Eating Dinner with your child- Pros, Cons and Something in between

Where do you stand on this one? Are you a firm believer in eating together or do you do a double sitting?

Last week I bought you ‘Reading to your toddler’ and my gripes when it is recommended parents ‘read’ to their child but no one enlightens them that this ‘reading’ doesn’t even remotely resemble the image an adult conjures up when they think about this usually relaxing act.

This week we tackle the lovely notion of eating dinner with your child. Is it relaxing or do you want to pock your eyes out?

I have always had high hopes of being one of those Mum’s who cooked and/or prepped dinner on a Sunday for the week to come, or when bub is having a daytime nap… unfortunately I have never been this Mum and I don’t think I ever will be!

I don’t know what it is about cooking in the middle of the day but I just don’t enjoy it and, if I’m being honest, it makes my brain hurt trying to work out the optimum way to store the food until we all want to eat it.  So that it isn’t like eating cardboard. It also leaves me more exhausted, feeling like I have actually cooked TWICE rather than easing the burden of the usual evening routine.

On this note I do not eat dinner with my children on a regular basis.  I have read all the literature on the importance of eating together and I have tried… oh, have-I-tried!

But, I am not ashamed to say I have failed and I’m ok with that, in fact I think my ‘somewhere in between’ is a far more achievable and realistic scenario within most homes.

My children are and will always be active, spirited children. They struggle to sit still, with bottom on a seat for the duration of dinner, there is always a continual barrage of requests for sauce, water, an alternative utensil or for an item to be cut a certain way. And so, on the few occasions I attempted to eat with them, my food was cold and I had indigestion because I started it when they were basically finished and I would scoff it down so as not to delay bath and bed. (‘It’s ok if we’re a little late tonight, I can handle less mummy time before bed’… said no mum ever!)

So what’s my solution because we read all the time about why it is important to keep the evening meal a social affair? And I’d like to note that I agree with the literature on this. It is a lovely time to connect with your children about their day and them yours. It is a perfect opportunity to model good eating habits where your picky eater can see you eating salad with out gagging and hopefully begin to feel less firmly anti-anything green.

But this picture is not always a reality for parents of young children. And this is what a lot of literature fails to highlight. When it is suggested that parents eat dinner with their children I do not believe this applies to anyone with a child not yet at school.

Why? Because it is about as relaxing as walking on hot coals. Now I’m not suggesting that you serve dinner to your children and then sit down and look through a magazine or check fb, while they eat. I think dinnertime is a perfect opportunity to connect with children of any age, ask questions, tell a story and have a laugh. But when children are young enough they still require support at dinner, give yourself a break and don’t try and enjoy your meal too.

Your children will actually be better off because I know I’d prefer a parent that is smiling and talking while they chop grapes in half, than a parent who is squawking to“sit down”, “I’ll get you a drink in a minute, and I’ll get you your grapes, just let me have SOME of my meal first, please?”

I have every intention of sitting down to a family meal when my children are older, and independent, but for time being, I plan on using dinner time to focus on them- Given, in our busy lives sometimes a day can disappear without us really checking in with our kids- once a day, dinner is my reminder to stop, talk to them, look them in the eye and let them know I am here… truly here!

Do you try and eat with your kids? If you aren’t a big fan but are doing it because you have been told it is ‘what’s best for them’… try another way for a night or two. You might actually end up with a routine that helps your kids on an even deeper level.


Your hands-on helper,