Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The dinner bell rings…round one!

By Karrie McAllister

I don’t always give my husband credit for his supreme parenting skills.
In fact, most of the time I’m rolling my eyes and mumbling things under my breath when he oversteps the boundaries I’ve worked so hard to set. Being the person who is in charge of the children for the majority of the day, I tend to make the majority of the rules and do the majority of the disciplining.
And when he comes trotting home from work and tells the children they are allowed to do something they I normally don’t let them do, it not only makes me feel small, but it makes me feel like the wicked stepmother.
But he has recently stumbled upon the most glorious parenting tactic that I have ever seen. And judging by the success we’ve been having, I dare say it was quite a stroke of genius.
Like most families, our meal times come with our fair share of struggle. We’ve got picky eaters. One won’t eat vegetables, one won’t eat meat. One would rather sit there and talk about absolutely nothing than eat, one would rather fling his food around the table and burp than actually put anything in his mouth. One won’t stop whining, one won’t stop moving.
And I swear, if it wasn’t for my deep love for food, I’d consider skipping mealtimes all together for the stress it causes me. Not only do I have to get out of my seat countless times to fetch napkins and ketchup, but I spend the rest of my time in between bites convincing and pleading with my children to eat their food.
But no more! Thanks the mastermind that is my husband, I can actually sit and chew hot food and watch my kids become members of The Clean Plate Club.
His brilliant idea? After dinner he hosts a full-out wrestling match in the family room, where my children pummel each other and flail their limbs while rolling around.
Let me explain…
During dinner, he frequently asks to see the kids’ muscles, and we all note how very tiny they are. But then he tells them that meat makes your muscles big and vegetables make your brain smarter so that you can out-smart your sibling once you get in the ring.
And so, what was once an hour of forcing foods down their throats, now we simply have a muscle exhibition and see who is looking especially weak that night.
When it comes to siblings, there’s not a single one who would want to be pinned down by the brother or sister.
So they eat.
And they talk trash.
“You’re going DOWN! Down to the GROUND!”
“Oh yeah? Well, I ate two helpings of meat! Look how big my muscles are?”
“You’re still going DOWN to the GROUND!”
And so on and so forth. The delivery is much better when it’s said by a three-year-old.
Once dinner is over and everyone has finished, the match begins. As I clear the table and do the dishes, my husband, an excellent referee, makes them shake hands and they go at it.
I hear grunts and screams and occasional cries coming from the other room, but it’s worth it because I have no left-overs to pack away and plates so clean they could almost skip the dishwasher.
No, it’s not the classiest parenting trick, but tired parents everywhere know that when the going gets tough, the tough get creative and fool their kids into doing what’s right. And while some may consider wresting a poor reward for eating a balanced dinner, I am sticking with my ingenious husband on this one. And I’m jealous that I didn’t think of it first.
I’m also eating all of my vegetables in case I get thrown into the ring.

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