Works for me: Avoiding dinner time tantrums

Bean, my precious 2- but nearly 3-yr old, has a little meltdown almost every evening at dinner time. She doesn’t want to eat dinner (her toys are calling her name). She doesn’t want to sit in her chair (the new booster seat we bought to entice her didn’t help either). She wants to paint. Or color. Or do virtually anything besides sit at the dinner table in her chair and have a meal with the whole family. It’s gotten to the point where I hate dinner time. I loathe the fight of getting her to the table without a tantrum. I can’t stand having to remove her from the table to the naughty seat after we say grace because she’s screaming at the top of her lungs and being 100% unreasonable.

But… I recently found a way to stop her in her tracks. (Imagine light bulb flashing on – Eureka!) First of all, she gets fair warning (10 minutes till dinner…   5 minutes till dinner…  We’re gonna eat in 2 minutes. No arguments tonight!). But then when the whining inevitably starts, I coyly ask her, “Bean, I need some help in the kitchen. I really can’t manage all of this by myself.” At that point, Bean comes running, because what does a toddler love more than the feeling of being needed? I hand her some spoons, napkins, and, if I’m feeling brave, forks. And I give her instructions for where to put each piece. This happens, of course, in stages. Here’s some napkins, Bean. Put one on the table in front of every chair. Next comes the spoons, etc. At the end, she gets a big, exaggerated high 5, followed by a gentle request to show her little brother how big boys and girls get up into their own chairs. By the time I bring her plate to the table, not only is she beaming with pride, she’s also telling Little Man how it’s done.

Fight avoided. Family eats in peace.

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