Dinner time. The word that has most parents reaching for a glass of wine. The time of day that quite often makes our heart rate increase, our blood pressure rise, and has us fighting an uphill battle.
Or is that just me?
And of course, this all coincides with the witching hour or arsenic hour, depending on your preference of name for this dreaded time of day.
It’s that time when parents are getting home from work, kids are tired and hungry and you’re trying to salvage the situation so it doesn’t escalate to tears. From anyone.
Most parents I’ve spoken to about dinner time, hate it. They dread it too. Particularly those who work.
They rush in the door, frazzled from a day of meetings and deadlines, only to realise they forgot to take meat out to defrost earlier. It then becomes a matter of how quickly can you pull a meal together that everyone or at least most of the family will eat.
But even if you’re a stay at home parent, you are still more than likely to experience the battle of dinner time. Just because you haven’t rushed in the door at 6pm, doesn’t mean you’re immune to this dreaded time of day.
If you have been organised and had meat defrosted, or had a meal half prepared (I love having portions of bolognese sauce in the freezer I can just heat up and serve with fresh cooked pasta), you still haven’t won.
If you have a toddler or preschool aged child, you will more than likely get tears about serving the meal on the wrong colour plate.
Or your children will decide that even though they have previously loved this meal, they no longer like it. And refuse to eat it. Or they tell you peas now apparently taste worse than worms.
Or one child doesn’t like the way their sibling is looking at them and want you to make them stop.
You just want to get everyone fed, bathed and ready for that much nicer time of day – stories and cuddles before bed.
I’m not sure about you, but we experience battles at dinner time most nights. We’ve tried every approach we can think of.
The “throw stuff and see what sticks” approach, when you serve up a selection of different foods and see what they will eat.
Cooking separate meals for kids.
Serving them the same meal as us.
Feeding them earlier.
Hiding vegetables. They’re happy to eat the meal as they can’t see any vegetables, and you’re happy, as you know they’re eating vegetables. The trick with this one is to make sure you don’t smile too much when they’re eating the food, or they get suspicious and catch on to what you’re doing.
Each night is different. Each child is different.
I think the main thing as a parent, is to realise that if you have battles at dinner time, you’re not alone. We all go through it. Some of us only for a while, others for years.
We just have to do the best we can, and not get too stressed about it. Enjoy a glass of wine. Know that if they are really hungry, they will eat dinner. Our eldest has decided to not eat his dinner many times, so he has gone to bed hungry. I try to not get worked up about it. He eats enough at other times. He isn’t the only child ever to do this.
Persevere in serving different foods. Experts say that most children need to be served a food at least ten times before they will happily eat it. Try to make dinner time more about just being able to sit down together, rather than getting everyone to eat everything on their plate. That takes some of the pressure off.
I take comfort in the fact that I know by the time my boys are teenagers, they will be eating us out of house and home. Surely by then they would have grown out of this fussy eater stage.
Do you dread dinner time too? What tips and tricks can you share to help others get through dinner time?