Ahh mealtime battles! They sure can take over family life. The time we want to be enjoying our family and instead we’re dealing with screaming, sulking children and at least one child running around like a loon. No wonder it feels so stressful.
What stands out of me with this mum is how she said she regrets her decision of having the screens in the first place.
Regret is a feeling of sadness or disappointment over an occurrence or something that one has done or failed to do.
But this mum hasn’t failed. This mum had screens at the table to help her children sit for a moment. She had screens at the table to help her children eat. She had valid reasons. It used to be useful and now it’s not.
All this guilt and ‘should haves’ we pile onto ourselves, we start doubting our decisions and judge ourselves and start projecting that onto our children, by judging them or telling them off.
As an ex- avid harsh-negative-self-talker I used to hold myself to crazy standards at dinner time, pushed myself and my children to do and be more than we reasonably could. I would beat myself up over not having the ‘perfect’ dinner time and then do the same to my children. I know I’m not alone with this. And I also know that it’s not our fault that we’ve been conditioned to judge and blame ourselves and others in this way.
We have an idea in our heads of what dinner ‘should’ be, and we blame ourselves if our reality isn’t measuring up—as if we’re accountable for everything.
It’s easy to believe you’re failing—and it’s all your fault.You are not failing, it’s no-one’s fault!
Next time you’re tempted to compare your dinner time to a Disney movie—remind yourself your children aren’t characters in a movie, and their behaviour is absolutely NO reflection on your parenting.
So, let’s start from place of: No judgments. No blame or shame or ‘should haves.’ Just “I now want something different for my family.”
There’s a lot of guilt about how much screen time our kids should have and how important mealtime is… it takes away from really understanding what you DO want for YOUR family and YOUR own unique life.
Let’s go back to the mum who asked me this question:
I would encourage this mum to be clear on what she DOES want. NOT what she thinks she should be doing. Or what she DOESN’T want.
Does she want to have more conversations at the dinner table?
Does she want to have more connection time?
Does she want her children to know how to sit at a table and be mindful when they eat?
Whatever your reason, your core desires connect you to your motivation.
Once you’re connected to your true desires your motivation and energy will be there. But what we often lack is the ability to see what action to take, because we may not see the different routes we could take to get us to where we want to go.
Changing your customary, familiar, normal everyday routine is going to cause a reaction from your child. – this does NOT mean your child is naughty, pushing boundaries or disrespectful.
Imagine if you’re used to the same routine at work and your boss tells you that the goalpost have moved and things are completely changing, there will be a learning and acceptance curve.
The same for our children. That screaming and sulking child is learning to adapt to their new family rules.
It’s ok for your children to be upset and not like your boundary.
Allowing your children to be upset and not like your boundary can be the hardest thing in the world. But you do your children no favours if you rescue them from their feelings. You are sending a message that you don’t have faith in their abilities, and there is something wrong with being upset.
So, when your children are screaming or sulking remind yourself that you have the power to encourage them to work through their frustrations, find solutions, persevere and adapt to the new family routine.
Now, let’s focus on what this mum CAN DO to get her what she wants.
It’s important to remember that you learn by success. Rather than thinking you’ve failed if you haven’t yet got what you want. Enjoy the journey to get you to where you want to be.
Small steps and repeated positive actions in the right direction focuses your attention to what you’re doing right. When you gather proof of your greatness and enjoy the moment you start to see your successes.
You might spend time teaching your child the reasons why you’re no longer having screens at dinner time, but information alone is not enough. Your child needs to feel successful in completing the task of sitting at the table.
Focus on your new routine for a few weeks while your children gain more and more independence as you coach and support them through sitting longer and longer at the dinner table.
So, let’s start with this question?
What can you do to encourage your children to sit at the table a little longer each day?
Can they bring a toy to the table for now? Can they help pour water from a jug? (my kids used to love this!) Can they be involved in serving dinner? Can they play word games? Tell stories?
All these motivate your children to want to sit at the table. And each time your child sits a little longer they are bringing out their self-control, patience and concentration. – all which connects them to their inner strengths, while they gain confidence in their abilities,
Practicing and making it fun helps you to stay on your child’s side and keeps your child more willing to cooperate.
Focusing on what is going right, brings more joy to the family mealtime. You build upon successes and before you know it everyone is feeling proud and happy sitting round the dinner table.
The first step is to let go of beating yourself up over where you are right now and start thinking about how you want things to be different and why and focus on the small steps to get you there.
If you’d like more support to get a more fun, relaxed, happy family mealtime let’s chat. You can schedule a complimentary, no-obligation call. You can do that by clicking right here.