Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Meals with two four year olds

This will be filed under the "keeping it real" category of blog posts.

For the first two years with twins, we never had family meals together. The boys were so messy in their high chairs that our food would be cold by the time we got to eat. Jon and I were also so tired and busy that it was nice to have dinner together by ourselves after the boys went to bed.

When the boys turned two, we started eating dinner together. And at age 4.5 (those crazy half years!), mealtimes are some of the most stressful times at our house. There is the NON STOP TALKING by TWO small children. The lack of eating, leading to whining and begging for snacks. The yelling. The bad manners. The constant interruptions. The wiggling. We tried 1 2 3 Magic but it was exhausting to constantly send the boys to time out, and it wasn't changing the behavior.

So... we instituted a new rule at mealtimes. The boys are not allowed to talk until they finish half their food. I can not tell you how mean I felt to institute this rule, but we are talking about 90 minute dinners in which almost no food was eaten.

Day care has given us great advice in the past so I asked one of the teachers if they have a problem with the kids talking too much and delaying at meals. They said they have a rule at school that the kids (all four year olds!) are not allowed to talk until they have finished their first helping (they serve themselves). You would think that after four years in day care, I would have thought to ask the teachers first when things got crazy.

We've also taken to setting timers and if they finish their meal by a certain time, they can watch tv or do something special with us.

The longer I am a parent, the more I come to realize my life will be crazy until the boys leave home.


Beth said...

I LOVED your last sentence, how true! We still struggle some with meal times, even at 5, as the girls are just excited to be with us after being at school and having Daddy at work all day. (Now that I'm home, I'm not quite as exciting!). We've been trying to work on meal-time manners, and it's tough to constantly remind them to eat and to ask before interrupting us while we talk. Now once they eat, we let them be excused so we can finish our meals peacefully. I really like your idea of eating first, before talking, and may try that if we have any more trouble. I find meal times to be like many other parenting issues---tough, but worth the effort that we all put into it, because I believe that family meals (or substitute good habits, picking up, etc.) are so important. It sounds like you and Jon are onto a good solution!

HeatherV said...

Feeding two kids alone most nights may just be my best weight loss trick yet!

Ben is a great pm not am eater, thus the rule is you have to be completely dressed,eaten breakfast, put your dishes in the sink before any tv.

This in addition to laying out clothes and dishes on the table the night before.

This is advice to tuck away once Ian is fighting for space to chatter.

Beth said...

The timer is a great idea! We have a hard time getting the kids to simply stay in their chairs. But I figure it's a work in progress. Sounds like you are definitely onto something! I'm going to ask our daycare teachers if they have a similar rule. :-)

Joanna said...

Yes, life will be crazy until the boys leave home. I've mostly come to terms with that. That's one of the reasons Michael is going to be an only. I'm not restarting the crazy clock.

Cindy said...

I am having enough trouble keeping my 2 y/os in their seats - never mind eating. That battle will be next year :)
Here's some hope for you: My 6 y/o is finally a joy to be with at meal times.

Ginger said...

I am so filing away this advice for future use!

Nicola Jayne Power said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
London said...

This is a big problem for us too, and I wish I could institute the no-talking rule. It is literally impossible for Batman to stop talking. IMPOSSIBLE!! We have tried everything, the kid is just a motermouth.

Eh, I wonder where he gets it from?

Julie said...

Oh man, as I was driving Lana to school this morning, I was thinking to myself--please dear God stop talking for 2 seconds, its driving me crazy!!!! Lana told me at school, they turn off the lights for lunch and play the Quiet Game, where everyone has to be quiet and the person who stays quiet the longest wins. I asked her if she ever won. She said, "no way!" Shocker!

Lisa said...

I'm going to file this under advice to remember. Our situation is that the girls will eat and eat and eat dragging out their meals for 60+ minutes. I finally realized it was because they didn't want to do the next activity which was go to school or get ready for bed, so it became a stalling technique. Now when it seems like they've consumed a reasonable amount of food or requests for other options is getting excessive, we set the timer for 3-5 minutes and when it goes off the meal is over. It is a little arbitrary, but it seems to be working.

JenFen said...

This has been a real problem in our household too and it's pretty much all Jadyn. It definitely must be a developmental thing with this age. She just talks and talks and talks. I can't image getting her to stop talking through half her meal so we will just keep reminding her and working with her and when the rest of us are all done, then I usually set the timer for a reasonable amount of time and tell her she has to finish, which with no one else at the table she usually does.

thellfamily said...

I hear you. Mealtime at our house lately has been -- whatever the word is for the opposite of delightful. Constant climbing out of seats, doing inappropriate things with food/utensils/cups/plates/napkins, loud noises, asking for dessert, etc.
After reading your post, I described it to S&J and asked, do you think that's a good idea? J asked, for us, or for them? I said, in general. He said, yes. I said, should we do it, and he said NO! But now I have it in my back pocket, so thank you.