Solutions for …”MEAL-TIME MELTDOWNS”

These are some of the best tips and actions plans we have used to support families with children who are picky eaters, fussing at the table, or simply making mealtimes miserable…

1.  Give Kids the Power they are “Craving”  through choice and voice and purpose
Choice:Offer more than one vegetable. Offer two options on the number of bites
Voice:Listen to their opinions and work w/ them outside the moment to problem solve it
Purpose: Give kids jobs around the kitchen… “The pastry chef” “The salad master”

2.   Change it up
Eat in different space (move to the fancy dining room or outside)
If your kids are squirming all over their seat why not try a new kind of seat
Add a special treat to dinnertime like candlelight or music or conversation cards

3.  Do Something Different with Dessert
Put it on their plate as part of the meal & let them choose to eat it 1st if they like
Put it on a fancy serving tray in the middle of the table (even if it is just fruit or oreos)
Save it for a special treat after so many days of good meal manners
Get rid of it all together and just add it in as a special surprise for good choices

4.  TEACH MODEL PRACTICE  (TMP)
Draw out or video tape a plan for how you want dinner to be… allow the kids to help with this
Read and watch what to do and what not to do at the table
TMP  specifically about how many bites are expected, what kinds of food choices
TMP   specifically about how we speak to parents and siblings at the table
TMP  how to listen and not interrupt
TMP  what the consequences of poor choices will be and follow through

5.  Have Rules and Cues for eating posted…these become the bad guy
Use the pictures to point so you don’t have to use words…
Point to the rules (no interrupting) when they try to step into conversation
Point to the number one when they are taking their first bite, 2 for second…
Point to the dinner rules before getting started…

6.  Be happy with the smallest “bit” of progress when it comes to sensitive “buds”
Maybe they will move from yuck!!! to smelling the new food
Maybe they will progress from smelling to licking the new food
Maybe they will progress from licking to sucking on the new food
Then… biting it and chewing it and swallowing it…

7.  Allow little guys to alternate back and forth between eating and fun…
First Take a bite then color on your picture page
First Take a bite then tell me a story from kindergarten
First Take a bite then we will read a short poem…
Whatever works… at least they are eating!

8.  Keep it consistent…
We drink Milk at dinnertime
We have three bites for three year olds
We try everything…
We do not hurt the cook’s feelings with nasty words

9.  Think about set up…
Provide Healthy Appetizers so you have another chance to get in the good stuff
Provide more choice by offering taco bars, potato bars, pasta bars and more
Get them involved in the set up so they get excited about the choices

10.  Be flexible with where and when they make their healthy choices… 
Could we add more healthy snacks into their lunch box?
Could we sneak it into their smoothies after school?
Could we offer it as a power snack in the middle of playing super heroes?

Action Plan for Getting Grumpy Kids out of Bed…

Serve your little one “breakfast in bed.”  

Many kids wake up starving especially those finicky picky eaters who refused to eat the night before.  So why not have a granola bar waiting for them at their bedside when they wake up to help them get their blood sugar flowing and help them to start off on the right foot?  One client recently told me how this worked so well for their oldest child that they have begun to use it with all their kiddos.  Their son was extremely slow to warm up to the idea of getting out of bed, but with a yummy snack ready for him he was more apt to jump out of bed.  That boost of energy helped him be less moody and more ready to accomplish his early morning routines… Of course like all our action plans, this is just an idea but one worth trying if you are at your wits end.  If you do this or any new response with your parenting, remember you have to TEACH MODEL and PRACTICE the expectations. You can’t just “willy nilly” start this plan tomorrow without boundaries and expectations.   They need to know the procedures so they can follow them.  

That Darn Purple Dinosaur and his Clean Up Song

40494543_sWhat is it with that song? … You know the one…

Clean Up Clean Up Everybody Everywhere…

Clean Up Clean Up…

Everybody do your share…

That song haunts me sometimes when I least expect it.  Yes, my kids (especially my older kids) loved that Purple Dinosaur and his songs stuck with them and much to my dismay they stuck in my head too.  In fact if Evy or Mick Mattson were to walk in here right now, they could probably sing through any of those wretched songs word for word.  There is something to be said about having a catchy tune to transition a child from a pleasant event (like: playing with their toys) and move them towards a not so pleasant event (like: cleaning up those toys).  The song becomes a cue and the change in pitch of their mother’s voice redirects their brains to fall in line and do that job in a more joyful way.

So, the lesson learned is when you feel like your kids are tuning you out, tune into a catchy song to get them to listen.  It doesn’t have to be one from a popular kids tv show (although if it is a show they are into it won’t hurt).  It could simply be any words put to a common tune.  You could sing about eating vegetables to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  You could sing about making good choices to the tune of Do You Know the Muffin Man?  You could even sing about their emotions or temper tantrums and how to calm down by coming up with a song that goes to the tune of This Little Light of Mine.  Maybe you could even get your kids on board to help you come up with a song.  Whatever works, it is worth a shot to add singing to your parenting toolbox.

