Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Parental anxiety of the week - the dinner table

I think it’s safe to say we’ve conquered the potty. It’s been a few months since he’s had a daytime accident, and even a few weeks since he’s had a nighttime accident (but he’s still in pull-ups overnight, just in case.)

Rather than rest on our laurels, we’ve moved on to conquer the next parenting hurdle, which I see as even more insurmountable: how to get Tristan to sit still at the dinner table.

Does anyone else have this problem? It seems to be getting worse instead of better. For a while, I was worried about hyperactivity and ADHD and all the other nasty things they accuse rambunctious young boys of having, but he’s more than capable of sitting for 30 minutes or more to do a puzzle or read a book or play with his trains. Or, ahem, watch TV.

The dinner table, however, is another matter entirely. I’ve even given up on worrying about what he eats. I’ll put out a little bit of whatever the rest of us are eating for him, but also some peanut butter on pitas or apple slices or whatever else I know he will eat so at least he’s getting something nutritious. I’m pretty sure his palate will expand over time if we don’t nag him about it.

But no matter whether he likes what we're having or not, he will not sit for more than five minutes at the table. He gets on his chair, wiggles off it, tips it sideways. He reaches out and leans on the highchair and pesters his brother, and he tries to dangle off of Beloved’s arm or crawl into his lap. (He’s 38 lbs – that’s a lot of preschooler to have dangling off your forking arm!)

It has denigrated to the point where he just stands at the table, crams a few bites into his mouth, dances away, comes back, pesters someone, eats another bite, rattles his silverware, wiggles on and off the chair… you can see how it would become a little tiresome.

I’m trying to decide if I want to wage this war. I’ve tried the usual array of persuasive techniques, from pleading to cajoling to moral imperative to outright threat. Beloved has threatened to use his belt to tie Tristan to his chair, which I have some reservations about. (Don’t call child protective services just yet.) None of it seems to be incredibly effective and I’m frankly tired of arguing my way through dinner every. single. night.

My ongoing fear is the same one that underlies all my parenting anxiety – if I don’t “fix” it now, are we stuck with this behaviour forever? Or should I chill, call this a phase, and hope it’s a short one.

Any suggestions? I’m thinking Velcro pants and seat cushions…