How many times have you cooked dinner only to have your child tell you, “I don’t like that!” It is a common theme in many families...it doesn’t matter whether Mom or Dad fixed the meal.. our children don’t hesitate to tell us their true feelings. I can remember that many times I had even prepared dinner thinking I was fixing my children’s favorite foods. But, guess what.....they didn’t agree.
Dinner is one of the most important times in a family’s day. It is the time to gather together for a meal, but more importantly it is a time to just be together. Whether you child eats the meal is really not the important part....I know may be shaking your head in disagreement, but it really is not about the food, it is about being together.
The longer I think about it.. the more I have come to understand this. One of my patients recently told me that she had made her child’s favorite, “macaroni and cheese”. When he (all of 3 years old) sat down for the meal he looked at his parents and announced....”I prefer Panera”. (that should be a TV ad). How can that not devastate you the parent that fixed the meal? But, don’t let it. Tell your child that you are just happy to be together to talk and enjoy one another....don’t let their food choices ruin the meal or turn the meal into a “food argument”. It is not worth it, and we parents all need to remember that our children will not starve if they miss a meal.
I think meal preparation for a family is somewhat analogous to having a dinner party. When you invite guests to dinner they don’t ask you what you are cooking or planning on serving before they accept your invitation. They come to dinner and if by chance they don’t like what you have prepared, they don’t announce, “ I prefer Panera”, they just fake it. They may push the food around their plate while continuing the dinner conversation, or eat a few bites, but they don’t “hurt your feelings” by discussing dinner selections. Those are the social graces that we are teaching our own children when we sit down together for a family meal.
One of the best pieces of advice that I read one day was “ your job as a parent is to provide food (preferably healthy) for your family” and “their job is to decide if they are going to eat it”. Sounds simple enough, but it is often difficult not to personalize meal time. But don’t.....over the years they really do grow to like your food, and one day they even ask if they can “come to dinner!”