :)

Jessi, we certainly want to be about the heart and not just outward behavior. Some of our motives behind mealtime expectations is with loving others in mind...seeking to train the boys (and our girl) in the everyday for the very occasional times we extend hospitality to others...not so that we can have "together" kids by which to impress others (not that it isn't always a temptation for me) but that our kids would learn how to show care for others in practical ways, like eating at the same pace as others (like their friends who at this point have to wait for them to finish their meal) or learning to be quieter at the dinner table so that mommy and daddy can hear our guests speaking, etc.

dlbmrb said...

I know I told you this once before BUT...You need to pick your battles. The meal thing is not that big of a deal. They will eat when they are hungry. Seriously. If you want to give them vitamins to make sure they are getting some nutition go for it. BUT I have never heard of kids starving to death in a house where there is always food. As far as how long it takes be tahnkful. When they get older and want to run off you will be trying to get them to stay at the table longer. Our meal rule was 1 hour. Our kids had to sit for 1 hour at the table. Hungry or not. That instilled in them dinner "time". So when they were older we would sit and talk after we finished eating. We still sit at the table when they are home for dinner and talk. It is a great time to laugh and share your day. I know that now they are young BUT almost 4 is old enough to talk about their day. We would tell stories and have deep talks about life and God etc. It really taught them some patience.
Bed time was a different creature in my house. They had to be in their rooms BUT could read or write or even color at that age. Just as long as they stayed in their rooms and they would fall asleep eventually. I realized I can not make my kids hungry or sleepy. I could however put some boundaries on meal time and bed time.
I hope this helps some...Remember kids are not little for long...Try to enjoy them as much as possible as well as training them...

Jessi said...

Sorry if my comment came across wrong, Bri. I wasn't implying that you were only training surface issues... I was just trying to encourage you that it doesn't all come at once, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I have not been reading this blog for very long so I am assuming that it is OK for men to respond as well. I am a father of two boys as well and they are good eaters at times and then at other times they are not as fast as I would care for.

I find myself truely blessed to be able to have them both all to myself on weekends as my wife works mostly weekends. Now keep in mind, I am a 235 lb man who likes to cook and more importantly EAT, but i have found two ingrediants that have really been a big help for me getting my boys to eat faster.

Salt and Butter

I know everything in moderation! (I should start my own blog asking on advice in dealing with that issue)

I know my youngest sometimes eats veggies that he would normally take forever on, when i sprinkle a little Sea Salt on them.

Like all advice, one can only try it out, Hopefully it can help.

Anonymous said...


I agree, all the little routines are so exhausting -- especially when you just want them to fill their stomachs, wind down and go to sleep -- all the lolly-gagging makes me roll my eyes and have a bad attitude towards my kids at the end of the day.
I think we must have had all your meal scenarios too. Right now, I can't get my kids to stay at the table - up, down, up, down -- but I need to say ( and mean it) that once you get up to run and look out the window, dinner is over for you and your plate will be taken away. Or, we may have to pull out the high chairs again and strap them in.
We live in a very "healthy" area of the country with organic resources everywhere and I have done too much reading about diet, brain development and nutition, processed food, sugar -- and every other person I know has a wheat or dairy allergy, etc. So, I have been very conscious of what goes in my kids bodies. Our oldest was a great eater until he was almost 3 (of course I didn't think he eas a great one at the time). In the past 3 years, his food preferences have dwindled to bread, butter, peanut butter, honey -- lots of it! He will occasionally eat an apple and a green juice smoothie (you can add a couple of handfuls of spinach to a smoothie, and maybe some avacado too -- puree really well and youv'e made your own monster juice). my middle child (oldest twin!) is great eater -- but is getting pickier in the last few months. He's our best eater right now and I dont' stress over his diet. And then ther is Drew, the "runt" of the twin litter, has never eaten to my satisfaction -- not sure how he's making it! As a baby it would take me an hour to get him to take 3 oz from a bottle. Since he's been a toddler I have never really been stressed about him though, like I have been in fits ab out my oldest -- but I have learned to kind of chill out about it all -- after all, I grew up eating white rice, fried chicken, green beans cooked in fat back for 5 hours and koolaid. But, I guess I am okay and my kids should be too. I agree with your friends who have said not to make food an issue. I am afraid I did with our oldest and will have reprecussions for it, which I regret.

You said you gave them 45 minutes to eat and I think that is great. As long as there is no really messy food playing and goofing off (then you can send them to the laundry room to eat where they dont' have an audience). Some times my little boys make trains, etc out of their food with all the noises that go along and it is really cute. They eventually eat their food and as long as it is not really destrucive silliness, I let them. If your boys can talk, tell stories, jokes, and eat casually over a decent period of time -- I think that is great -- in our American culture we eat in a hurry -- I read that the French, who eat wine, cheese and white bread have few problem with weight -- they savor their food for a few hours!
1/2 hour for bedtime routine is pretty great I think. But, it can seem long when you know you'd like to be then one going to bed.

Ours is longer -- but one thing that has made it simpler is that all my boys are on a pajama strike, so there is no changing clothes time -- they either sleep in their clothes if they are mostly clean, or they go to bed naked or just in underwear (one of them is on a clothes strike in general) -- I go put a nighttime diaper on them after they're sleeping and warm clothes if it is cold. This clothes battle I have had to learn not too fight -- partly b/c I have no energy to do so -- I am outnumbered. They can wear whatever! Whew - this is so long -- sorry. Robin