Because I had an incredible amount of ground work to do with my little guy just to get him back to being open to eating ..I have had to shelf some of the table rules that should have already been in place at his age. As many battles ensued and if this was really going to work I had to realize for our family which battles would be the most important ..to start with! I know that as we have gotten further along I have been able to build and build on those other important rules.
When we started we decided the most important guidelines would be :
#1. honour the family meal
#2. insist that my little guy eat only what we eat [so hard for him]
#3. neither Mom or Dad were to push our little guy to eat what he did not want [so hard for us]
#4. -AND- keep the family meal a positive one [so hard for us all at first]
In retrospect it is so wonderful to look back on the fruit of our labours ..though not wonderful when you are in the middle of it! I remember really struggling with him climbing up on the table grrrr I thought it would never end and yet after a while of simply picking him up off of the table when he wouldn't listen and placing him back on the bench he eventually stopped. We also allow books! Books have been quite honestly the only way we could keep him at the table, and now we have started to not offer a book when he is getting a meal he really loves because we know he is gonna stay put! When it comes to toys we quietly clear away any toys he brings to the table -I have not yet had to verbally say to him "No Toys" and so far he has not pushed to have toys, somehow by having always cleared them away he seems to understand and has even cleared puzzles etc off the table for 'cleanup time' when I am getting ready to serve.
Because we started all of this late in the game we still have a lot of ground to cover and lots more to learn along the way ..I have had to learn the hard way that the earlier you develop your boundaries with your child the better for the entire family -huge lesson! I am thankful to have a much better understanding now of this whole process Lord Willing going into when we hopefully have bebe #2!.
Here is some of the challenges we have and will be facing :
Currently my little guy has started to challenge the fact that while Mom & Dad are sitting to eat and he is finished ..we don't want to go play with him ..he tugs at our arms .. " c'mon Mama " !! We have to calmly explain that we will not leave the table until we are finished eating ..
When I started offering a cheese course our rule was that he had to have at least one taste of any part that he wants of his main meal to get the next cheese course ..otherwise he fell into the habit of demanding the cheese course before even trying his meal ..aaah! ..in time I have no longer needed to enforce this, he just knows..
Occasionally he attempts to refuse everything ..these moments are easier as they have become fewer and farther between than when we began the taste experiment ..and eventually when he sees us uninterested ..he caves in and will eat at least a few bites.
As our family meals have slowly progressed in a positive manner and he is actually excited to come to the table now ..we have not implemented the rule verbally that if he leaves the table he can no longer come back to eat. Although he does come and go a bit from the table he mostly stays with us ..it is a consideration for the future though. We do have a very hard time when we visit family and friends as he gets so incredibly excited to eat ..this is an area that needs work
..and then add to this list a lot of little things that all of us parents have to endure like ..banging cutlery ..spitting his chewed up bites into his water glass ..running up and down his bench ..etc have all thankfully been short lived but annoying none the less -Ha! Ahhh so much to learn in this life for us all daily!
As we are going along in this journey it has amazed me how he has slowly embraced it all ..the family meal ..and the four course meal ..he has come to expect it and calls out the next course after we "fini" [finished -he is learning his Papas French ] ..he has also started to say the cutest little Bon Appetit! when I serve him something he really loves and he happily begins eating ..oh my goodness it just melts my heart and fills me with so much Joy that far outweighs the struggles!
...here is a fantastic blog post I found recently with great advice on table manners training for little ones in the early years .