It’s been 45 minutes and your kid is still at the table.
Her plate is still full of veggies.
She has barely touched the instant pot pork that is DELICIOUS.
You are ready to lose your friggin mind.
How glorious would it be to pick up her plate of food and throw it all in the garbage?
But no, you’re an adult.
MUST… STAY..CALM you tell yourself through gritted teeth.
But how? How?
Let’s break it down step-by-step to get you a little more calm at the dinner table.
What are you telling yourself?
Many times, our breakdowns and the times we yell at our kids have nothing to do with them.
It’s all about our internal thought process – how we’re interpreting the situation in our very busy and overloaded brains.
When your child takes a long time finishing her meal, do any of these thoughts sound familiar?
- My child must be the only who does this.
- I have so much to do and don’t have time for this.
- It must be something with my cooking. If I fed her better meals, she would actually eat.
These are all lies. LIES!!!
Many times, we make our kid’s problems our personal problems.
In the current situation, we feel out of control. Parenting is so full of guesswork that of course we doubt ourselves with every decision.
That is completely normal. Many other moms do the exact same thing.
First, let’s acknowledge what we have control over and what we don’t.
You are NOT responsible for getting your child to eat faster.
You ARE responsible for keeping your calm and trying new strategies to help her become a more focused eater.
Do you have a strategy?
Maybe you’ve run out of ideas. If so, I’ve gathered a few of the most effective ideas right here with a cheat sheet that you can put on your fridge so that you have them at your fingertips.
Got it? Awesome!
Now, that you have your strategy, let’s start using some specific tactics to calm down – wine optional.
Recognize the Signs of Anger
When we react to our kids, its usually because we’ve ignored the signs of anger builiding inside of us until so much pressure has accumulated, we explode.
Instead, let’s stop and recognize the anger. That way we can remove ourselves from the kitchen table before we lash out.
Calm is contagious. Deep breath.
Start each meal knowing that your child will be a slow eater.
Make a plan for how you will react to her eating at a snail’s pace.
What will you do when she suddenly gets distracted by her Peppa Pig toy in the other room?
How will you react when he takes one bite and then puts his grapes in his spaghetti to make “eyeball pasta”?
When you expect your child to push your buttons, it comes as less of a shock when it happens.
But, kids are crafty. Even your best plans may not work and you’ll feel that swell of irritation start to rise.
If you start to feel:
- jittery in your stomach
- start to raise your voice
These are all signs that you’ve approached your threshold. Now to rein it in before it becomes unbearable.
Keep Calm Strategies
According to Psychology Today, the moment you feel anger, its your signal to do something.
When your child seems constantly distracted at the dinner table and you feel your heart rate increasing, that’s your sign to restate to your child your expectation of what he should be doing.
A simple phrase such as, “When you are at the kitchen table, I expect to eat your food instead of playing with it,” can work like magic. Your child may remember the conversation you had with him earlier and go right back to eating.
If that doesn’t work, take a second and breathe deeply.
Your breath is a signal for you to pause and assess the situation. It gives you time before you act so that instead of acting on impulse (“EAT YOUR FOOD NOW!!”) you have time to think about the best way to approach the situation.
If the breath doesn’t work and you are still getting angry, go to the next room and give yourself a time out.
It’s particularly effective if you tell your child – in as calm of voice as you can muster – why you need a time out. Something simple like,
“I need to go to the other room because I’m getting angry when you play with your food instead of eating it.”
It’s ok to let your child see you mad and see you handle it in a responsible manner.
As my husband says, he would rather be the one to show our daughter how her behavior irritates others than have some stranger hold the behavior against her.
Staying calm when your child’s slow eating bothers you comes down to identifying your inner dialogue, working with an effective strategy to curb the behavior and knowing when your anger rises and how to respond.
Your kid will not be a slow eater forever. He or she will eventually decide that dinner time is a time to connect with loved ones and focus on eating a meal.
Stay strong, mama.