Mealtime. As a foodie, mealtime was once my favourite time of day. As a parent, however, the closer we get to mealtime, the higher my anxiety rises. I know I’m not alone. If you’re a parent, chances are that like me, you fully expect mealtime to be a counterterrorist negotiation. If you’ve read this far, chances are that you’ve wanted to put “successfully got my three and five year old kids to eat dinner 2 nights in a row” on a resume. The level of skill and complexity required in this type of negotiation is worth noting to any prospective employer.
I regularly, diligently try to explain to my kids that they cannot subsist on a diet of Goldfish crackers and Flinstone vitamins alone. I gently point out to them, that if we do things their way when it comes to mealtime, they will become malnourished and get scurvy. Kids don’t want to hear shit though about logic, rational thinking, or common sense though. They just want to eat cake for dinner.
Based on my experience with mealtime and small children, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a direct correlation between the amount of love, time, effort and nutrition I put in to a meal, and the amount of rage my kids show towards a meal. Direct correlation, people. It’s science.
For those of us that this rings true for, we are stuck in a bit of a dilemma, yes? Do we want mealtime to be healthy, or do we want mealtime to be easy? For at least 4 out of 7 nights a week, I hope to mix in at least some sort of vitamins, macronutrients, and hidden vegetables into a meal. (For the parents that are better than me, this ratio is higher, but I digress).
Well, fortunately for all of you who have read this far, I’ve got the answer to this dilemma. I’ve worked out a simple, 10-step plan to get your small children to eat their meal. So here goes:
- Intersperse the food items that your kids don’t like as much in between the items they do like on their plates. Douse the entire meal in ketchup so they don’t know what they’re about to eat.
- If ketchup is not enticing enough, immediately resort to any form of bribery that works for your kids. There’s no shame in this game.
- If bribery works on even one of your kids to take a bite, you need to immediately and loudly cheer for and praise the bite that was taken. The ripple effect must take place – all kids need to start eating at this point and they need positive reinforcement. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT allow any of your other kids to observe the inevitable look of anger and disgust resulting from said first bite. Make sure to shout the phrase “YOU LOVED THAT DIDN’T YOU!” at the top of your lungs.
- If 1 – 3 haven’t worked yet, it’s time to pour yourself an adult beverage. This won’t necessarily result in a bite being taken, but within 5 minutes, you will care much less about the battle you’re currently in. The fact that you care less will be quite obvious to your kids. Reverse psychology, if you will. This may yield progress.
- Still no bites from the kids? Go ahead and finish your own meal. Finish your adult beverage as well. Now, go to the fridge and get yourself a slice of cake. Make sure to point out rather obnoxiously that you get cake because you were good and ate all your dinner. Note: At this point, your kids’ level of anger will elevate considerably – probably about 88 notches. You need to stay strong and stick to your game though.
- EAT YOUR SLICE OF CAKE!!! You earned that motherfucking slice of cake. Chew loudly, and make sure the kids know how much you’re savouring every single bite of cake. They will get cake too, if they eat their dinner. (Note: the kids’ level of rage will be off the chart at this point).
- Stubborn kids? Still no bites? No problem. At this point, you need to change the psychological game again. It’s time to threaten to feed the kids’ dinner to the dog. People want what they can’t have right? When you threaten to take away their option of dinner (and any option of cake that exists from eating dinner), they might want it more. (Note: If your kids are particularly
stubborn assholesstrong minded, you will need to physically go through the motions on this one and initiate taking their plate away before the kids will give any indication that they might actually want their dinner).
- If we are still here and no bites of dinner taken yet, it’s time to start begging and pleading. Emotional breakdowns sometimes work. For my kids, fake-crying often does the trick.
- Still no bites. OK. It’s time to douse that plate in ketchup again. The kids have definitely forgotten about the fact that dinner is covered in ketchup – it’s time to remind them.
- Go get the dog’s dish. Put some kibble in there. Top up the dog’s food with the kids’ meals. Go to your freezer, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 20 minutes later, you will have some beautiful chicken nuggets, all ready to eat. The kids will clean their plates within 5 minutes. Everybody wins, including the dog. Your nerves might be shot, and you may need to pour yourself another adult beverage, but you go ahead and pat yourself on the back. Your kids are fed.
Feel free to print out this easy 10-step guide and hang it on your fridge for use at mealtime. Once you become skilled with this method, your kids may even start eating their meals by #6.