Why do mealtimes have to be hell times?
Many parents of young children share with me that meals in there house tend to be just hell. Something that was once a time of couple connection, engagement and enjoyment with their partner has become just hell!
You know I can relate - as the father of three children and a partner who comes from a culture that honors food in a way that to not eat is an act of ungrateful insult... I on the other hand have more of an opinion that the child is not going to melt into nothing if they miss one meal every now and then.
But the truth is we know that mealtimes are the corner stone of family life. It is arguably true that families that eat together stay together.
Some tricks I know works for us are:
Have a routine. We know children respond well to routine (as do some adults) - so eat your meals around the same time each. Also build a routine around it for example breakfast is after we have showered and dressed for the day - then we unpack the dishwasher - set the table and sit for food. Lunch is after we go for a walk in the park, then call into the shops to buy something yummy to add to it (maybe even buy the groceries for dinner). Dinner happens after night baths, a little quite time calming down then sit for a meal together... You can edit this to work with you households patterns.
Be sure to space meals out. Don't put yourself through the torture of running around town, keeping the little ones quite by feeding them snacks and then come home and within the hour expect them to be sitting at the table eating a full meal... It's always wise to leave at least 60 to 90 minutes between big bites before serving a meal. So don't forget the routine and keep in mind when you might like to stop food (light fruit such as an apple or some grapes are okay as many fruits also help motivate metabolism).
Have table manners right from the start. Make sure you set a standard that you expect to be the dinner table experience and stick to it.
Spice it up. Just like you and I children get bored with food (and we all have our favourites) - be sure to serve a mix yummies and add to it as the children get older and their taste palette matures...
Don't bribe with desert. That's right don't use the threat - I don't want to hear "if you don't eat your meat you can not have any pudding" - don't bribe them, just reward them. If the meal goes well then they get the sweet treat given no song and dance it is given. If the meal does not go well then c'est la vie - no desert and again no song and dance it's just not given and that’s that!
Good luck and know this if your eating when we are eating then we are often feeling the same pain!