The one thing that is sure to happen is that singing might make you steer clear of the heightened emotions that often make behaviors go from bad to worse.  It may calm your own emotions down, keep you from talking and describing too much and singing will most certainly make you in a less serious and more playful mood.  If you are using less words, less emotion, having more fun, smiling more, and more calm you are way more likely to get your child’s attention in positive ways.   So if singing can help you do these things let’s put singing to use more often in our day to day parenting.

Surviving Family Parties

kids tableSpending time with family around the holidays can add extra busyness to the already stressed-out lives we live day to day…
Will our kids be polite?
Will they eat all of Grandma’s green beans?
Will we have to leave early to ward off the ugly behavior?
Use these times as teachable moments to preview expectations and set up boundaries on what we can and can’t act like in public.  Practice the expectations as home and set your child up for success by following their cues that let you know when they have had enough.  Change it up and don’t expect them to last too long.  Have an exit strategy in place so when the time comes you can scoot without a fuss.  Remember you might get an earful from Great Aunt Martha about how you should be parenting.  Instead of brushing it off as “crazy talk”, take it to heart  and be grateful for the fresh perspective… Some of the tried and true methods for raising children are the best and she just might have something to offer your style and situation.

Meal Times Matter

Although dinner time at our house may not always run smoothly, it serves as the number one factor that ensures our family’s success. 

Studies show that children who sit down with their family regularly ( for breakfast, lunch, or dinner) are more likely to do well in school, attain their goals, and succeed socially.  This is because the family meal time provides routine, consistency and connection.  The rules and expectations of family life are practiced at this table.  Sharing and caring about each others’ lives takes place here, and it’s also a place to practice socially correct behaviors while trying new things in the company of those who love you no matter what.              

 If we have meals together regularly, we have better odds at having children who succeed.   Even if  the only time we can connect  is during a late night snack or over cereal and milk before the bus comes, make it count, sit down with your kids and pause a bit.   

The world is telling us that sports ,activities, and work matter , but I think we know what really matters. 

 Making connections with our kids THAT’S what matters most.  

Helping them connect the dots of their world is what these connections can do and what better place to do this than around your dinner table.  Make mealtimes matter ,carve out moments around the table breaking bread and uniting as a family.  If you do this regularly you will see your family BLOOM.

If you agree that meal time matters, or if you simply want to find out more about what research says regarding regular family meals,  check out one of my favorite reads:

The Surprising Power of Family Meals by Miriam Weinstein

Don’t be a such a sucker….

What child doesn’t love a trip to the bank?  It’s one of the many errands on Mom’s list of places to go that kids simply don’t mind attending.  Why is this? SUCKERS!!!

Here’s what happened the other day: 

 I was in the drive-through line at our bank…

It was one of the final days of summer, and so I had a car full of kids.  There were big kids and little kids and everyone knew what their prize would be if they stayed quiet while I tried to hear the teller’s directions over the speaker. The teller asked, “Do you have children in the car and are they allowed to have a sucker.”  These questions were her typical questions.  She was so kind to ask them, and I responded, “I have four children in the car, and yes, they are allowed to have a sucker, thank you so much.” 

      However, the teller went beyond her call of duty with her next question… With one quick question she opened up a can of worms instead of that yummy jar of dum dum suckers.   She said, “And what flavors do they want?”  My children’s eyes lit up because not only did they get a sucker, but they got to choose the flavor! Holy Moly! Life is good!

       What I want to know is :  When did things change?   When did we move from offering a special treat to appeasing our children’s every want and desire?  This shift (I fear) is what is creating havoc in many of our homes.  This question of “what do you want?” changes the road ahead in our families as it puts the child in the driver’s seat.  I think the question stems from our need to avoid having our children suffer. 

Maybe parents are thinking these things…

“My children have a mind of their own, and why would I want them to have to suffer through eating a sucker they don’t like.”

“Wouldn’t it be tortuous to expect them to sit quietly while I speak to the teller, and then give them a black raspberry sucker when they really wanted a watermelon one?” 

“What a horrible mother I would be if I didn’t give them what they wanted! Shouldn’t  I give them what they deserve?   Which is …. Which is…”

Well, I guess that is the million dollar question.  

What do our children deserve?

 Do children deserve special treats or are special treats an added bonus to their expected behavior?

This may sound radical, but I say:  children don’t deserve anything for making good choices while you wait at the bank or when they act as they are expected to act. 

     Now, if the teller is nice enough to offer you a sucker, then you may have one, but the deal is: You get what you get and you don’t have a fit.  If you don’t like the flavor you have received, then you kindly pass it on to your brother, and ask if he would like to swap flavors.  If no one wants to swap, you keep the sucker to share with your poor mother who has driven you all over town, or you simply throw it away when you get home.   

 Is this logical or am I crazy?  

