Breakfast, Lunchtime, and even Dinner are often a huge frustration for my husband and I when trying to deal with our very difficult eaters.
Now, I don't know how many other parents out there have kids who refuse to eat, but I know we can't be alone.
"I'm tired", "It's yucky", "I want a bath now", are just some of the many excuses that our girls use to try and get out of eating. It's not that they hate food, or even that we are trying to make them eat anything bizarre, they just cannot sit still long enough to pay attention to eating. They get bored.
Now our usual meals go like this. We sit down at the dining table, no TV, no music, and if necessary no talking (because the whining has become unbearable), otherwise what we call a quiet family dinner.
Well within about 5 minutes, chaos erupts. Poking, joking, screaming, animal noises, or even making faces at each other. We even get the 20 questions treatment for sometimes an hour. One night went even as far as them dropping every fork or spoon we gave them on the floor!
Timeouts, spankings, and even sticking them at the table for hours was just not working.
So I decided to get a little smart. I was going to try a different approach and talked to my husband about it. He completely agreed.
That night I went to testing my theory. I took out two small mason jars that I'd bought to make preserves. I pulled off the tops and cleaned them out. Then as we set the table, I placed one jar in front of each kid. I dropped in 5 chocolate chips to start. Then, I explained the rules.
For every portion of the meal you finish you get 1 chocolate chip.
For every meal you finish without being fed by Mommy or Daddy, you get 5 chips.
For every plate you take to the sink, you get 1 chip.
For being very good at the table the whole time you get 2 chips.
However, there is also punishment. For every time your told to eat, you lose a chip.
For any meal Mommy or Daddy feed you, you lose 2 chips.
For every, timeout you need to go in you lose your jar for the night, but you keep your chips.
If you do not finish your meal I take all your chips.
You can only eat your chips after dinner!
The girls listened and that night they finished everything. We were floored.
We've done this now for every meal and it's been steady progress, almost every time they finish meals without fuss. It wasn't an instant solution but it's getting better more and more, and the most important part, they're actually eating! Our four year old even wants to clean her dishes to earn an extra chip.
Now you don't need to use chocolate chips, you can use animal crackers, jelly beans, maybe even stickers. The point is giving them something to look forward to that they love.
We've even told our girls that they can exchange their rewards to go for frozen yogurt once in a while.
So, Mom's and Dad's out there with a picky eater or finicky muncher, I highly recommend giving this a shot.