When the dinner table becomes a battleground

In her latest column, journalist and mum-of-two Sacha McNeil reveals just how tough it can be to get your toddler to eat better.

Food and shovelling it into the smaller members of the family, comes with a plethora of mouth and mind games. But I don’t blame kids entirely for some of this inevitable drama.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar wasn’t exactly a shining example of choosing sensibly from the food pyramid, and who did Sam-I-am think he was offering a large dose of salmonella plated up with his Green Eggs and Ham. James and his Giant Peach didn’t portray any sort of portion control, and Willy Wonka certainly has a lot to answer for as far as over-indulgence goes. There are some confusing messages out there on the pages of children’s stories when it comes to eating.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that the struggle starts early, and the high chair can become an explosive political territory where a hard-fought battle of wills is played out. I can still remember that stubborn, steely eyed determination, lips tightly pursed against the hopeful nudge of a teaspoon heaped high with green mush. In these moments of food feeding frustration, I wondered that there might be some sort of genius karma at play – a flashback reminded me of a headstrong fourteen year old announcing to my parents proudly that I was becoming a vegetarian, no consideration given for Mum’s already hectic cooking schedule.

The way I see it, this period of baby and toddler feeding (slash increased wine consumption) is character building. Nothing burns the cheeks like that moment the little person delivers their party trick the one time you’ve attempted a meal outside of the house. You know the one – when a young waiter in a freshly pressed white t-shirt arrives just as the toddler times their projectile ‘machine gun style’ yellow mush evacuation gag perfectly.

And then there are the antics around hiding food from Mum, Dad, Uncle or Grandparent! Who knows where kids shove all manner of rice, pasta, raisins or corn kernels.

Forgive me for not offering advice on how to combat fussy eaters. My only assurance is that, one day you may curse the amount they eat, as a teenager with hollow legs. And even though children’s literature can be confusing at times when addressing cuisine, the best food and family time at the table always seems to have a story behind it.

For tips on making dinner time easier, check out MyFamily Food website

Sacha McNeil is a journalist, news presenter and busy mum of two. Join her each week as she shares the lessons she has learnt about parenting – and the things she is still trying to figure out. From dealing with fussy eaters, how to keep toddlers entertained and everything in between, Sacha’s practical advice is both motivating and often hilarious.

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