By: Tricia Duggan, Ottawa Valley Moms
As my son gets older, his need for independence grows. It’s fun to watch him explore his environment, tackling new and exciting adventures every day. With this new-found independence comes a very strong opinion. At first I could handle the challenge and even found it cute, but it has now become a difficult and frustrating battle of wills. I find myself struggling with wanting my son to enjoy his autonomy, and wanting him to conform to our rules.
Our latest challenge surrounds mealtime. I cook a nice dinner for my family, keeping my son’s preferences in mind. Regardless, he usually refuses to eat. At first, I would offer up a few other options, as I didn’t want to see him go hungry. As time went on though, he would climb up to the table and instantly turn his nose up at food, no matter what was served. He would then proceed to go through the cupboard picking out his favorite snack foods.
It came to a point that he wasn’t eating very healthily. He would eat Mac and Cheese every day if I let him, but he was missing out on nutritional variety. So I put my foot down. He would have to eat what I served him. Some nights, he wouldn’t eat dinner and would then ask for a snack a few hours later. I would usually offer him a healthier snack so he wouldn’t go to bed hungry. We soon realized this was encouraging him and we needed to set down some more strict rules. Rules that not only would show our son where we stand, but also help us stay on track and united.
The first change we made was to offer fewer snacks before dinner. We had a designated snack time so that he would be hungry for dinnertime. It took him a few days and a lot of tears, but he eventually got used to the new rule. On a few occasions, he would even eat his dinner. The issue was still there, though.
We realized we needed to be stricter with mealtime. If he didn’t eat, he couldn’t have a snack later. We would keep his dinner just in case he was hungry before bed. If he asked for a snack, we would offer him dinner again. At this point, he often would eat it. Slowly, mealtime has become less of a struggle.
I have also started including him in some of the decision-making involving dinner. During the weekends, mealtime rules are much more lenient, so we pick out fun meal ideas together. This allows him to be involved in the decision-making and also allows him to exert some of his independence. We want to make sure that, although he follows the rules, he also grows into a strong, independent person.
My son still sometimes reverts back to wanting control over his meals, but for the most part he sits through mealtime, eating what is offered.
Some days, I feel as though being a parent is the hardest job in the world, yet at other times it seems like it is the only job for me. I will continue to question my parenting style, and won’t always get it right, but at the end of the day I know that I am doing what is best for my son, and that he will benefit from these rules and boundaries.