Picky Eating

2012-06-29 17.42.17

It can be frustrating when a child refuses to eat their food. I’m particularly prone to bitterness when I’ve worked hard on a healthy meal, and the response I hear from tiny little voices is, “I don’t want that!”

Most of us are blessed enough to be able to eat 3 meals a day, plus snacks. Meat is an everyday event; cereal, chips, and baked goods overflow. It used to be that only royalty had the means to obtain a pineapple, and they had to send ships halfway across the world to get it! We are overly blessed to have an abundance of food at our disposal, and my kids have no idea.

I know I have to make a concerted effort to instill thankfulness in their hearts. And oftentimes lack is what produces hearty thankfulness. So when I hear, “I don’t want that!” I don’t play the, well-what-do-you-want game. The rule in our house is, you don’t have to eat it, but there are no substitutes, and no snacks until the next meal. If they choose to go hungry, by the next mealtime they are ready to be thankful for what’s served them! Hungry kids aren’t picky!

We talk quite a bit about being thankful for our food around here. All the kids know that the best way to show that we’re thankful for our food is by eating it!

…in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.    1 Thessalonians 5:18

A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, But to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.   Proverbs 27:7

Stop Repeating Yourself A Gazillion Times

20130421-233827.jpgWe’re usually blowing a head gasket before we realize we’ve been repeating ourselves for the last hour. It creeps up on you. You may be giving out a task to your children as you go about your business, but you don’t realize it hasn’t been completed until you pass by your child- still idle. You remind your child of the task again… and again, only to find out it’s still not accomplished. Eventually, your blood pressure rises and you find yourself asking, “WHY ARE THERE STILL TOYS ON THE FLOOR!?!”

1. Make sure your voice isn’t background noise. Put your hand on their shoulder, squat down, and look them in the eye. Once they are looking back at you, then give them direction.

2. Go for the awkward silence. After making eye contact and giving them their chore, keep looking at them and wait for them to start. They will realize that you are waiting for them to get on it, and begin to move.

3. “Yes Sir/Ma’am” Chart. I got this idea from the Duggars. That fantastic family of 19 well-behaved children. Each child gets a blank chart, and every time they respond with a “Yes, Ma’am!” or “Yes, Sir!” they get to mark an “X.” If they fill up all their boxes, they get to choose a prize out of our “prize bucket” (which I fill with dollar store treasures). This has two great effects. First, it teaches your child that beautiful phrase, “Yes, Ma’am/Sir,” and secondly, it encourages cheerful obedience.

4. Check their work. Create a habit of following up on their work. The more often you check to see if they did it right (or at all), the more often they will follow through correctly.

5. Mean what you say. Let’s admit it. We say a lot of things that we don’t really mean. Ask yourself, do you really care if they follow through or not? If it’s not that big of a deal that they pick their blanket up off the floor, communicate it that way. “I don’t really like looking at your blanket, would you mind putting it away?” But if it’s essential, choose your words differently. Use your “Please go do this now” tone sparingly. If your serious tone is overused, then it won’t be taken seriously.

6. Enforce. Name a consequence that will be given if the chore is disobeyed or ignored. Maybe a spanking, or a removal of privileges. If they don’t complete the task in the allotted amount of time, follow through with the consequence. (But remember, don’t threaten if you don’t intend to follow through!)

7. Praise generously. Nothing will motivate them to want to work hard for you like making a big deal out of their obedience. Hoop and holler, give out hugs, kisses, high fives, and loud “Well Done’s!” They will learn to take pride in their work if you are proud of their work.

What Do You Allow?

Yellowstone 2011 - Anthony's Pics (31)I often get frustrated and think, “Why are my kids doing this?!” Like when they talk back or argue, talk disrespectfully, or even just jump on the couch. “Don’t they know what they’re doing is not allowed?!” The simple answer is, I’ve allowed it. I let them do it once, or a few times. I’ve allowed it. I let them do it with no consequence whatsoever. In my mind it’s definitely against the rules, but according to my actions, it’s totally permissible.

Before I freak out, I need to reign it in, and think through if I’ve actually taught them not to do that. If I haven’t taken the time to discipline that sort of behavior, then now’s the time to begin.

If I silently disapprove of a behavior for too long, eventually I will explode, resulting in mean-mommy guilt, and a confused and hurt child. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of our children’s behavior. Stay engaged and on top of the situation at hand. Manage the misbehavior as it comes, so that you can constantly be at peace with your child, or presently working towards it.

A Poem For Uptight Mothers Like Me

LOVE

If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place, but have not love- I am a housekeeper, not a homemaker.
If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements, but have not love- my children learn of cleanliness, not godliness.
Love leaves the dust in search of a child’s laugh.
Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints in a newly cleaned window.
Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk.
Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys.
Love is present through trials.
Love reprimands, reproves, and is responsive.
As a mother there is much I must teach my child, but the greatest of all is… LOVE.

