Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Questions and (Hopefully) Answers

From time to time people write or talk to me with questions about mealtimes. I've sort of set myself up as an expert by talking about family meals all the time, but believe me, I'm not. However I believe without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors they succeed. So If I don't have the best answer, or even a good answer, perhaps you can help.

Sharon, when we have guests over they bring their phones to the table and often text people who are not present and take pictures of the meal, which usually catch me with my mouth open and a bite about to go in. Inevitably these photos appear online. What can I do? I honestly feel like putting a sign on my front door saying this is a "No cell phone zone."
Talk to Me

Dear "Talk to Me",

Cell phones at the table are a real problem today. I have guests (and offspring!) who text at the table (which is really frustrating when those same people don't answer my text the next week).

I'm a firm believer in humor being one of our strongest allies. So don't get ornery when you see phones in use at your table, instead make a joke! I've heard author and speaker Jill Briscoe say she has a sign on a basket by her front door saying, "Divest Yourself". Her grandchildren know that all electronic gadgets go in the basket in the "off" position while they are visiting her.

Maybe you could do something along those lines, with a humorous twist: as soon as every one is seated, ask, "Does anyone feel the urge to take a picture of this amazing meal?" Let them take photos before you start eating while you have a nice smile plastered in place. Then pull a basket out from under your chair and pass it around announcing, "Now all your cellphones go in here until the dessert dishes are cleared away." Make it light heartedly firm. If you become known as the hostess with the basket, so be it. They'll love your for it--one day.

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Sharon, my kids have become very picky eaters, one in particular and I've let myself become a short order cook to get him to eat something, anything. How can I break this cycle now that I've started it?
Short Order Cook
Dear "Short Order",

Oh dear, once you start it's hard to change, but it can be done.

I think one way would be to let your kids see how it feels to have food you've worked hard on be rejected. You could do this two ways:
  1. Do a bit of role playing -- before dinner announce that you are all going to be a different family member this meal. Work it out so that "picky eater" is Mom. Probably any of the other kids will act out the picky-ness of him, but you can set that one up too. Rules are that you are to act like the person assigned in a lighthearted way. All of you sit in their character's seat and act like them during the meal.
  2. Have "picky eater" help you make dinner, especially one dish. Then have an accomplice (your husband or one of your other kids) just not like that particular dish. They don't have to make a big deal out of it or say, "Yuck!!", just not take it or take a little and leave it and say they "just don't like it." The one who made it will understand what it feels like to work hard on something and not have it be appreciated.
Another way to go about this is to announce new kitchen rules:

Photo credit

Contrary to Mom's Common Wisdom, children will not die if they don't eat dinner (or breakfast or lunch). When a child is hungry, they will ask for food. But, in order for this to work, you need to not allow them to eat anything until the next meal. For more help in this kind of "reality discipline" I highly recommend our favorite parenting book by Dr. Kevin Leman, Making Children Mind without Losing Yours.

Along with this, don't force them to eat large portions of every dish that is new to them. My mom read somewhere that when Caroline Kennedy was a child, she had to take a bite of new foods the first time they were served, two bites the second time, and so on until they were eating a reasonable sized portion. So guess what my mom made me do. Although I didn't believe it at the time, it didn't hurt me.

And finally, although you should serve a variety of foods and expand their taste horizons, fix things they like often, too. I mean what kid is going to enjoy brussel sprouts on a steady basis?

Check my recipes for some ideas of kid friendly foods.

I hope my thoughts help, but I'd also like to hear what you say. 

Please tell me your solutions to these situations!

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Remember to like the Around the Table Facebook page to get a conversation starter for your dinner every weekday night!

Linking with these great blogs.

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Coming Up in This Blog:
Be sure to be back to read these topics coming up!
February 15 -- George Washington's Cherry Birthday Cake
February 19 -- Trivia Night--a great conversation game for family and friends!


  1. Hi Sharon, what great ideas. My Aunt was a picky eater and wouldn't eat corn unless it was cut off of the cob, along with a few other things. My Grandma stopped catering to her when she was around 7 or 8, and she said it crushed her. She felt like she wasn't special anymore to her Mom and she still talks about it 65 years later.

    By the way, I love your rose china, my sister has that same pattern that was handed down in our family.

    Kathy M.

    1. Guess we need to find other ways to show they are special!

  2. Those are some great suggestions and I love the photo of Picky Eater! Amara is also a picky eater but then so are both of her parents, especially her Dad. He has worked hard to try things and to set a good example. Her pediatrician made a great suggestion that has worked pretty well. She must eat the same number of bites of everything as she is old. It was easy at 4 but it is more difficult now -- and her parents do still enforce it! They really are great parents (to an awesome child!).

  3. No one has ever pulled out a cell phone for my meals...should I feel insulted? LOL.

    1. I don't think you should be insulted. I see my guests texting people all the time!

  4. I also believe that a child won't starve themselves, but, you have to have control of everything they eat. You can't let them ignore your good, nutritious dinner, then to fill up on snacks. My Mom's rule was, you don't have to eat what I made, but you can't eat anything else until the next meal if you don't.

  5. I've found having the picky eater help make the meal a lifesaver, for the most part. Of course, regardless of who made it, my grandsons eat only a few bites of anything, but at least when the oldest one helps make it, it's four bites instead of just two.

    Thanks for sharing in the GRAND Social!

  6. I am all over the cell phone problem. I often wonder if my friends really want to be with me when they are chatting with others. And helllloooooooo! Why would someone take their wife out for a romantic dinner and then post facebook messages about the meal, etc? I love my cell phone, but it doesn't control my life.

    As to the picky eaters--my 20 year old daughter thanked me for making her eat lima beans because now they are her favorites!

    1. Pamela, You are my friend forever! (Should I post that now! Ha ha!) Really, it becomes an addiction. My husband and I look with pity on couples we see both talking or texting when they go out together. We turn our phones off and talk to each other!

  7. I was a picky eater when I was a child. I have a son who is still a picky eater at age 50. I think it runs in the family. LOL. The suggestions you give came a little late for me but hopefully will help others. Hubby and I were just talking about how kids use to play with play phones. Now they have real ones. And Etch-A-Sketch and Light Bright? Can't imagine kids getting excited about those today. Times have really changed.

  8. I've dealt with this by making food fun by adding cupcake picks or cutting it into fun shapes!



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