A Mom stops playing “20 Questions” with her teenage son — you won’t believe what happens next
FAMILY DINNER MIRACLE: A Story for All Parents of Boys
Any parent of a 2-3 year old toddler knows that family dinner can be a struggle. But does it really have to be? As we recently discovered, it is actually very easy to make your little one eat those veggies, and also have ton of fun in the process.
Last week I attended a seminar by Ted Braude with intriguing name “Boys Work 101” nicely organized by my company. Mr. Braude (psychologist and social worker specializing in boys) talked about how you can’t really force a boy (of any age) to do anything, but you have to let them PLAY and also show their STRENGTH if you want to achieve results. I felt intrigued; just the day before Ivan and I were frustratingly looking at each other over the dinner table both exhausted from resting with Yarik trying to get him to eat at least something. “He must learn to listen! This is not right! We need family time! How do we make him sit at the table for at least 5 minutes?” – we were saying to each other over cold meal while the little one was busy with his Legos in another room. So, I approached Mr. Braude after lecture, telling him about the dinner struggle. “What do you typically do at the dinner table?” asked Mr. Braude. I said that we typically talk about what happened at work, agreeing that it may not be the most exciting topic for the youngster. “Why don’t you allow him to play at the table?” – asked Mr. Braude. Admittedly, we just… didn’t think of that. We were not raised in the way that allowed putting toys on the dinner table, and “playing with food” was way off limits. As I was standing there blinking and processing the suggestion, Mr. Braude added: “And not just let him, – play with him. Take that car and go “wroom! wroom!” And see what happens”.
That night I went home quite inspired and shared the new strategy with my husband. We agreed to give it a try. So, once again it was dinner time and Yarik wanted nothing to do with eating; he wanted to put together dinosaur puzzles. So this time I said: “Fine. You are not hungry? You don’t have to eat. But Daddy and I are going to eat dinner with monster trucks. But you don’t have to join us if you don’t want to, it’s all up to you”. He looked at me surprised while I picked up 3 monster truck toys, handed one to my husband, and put another one next to Yarik’s plate. Making loud “wroom! wroom!” sounds we assumed our seats at the table and begun eating. IT TOOK 3 MINUTES for my son to say “I’m hungry, I want to eat!”. He climbed into his chair and asked for spaghetti. He ate non-stop for about 10 minutes, only pausing to say “Ah! Delicious!”. As you can see on the photo, his monster trucks were “watching” him, periodically making loud “wroom! wroom!” sounds. 🙂
All this time my husband and I were exchanging silent looks of amazement. This worked so easily! No struggle what so ever! This has been such a problem for almost six months!
So,… that was last week.
Now we have a new tradition: a family dinner play! Each evening we have various toys join us at the table, from cars (a police car, a firefighter truck, a bulldozer) to other toys like… an actual drum set. Yeap. And now all of us are engaged in the play, not just the little one. On Sunday, for instance, Yarik initially refused to eat veggie soup, so I took his small toy helicopter and pretended that it carried a load (a spoon with soup) into a garage (his mouth). I would make “Trr-Trr-Trr!” sound, then shout “Open up!” (he would open his mouth), and the soup would land there with a “Gha-dishhhh!” sound. It went so great that my mom who joined us for dinner was giggling across the table. At the end my son said he wanted to take the spoon, so I let him. He started stirring up whatever was left of the soup, then loaded the spoon, pulled it up, and then yelled “open up!” and pointed it towards my face. 🙂 He wanted to switch roles! So I quickly opened my mouth, and received “the load” accompanied with the “Gha-dishhhh!” sound. My mom burst into laughter, but I remained serious and finished the soup with three more loads. It was awesome. And yesterday, Yarik made the “veggie soup sandwiches”: he pulled out broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and chicken from the broth, and arranged them carefully on little crackers, which he then ate separately while drinking his soup. I couldn’t be happier as he finished the entire plate of soup and managed to stay at the table for over 20 minutes!
I have to say that we all love this experience. This is so much more fun than talking about work during dinner! Thank you, Mr. Braude, for your wonderful expertise and wisdom, allowing us to connect with our boy on such a great level! We are looking to learn even more as time goes by.