A Love That Multiplies, by Michelle & Jim Bob Duggar

Keep The Kids Busy

IMG_6146One thing I’ve learned with my children is that they behave better when they’re kept busy. When there’s been an excess of bickering, fighting and mischief, it’s usually due to my being preoccupied with something other than my children (Facebook, anyone?). While they wander unmonitored, trouble brews.

One way to keep the kids busy is to come up with activities for specific blocks of time. This takes planning and strategizing, but it will be seeds for a more peaceful home.

In our house we have School Time, Pick Up Toys Time, Lunch Time, Play Time, Writing Practice Time, Reading Time, Drawing/Coloring Time, Puzzle Time, Clean Up Kitchen Time, Chore Time, Movie Time, etc.  Giving the kids a sense of structure and organization reigns in their behavior and attention.

Even if I enter my day unplanned, I can still turn it around by announcing, “Okay everyone, it’s Lego Time!” Get everyone focused on the same activity. Then plan out the next few hours, and do your best to stay a couple of steps ahead of your children. Approach each new activity with excitement, expecting each little person to participate. This will promote unity, and discourage complaining if they know they all have to do it together.

Another way to keep your kids busy is to have them work with you. Teach them to participate in the chores you do. If they complain about having to work, be even more adamant about them completing their chores until it’s so common they expect work to be a normal part of their day.  Not only will they stay out of trouble, but they’ll get a head start on developing a good work ethic!

She watches over the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness. Proverbs 31:27

Dealing With Tantrums

IMG_0702I saw a poor woman yesterday in the grocery store. It’s the same woman we all see and pity. Her child is on the floor. Defiant. Screaming. She’s embarrassed. Trying to maintain an appearance of control, she impotently orders her child to get up. “Stop it. Let’s go. I mean it. Stop it right now. Get up. I’m going to leave. Fine, I’m leaving now. Bye. I’m leaving! Stop crying. Get up!” But her child’s behavior reveals who has the control.

Tantrums. You have got to get on this one early. They’ll start at age one, and you have to stay on top of it for years. The best thing I believe you can do is tonot allow them. That’s not to say they won’t happen. But your children should know what will happen each and every time they attempt to throw a tantrum.

My one year old screams when his siblings take his toy away. And he doesn’t stop until he gets it back. He may have been wronged, but if I don’t deal with his reaction now, he will learn it’s perfectly acceptable to throw a fit every time he finds something unpleasurable.

The issue in his heart is selfishness. He wants what he wants, and if he doesn’t get it, he’s going find a way to make me give it to him. It’s the selfishness that you want to teach him to control. His selfish reaction maybe annoying now, but it will grow with him. By time he’s 18, if I haven’t taught him how to deal with his selfish heart, he’s going to be a very hurtful, destructive man.

The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. Prov. 29:15

Children are like cars with a brick on the gas. If someone doesn’t crawl in the car and grab the wheel, they are going to destroy themselves and others.

You won’t get far explaining selfishness to a one year old, but he’ll get the idea if you deal with him swiftly. As soon as I see him begin to scream, I calmly tell him in his ear (because he won’t hear me over his own screams otherwise) not to scream or he’ll get a spanking. He continues screaming, so I take him into a private place, and give one spanking. I then tell him what to do instead of throwing a tantrum. If you don’t instruct along with discipline, your kids will keep screwing up because they will always know what they are doing wrong, but never know what to do right.

“Don’t scream,” I tell him. “Say, ‘Can I have that back please?’” He does his best to parrot what I instructed him, and I reward him by granting his request. I praise him for responding calmly and unselfishly. “Good job! That’s right! That’s a nice way to react!” Make a big deal about his obedience; give him a hug and tell him you’re proud of him.

As their comprehension grows, you can actually teach them what selfishness is. My older children understand it as “not sharing.” We’re steadily moving from that concept to “not throwing a fit when we don’t get what we want.” Give them alternatives to freaking out. Instead of crying, talk normally. Instead of screaming, ask politely. Instead of hitting, go find an adult.

Keeping children from throwing tantrums is a 24/7 job! I will reiterate my point from earlier. You have to correct them every time they throw a tantrum. Let them know every time that it is unacceptable. If you ignore it, because it’s too unpleasant or inconvenient to correct them, I assure you that they will become increasingly demanding before bedtime. If you go days or weeks without correcting tantrums, you will find yourself dreading taking your kids into public. If you go years, your child will be on You Tube as an adolescent throwing a tantrum because his video games got taken away.

One last powerful point is to appeal to authority. Tell them, “We don’t throw tantrums because Jesus wants us to be thankful. It dishonors Him when we are selfish. If we love Him, then we want to obey Him. Being thankful is saying ‘Thank you’ to Jesus for everything you have.”

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. Psalms 100:4