One of my friends asked me recently about her daughter who since starting Kindergarden refused to sit down at the table for dinner. Now, my friend is a not only a super good cook, but a dedicated one who makes dinner every night and her daughter, raised on homemade bread and jams and home cooked meals is a good eater overall. My friend was surprised by the outbursts and exhausted from all the struggle. Really, no cook wants to serve dinner to disgruntled moans and it’s downright heartbreaking to see all that finely crafted goodness end up in a leftover container.
It’s exhausting to argue with a kid of any age night after night about dinner and there are some good ways to handle it but the main point is to not to give up. Keep fighting the good fight and the phase will end. It’s a phase and it really will end. Now, it might be a good idea to serve a couple of favorites in the ensuing nights to help the cause. Even on the worst of days my kiddo will sit at the table for his favorite: italian meatball and pasta soup.
It is good to let your kiddos be vocal and expressive about what they like and dislike, about why they don’t want to eat even if they do it standing up stubbornly arms reach from their chair. Set some rules about the conversation, explain that it’s hard to understand what they are saying when they are whining-no surprise, this may need repeating. Then, take a handful of deep breaths and patiently listen. In the end in our house when my kiddo, Cody has had his say and we’ve heard him out and we’ve explained the rules about dinner he ends up joining in all on his own.
Having the kids be part of the process helps too. No one wants to sit down to a sudden discovery of what dinner is. Chef Linton Hopkins has his kids do their homework on the counter next to where he’s cooking. He also makes sure his kids are included in the raw food choices, like, hey, do you want to have broccoli tonight or cauliflower? He says, “You put food on the table they’re gonna find their way.”