Crazy is:  dooming our children to a life filled with constant pleasure and no suffering.  This is because eventually life will deal them a “Yucky Sucker”, and they won’t know how to suffer gracefully because they’ve never had to do this before. 

Back to our bank story:   I kindly responded, “We are okay with whatever flavor we get,” (as my children cringed and groaned at me in the back seats).  Then the teller said, “Thank you for being so easy going. I just had a mom drive back through the line because the sucker I gave her wasn’t her child’s favorite, and she didn’t want to hear him cry about it all the way home.”

YIKES!    Are you kidding me? Is this what we’ve resorted to…? 

 Are these the Life Rules for children in 2012

1.  Get a treat for doing nothing out of the ordinary. 

2.  Cry as hard as you can when you don’t like the treat. 

3.  Then your mother will beg for another free treat so that she doesn’t have to listen to you suffer.   

Here are  my final thoughts…

  1. When  it comes to freebies like suckers at the bank,  there is no fussing… You get what you get and you don’t have a fit.  If children are allowed to throw a fit and get what they want, their parents are supporting negative behaviors.
  2. If you do throw a fit, then you will get nothing.   Mom or dad will not contrive the perfect scenario to make your wishes come true.  They will not coddle you until you calm down over your “horrible experience”.  Although this will be a challenge for parents,  they will simply say, “Let me know when you are ready to join us or if you change your mind about your treat.” 
  3. Then mom and dad will tune you out and not react to your fit so that you learn to regulate your emotions on your own.

Ahhhh isn’t life with children so sweet?

Cute doesn’t Cut it…

Believe me. I am the first to melt when I see a little girl with ruffles on her tush… or a handsome young preschooler with a Cincinnati Reds jersey to match his MLB hat.   I simply love to find a good deal on great clothes for kids, and my own children know when it comes to a photo opt… cute clothes matter to their mom.   With back to school around the corner, I don’t have to tell you how expensive it can be to ensure your kid is the cutest kid to walk in the door of his classroom.    The children’s clothing market is hot.   There are options all over the web for parents to find  great outfits for great prices,  and then shower their kids with designer labels.

The other day I was at a restaurant and saw the most darling curly haired child dressed in the sharpest duds.  His seer-sucker shorts and designer green polo shirt were so sweet.   His shoes may have cost more than my weekly grocery bill, and his monogrammed belt were one of a kind.  Mom and Dad had obviously spent time, money and energy addressing this little guy’s style.  There is no doubt about it… He was adorable, but his poor choices and out of control behavior were all I could see.  If only his demeanor were as enchanting as his appearance.  He was spitting his food out, yelling words like “YUCK”,  and “I Hate This” .  He was running around the dining area screaming with glee as Mom and Dad sipped wine and smiled at him, “Isn’t he sooo cute?”    

I say simply… CUTE doesn’t CUT it!

I would love to see a world where parents invest in resources that support positive behavior.  It’s time for parents to spend less time surfacing the web for great deals on ribbons and bows and more time finding ideas on how to get their child to pay attention to the rules of their home.  I would like to see more facebook  posts where parents recognize and share their child’s good choices instead of their adorable Easter Bunny photo shoot. 

I say… dig deep into your parenting approaches and decide what matters most to you and your spouse.  Then, set up house rules that mirror what you expect.     Instead of focusing on how great your child looks in the mirror, make sure their behavior mirrors your family expectations.  Are they a friend to the neighbor kids?   Are they accepting of people who are different from them?  Do they help around the house and wait patiently for their turn to talk or play? Can you take them to a restaurant without getting dirty looks from other customers?

 How cute everyone’s child would be if they could all: sit quietly and attend to a task, use kind words, share their things, and listen on the first time.

It is easy to be “caught up in cute”.  The world around us is telling parents that being cute is the most important thing, but Child in Bloom Parents know the difference.  Cute only goes so far, and when parents and their children bloom… The sky’s  the limit.

By the way… here are some quick tips for dining with your little ones…

  1.  Set up a visual storyline before going to the restaurant that tells your child what to expect, how we behave politely, and what the consequences will be if rules are not followed.
  2. Practice these same rules at your own dinner table and when playing pretend restaurant with your child at home.  Practice and remind your child of these expectations over and over again.
  3. Follow through on the first time if your child doesn’t follow the plan.
  4. Find ways to make dining developmentally appropriate… Your child’s attention matches directly to their age and so bring more than enough stuff to keep them entertained.
  5. Ask for a table that is remote and far away from diners who want to have a quiet evening away.
  6. Boothes are always a good choice for spreading out and giving your child the room they need to wiggle and giggle.
  7. Order your child’s food in advance and let your waiter know you might need to leave in a hurry when the child has lost their steam.
  8. Bring food and drinks to offer while you wait.
  9. Have an exit plan that involves getting up to peek at the restaurant’s fish tank, or walk to the parking lot to get a breather.  Never let your child roam a restaurant freely.
  10. Pay attention to your child and put your phones to the side as you focus on this special time with your family.