A few months ago I wrote about my big revelation that Hadley less than desirable table manners. I wasn’t really sure what was expected of or acceptable for a 3.5 year old, but I was confident that whatever she was doing was far from it.
Ah, let me back up! I don’t want to give the impression that our girl was off the walls. Basically, if dinner wasn’t mac and cheese, cheese pizza, or a peanut butter sandwich, she didn’t want to eat (not completely unheard of for a three year old). Jamie and I aren’t nutritionists by any means, but we’re health conscious enough to know that her growing body needs way more nutritionally than that! If she didn’t eat any dinner, she would get an apple and glass of milk before bed. That was it. We thought we were doing fine by not giving in and making her something totally different. We didn’t want to engage in a battle with her to eat because we wanted to have a peaceful dinner with or without her. If she was hungry, she would eat, right?
Where we missed the boat was that by letting her get up and not sit with us, she wasn’t learning any table manners that are necessary to learn, even if you don’t like the meal. This became very apparent when we were traveling and dining with our friends and families in their homes back in July. If Hadley didn’t like their meals, she would get up from the table and run around playing during dinnertime while every other adult and kid ate. Not her fault; she didn’t know any better because we hadn’t taught her any different!
Thankfully Jamie and I were equally fed up with how chaotic dinnertime was becoming whether we were in or outside of our home, so we were like-minded in the rules we wanted to put in place immediately. We felt like Hadley was old enough to totally understand what we expected of her and that we would hold her accountable to meeting our expectations.
8 rules we put in place to improve our preschooler’s table manners
1.) Zero toys or books at the table
2.) Use the bathroom before it’s time to eat (to avoid the “I have to go potty!!!!!” as soon as we sit down)
3.) No shows during dinner
4.) Must try (and swallow) at least one bite of everything on her plate. No saving broccoli in your cheeks for later, missy.
5.) Only gets water to drink at dinner (to avoid filling up on milk or juice, per her usual)
6.) Must ask “May I please be excused?” before she gets up from the table.
7.) Clears her own plate and put it in the sink
8.) Dessert of her choice if she eats her entire meal
You see, Hadley has always been a chronically picky eater (even her doctor says that she is OFF THE CHARTS with her picky eating). We knew this right away when she disliked puffs, cheerios, and most pureed foods at 6-7 months old. Since we’ve always struggled to get her to eat, we’ve let her get away with “grazing” for years. We had rarely ever eaten dinner with her seated at the table with us. So if the aforementioned rules sound a bit “much” for a three year old, just know that mealtime and dining in/out has always been a source of stress for us, and it was absolutely crucial that we buckled down and taught our girl manners that she deserved to be taught.
She is honestly an amazing kid and we knew she was capable of meeting our expectations. Not only has Hadley met every. single. one of these expectations, but she’s starting to try/eat a lot of new foods. We are equal parts thrilled and frustrated that we didn’t buckle down with this a year ago!
And speaking of mealtime topics, where do your young kids sit when they eat their meals? We’ve been experimenting with this for a few months, but we finally have a good little set-up for the girls. Both of them sit in this booster seat at the table. Sadie started protesting her high chair about a month ago, so I washed it and put it away. Then I started letting the girls eat together at their little table in the playroom, but it got to be too much with them eating and playing at that table. So now they both have their booster seats at the kitchen table, and we all eat together. I love it, and so do they!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this. I know the rules vary in each home (of course!), as each parent needs to decide what’s right for their individual children. Do your rules look similar to ours, or do they contrast?