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Go Ask Mom

Lynda Loveland: Mealtime manners (or the lack thereof)

Posted May 25, 2011

Lynda Loveland

It is such a delight when I make a meal the kids actually eat and eat well. I try to throw different things in there to mix it up a bit and make it healthy. Sometimes it works, sometimes, not so much.

 But that’s only half the battle.

The other half is trying to keep their backsides in their chair, their chomping mouths shut and the bodily noises under wraps!

It is a constant battle to keep them from getting up. They get up for any number of reasons: bathroom breaks, look at this, gotta get that, you name it! They even position themselves in the chair like they’re ready to spring up at a moments notice, ready for action. I sound like a broken record, “sit down and put your legs under the table!”

My oldest chews with her mouth open. Not all the time. But enough to drive me crazy! What could be more relaxing than a child smacking their lips during dinner? She also hunches over when she eats. I tell her so often to sit up straight that from an onlooker standpoint, she probably looks like she’s doing some sort of strange core exercises! It’s like that cat/cow stretch, but sideways.

I’ve tried the usual suspects: reward charts, time outs and stuff taken away. We discuss before dinner how we’re supposed to act. I’m reluctant to send them from the table without dinner because my kids are pretty darn skinny. They really don’t need to miss a meal. But would that really solve the problem? I dunno. I just get so frustrated by the end of dinner! I could give the wicked witch of the west a run for her money!

Lynda is the mom of three and co-host of Mix 101.5 WRAL-FM's Bill & Lynda in the Morning. Find her here on Thursdays.


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  • bcde May 26, 2011

    Remember Princess Diaries, and the expensive scarf being used for making her sit upright in the chair? We have used a scarf or a belt as a a restraint to keep my son in the seat so that he wasn't up and down and would sit up striaght. After a few times of this he got the hint that we meant business and sat like he was supposed to (most of the time). Ut worked for us. :)

  • 4.13 May 26, 2011

    I know it seems frustrating right now. Don't give up. One day they will surprise you and do the right thing. It will be a moment of jubilation for all involved!

  • hihuwatlu May 26, 2011

    When the frustration gets too much, just think of the memories you're making! My mother-in-law raised 3 children alone. The youngest is now 40, but they all still talk about the family meals where mom would try to get them all to behave but even under threat of a belt, the good behavior never lasted long. You'll be happy to know all three have managed to learn to sit still and mind their manners at the dinner table.

  • lhefner30 May 26, 2011

    i only have one child but what i do instead of sounding like a broken record i tell him to sit still twice and on the third time he has to stand for the rest of the meal.

  • computer trainer May 26, 2011

    Keep working on it. My husband and I went to IHOP the other night and may not return until Summer is OVER. It is kids eat free and it appears that it might as well be one big Daycare Center. The screaming, the yelling, the kicking, throwing stuff is just more than I can bear. And the parents act as though everyone else should just listen to their little darlings act like this. If this is the way they act in a restaurant, how must they act at home? As I heard one person say, "it is BIRTH CONTROL summer at IHOP"! I love kids, but that place has gotten ridiculous!! So, keep at it with your kids. I, for one, will appreciate your children more if I do not have a splitting headache after being around them. So will you!

  • NC Sunshine May 26, 2011

    I wish you the best. Between my me and my husand, we have 3 kids. It is very frustrating teaching children right from wrong and how to behave. All I can say is it gets better around the 2nd year of college.

  • UNCW_Ash May 26, 2011

    A few ideas...if they won't sit still, remove their chair and make them eat standing up. Put X number of a favorite small snack (M&M's, Skittles, gummie bears, etc)on the table. For each infraction they lose one treat, or the reverse-for each time you see them doing the right thing you add a treat to their pile. This could also be done with money (coins not cash!).
    Or play into their craziness-assign one night as "eat how the kids do" night, somewhere away from the normal dining table. Either a picnic outside, or just a blanket on the floor would work. They and you can eat however they want, be wiggly, get up, etc. so long as they have a finish time (don't want to drag it out forever). If they behave at the dining table all week, they get the "crazy" night as a treat. If not, they lose it.

  • this is my Screen Name May 26, 2011

    I have to confess I'm not a mom, but I wonder if they are removed from the table with no more dinner -- and no snacks later -- that might make them think about the wiggles and ups and downs at the table?

  • Killian May 26, 2011

    I have a "thing" about restricting food from a child's body too, but I also agree that the behavior is unacceptable.

    My opinion, for what it's worth, would be to sit them down and discuss clear, concise expectations for table behavior. They get one warning while at the table. If they break it, they, along with their meal, is removed from the family group. One more break, and then they lose the remainder of their meal. It gives several chances to do the correct thing, and teaches the lesson that it will not be tolerated.

    And truly, missing a few meals won't really damage a kid if it came down to it.

  • Twittyfan May 26, 2011

    Getting up at the table was not an option for me and my brothers and sisters when we were young and it is not an option for my child. My mother and father made sure all of us had everything we needed before we sat down and I am just carrying on the tradition. I do not want a TV on or a phone ringing while I am trying to spend time and eating with my family.. Life is such a rat race but this is a time where you sit and talk about the day. I wish you the best but you need to get tougher and show them you mean business.. I can understand them needed to go to the bathroom but not to be getting up 5 times.. I know they are just kids too and young but this is time to break them so you can eat peaceful dinners with your husband and kids.. Maybe try to make them stay seated and tell them you will get something 1 time for them and that is it.. It may come down to you having to take some things away until they get the swing of things...Good Luck to you...It will take time but it will work...