It was Christmas morning. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I was quite young. That morning, I was very excited, more than usual, because I had asked for something that I was sure was in one of the beautifully wrapped presents under the tree: a stuffed animal puppy. You see, my sister already had one. It was gray and white, very soft, and it “slept” on her bed every day. I wasn’t allowed to play with it, for “Peppy” was my sister’s special friend. Oh, how I wanted a puppy of my own, to cuddle with every night. I had hinted this to my parents on a number of occasions.
The packages were handed out, and I remember being excited as I opened the gift that I was sure contained my puppy. As I pulled back the paper and looked, there it was, my puppy – A PINK POODLE. What?! Talk about major disappointments! Whoever heard of a pink dog?! Not only was it a ridiculous color, it didn’t even curl up like a real dog. It just stood all stiff-like. I know I smiled and tried to hide my true feelings as I hugged my “pink” dog.
My parents always taught us to be thankful for what we were given and to appreciate all that we had. Words like “I don’t like it,” or “This isn’t what I wanted,” were never allowed. I am sure I wasn’t completely successful in hiding my disappointment from my wise mother, but I know that I thanked my parents for all my gifts, regardless of the disappointment I felt.
Teaching children to be thankful is something which must start when they are very young. Children are naturally selfish, and they want things their way. One area where this is most prominant is at mealtime. I have observed many times, children being given choices in what they would like to eat, being served meals different from the rest of the family, turning up their noses at the food that is being served, as well as hearing utterances of dislike for the food set before them. Meanwhile, the parents laugh nervously at their children’s rudeness and make excuses for their behavior. I can’t help but wonder if this is allowed in front of others, what kinds of things take place at home, when only the family is present.
I think we all would agree that an ideal suppertime (or any meal for that matter) routinely would be one where the family is seated at the table, the children are cheerfully eating their dinner, and the meal is consumed in a reasonable amount of time. This, believe it or not, can be accomplished. I want to include just a few guidelines which, when strictly followed, will result in children being thankful for the food which they have been served, as well as peaceful mealtimes to be enjoyed by all family members.
First of all, NEVER offer choices for your children. What is to be the mealtime menu should not be decided by children! “Oh, but I like my child to have a ‘say’ and feel important in helping to make decisions in the home.” Sorry, the parents are the ones to make decisions – period! (Remember, we are talking about young children in this article). When we allow our children to pick what they want for supper, then we open the door for dissatisfaction (not appreciation), when something is served that they would not ordinarily choose to eat.
Secondly, do not fix something different for a child who doesn’t care for what is being served. When we are willing to make a different meal for a finicky child, it is not being done with the child in mind, but rather with yourself in mind. Admit it, mealtime is easier when we don’t have to deal with a child who is not choosing to eat something because he/she does not care for it.
Next, when a child does not like what is being served for dinner, never allow that child to display their dislike- either verbally, or with body language. Things like whining, crying, facial disgust, or verbal statements should be met with discipline. If your children are trained that these things are not allowed, then any disdain should be dealt with the first time, and not allowed to continue or go without correction.
Last, when a child has finished with the meal, he/she should be taught to always say “thank you” to the person who has prepared the meal, even if the child did not like it. Take time to instill in the child that someone has worked hard to cook the meal, and we should appreciate their sacrifice to give us something to eat. Our children always had to say, “Thank you,” before leaving the table. It got to the point where they would be eating their meal and thanking me before they had even finished the food!
Will following these guidelines while training our children ensure the ideal mealtimes we dream of. Yes! There will be times when supper is chaotic, when a child chooses to break every mealtime rule, but if you deal with the disobedience quickly and maintain consistency, then mealtime will be something to look forward to rather than dreaded.
One supper dish that I made frequently, knowing that my all my children would enjoy it, was Ziti. It is easy, and when served with vegetables and garlic bread, should be quickly eaten by all family members. Give it a try!
1 lb. package ziti noodles
4 – 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
3-4 garlic cloves
8 oz. of Swiss Cheese slices
1 stick butter, melted
Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain well. Empty 1 can of tomato sauce into casserole dish. Crush one garlic clove over sauce. Layer half noodles, half cheese over tomato sauce. Repeat layers. Pour remaining 3 cans of sauce on top and crush remaining garlic over top. Pour melted butter on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until top is just beginning to brown.