Saturday 14 September 2013

The Sunday Parenting Party - Eating at table

Taming the Goblin

Welcome again to the Sunday Parenting Party, please link up your parenting posts (not kids activity posts, there are lots of activity linkies but we'd like this one to focus on parenting issues, advice and experience). This week I'm linking the following:

Some families sit around a table for every meal with no exceptions. I never really understood why. I always thought that the blog posts you see about how meal times are a time to connect, were aimed at families with older children. I understood why you might want to focus on meal times when you have teenagers that you only see for an hour while you eat, and then they're gone to do homework or play computer games or hang with friends. But my child isn't even four years old. He's with me all day, why do I need to make a big deal about sitting at a table to eat with him. 

So we aren't one of those families. One of us is always at work when Goblin eats his meals, and neither of us have been particularly bothered about sitting around a table to eat. So instead Goblin would eat his meals in front of the TV or he'd graze while playing. 
 - I know some reading this will be horrified by the idea of that, but until recently its worked for us - Goblin has a good appetite. We are lucky that we have never had those arguments about him needing to finish a meal or eat another bite. So meal times have always gone without drama. And I have always felt that forcing him to sit at a table would be an unnecessary point of confrontation. 

Then we went to a family wedding and suddenly realised why other families make their kids sit at a table to eat their meals.

Goblin couldn't sit still. Not for two seconds, and the wedding meal was about 2 hours long.  I'm not saying that all the other children were able to sit quietly and nicely for 2 hours but they certainly lasted a lot longer than our little feral boy. He decided to eat two mouthfuls before running circuits around the room while the speeches were being made. As we cringed and froze in indecisiveness about whether trying to catch him would be more distracting than letting him carry on, we realised that Goblin had had very little practice at sitting still. Sitting at a table to eat was alien to him. 

When we got home we decided to let him practice. We rearranged the furniture and brought out the dining room table that had been covered in clutter in the corner of the room. And we explained to Goblin that we were going to eat all our meals at the table. To our amazement there has been very little resistance to this. 

Goblin sits and eats with which ever of us is home. We have some games and puzzles to entertain him (one step at a time right).  But we have no TV and no getting down and running around. 

Firstly I have realised that this is a time to connect (like all the posts always said). Its an undistracted opportunity to sit facing each other and talk. 
Secondly, and I'm ashamed to admit this, its given me an opportunity to teach Goblin how to use his knife properly. I've shown him in the past. But with me actually eating as well he's been able to mirror my actions and its made a big difference to his approach.
Finally, I have noticed that it punctuates the day. The three meals give a routine to the day that helps implicitly signal other things that are coming up, like nap time. We have had less argument about naps since its been preceded by a meal and a natural cessation to any games or TV. 

Its taken me a while to get there, but now I understand why so many families make a big deal of meal times. It is more than just eating at a table. 
Welcome to The Sunday Parenting Party, hosted by Dirt and Boogers, Play Activities, Crayon Freckles, Taming the Goblin, The Golden Gleam, Prickly Mom, and The Tao of Poop. The SPP is place for readers to find ideas on nurturing, educating, and caring for children, as well as honest posts about the stresses of being a parent or caregiver. Links to reviews and giveaways are welcome as long as they are relevant to the topic. All parenting philosophies are welcome with one exception: please do not link to posts promoting physical discipline, as this is something we would feel uncomfortable having on our blogs. (P.S. By linking up you agree that your post and photos are Pinterest, Sulia, G+ and FB friendly. We will be showcasing ideas on The Sunday Parenting Party Pinterest board.)


  1. This is one we have struggled with too. We always ate dinner at the table when i was a kid. ALWAYS. We tried to do that with our daughter once she started to school, but that didn't last long. We may eat at the table 2 or 3 times a week tops.

  2. I grew up in a family that always ate together, so mealtimes together were a natural with my own kids as well. I noticed all the same benefits that you have. Good luck with your continued mealtimes together. :)

  3. Oh jeez - we really have a hard time with our son and meal time as well. He's on the autism spectrum and is developmentally delayed so the whole concept of meal time is more difficult to explain to him. We've made a lot of progress recently but were also at a wedding (just last weekend!) and realized that he's also "feral" (great description!) when he hid under one of the reception tables - one that was not ours. Talk about embarrassing! We're working on it more. It's tempting to set the iPad out on the table to keep him sitting there. Really great post and I'm so glad I found your blog! I wasn't familiar with this link up until Rachel at Tao of Poop hosted and so I'll have to thank her for introducing me to you!

  4. PS thank you SO MUCH for pinning my post! I really appreciate it :)

  5. I have felt conflicted about mealtime too. We generally eat around the table, but, when my daughter can't sit still, I don't have a problem with her getting up. My husband doesn't like it, when she does. I don't know. I think it will develop. I always find it interesting trying to balance what to let kids figure out on their own when it is developmentally appropriate for them and what to model for them. This is one of those issues for me, which I'm not sure about. I really liked your point about punctuating the day, though. It's not something that I had thought about before. And, yay, so excited to be part of SPP!

  6. I am a fan of ours sitting at the table. Now, they sit at their own table (due to sheer numbers). Afterwards, we are working on "may I be excused please?" So far, so good. They are picking up on it with reminders. The word "excused" is pretty challenging for them at age two (three in a couple of months). But, I think it is good for them to know the word before they can say it properly. It gives them practice with those letter combinations.

  7. Thanks so much for sharing this. I had a similar realization about a year and half ago. We still have some nights where the boys sit and eat in front of the TV, but now that is the exception and not the rule. It's not always perfect. We struggle sometimes with our youngest (2.5) getting up a lot during dinner, but I really treasure our mealtimes and it has made a world of difference with our oldest (4). I now look forward to our family dinners all sitting together and eating. We manage, often, to sit together at breakfast too.


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