Toddlers. Adorable, yes. But frustrating, also a big fat YES!!!
For me, the baby stage was a bit challenging with breastfeeding and figuring out how to get L on a good sleep schedule. After we hit the one year mark, life was smooth sailing. Walking, talking, and eating grown-up foods made for a happy, fun child.
But in the past few months before L is turning two, this toddler has turned into a terror.
The walking is now running. Usually away from me, into the street, or onto something she shouldn’t be climbing (like “Please do not touch” exhibits at the Philadelphia Museum of Art).
And the adorable babbling of a one-year-old is now “No, Mommy. No inside. I need outside. Come on, Mommy. Mommy, come on. Mommy. Mommy! MOMMY!”
But what frustrates me the MOST are mealtimes. It has become so difficult to get L to sit at the table for more than a few minutes. She will take a bite or two and then go run around. Sometimes she will come back for more food, but sometimes she won’t. (We no longer strap her in a booster seat, so she just sits in a regular, restraint-free chair.)
To get her to sit still long enough to get a good meal in her tummy, we started the bad habit of letting her watch a TV show on the tablet while eating. This trick totally worked, and she will (most of the time) remain at the table to finish her food.
But now, I’m worried about the TV-watching. So I have to battle with myself and think which do I want more- a child who eats her dinner or a child who needs to be entertained in order to sit at the table with us?
My husband and I are on opposite sides of this debate. He is not worried in the least about L’s need to watch Caillou during dinner. I, on the other hand, have gotten so fed up with the Caillou requests that I swear I’m getting rid of the tablet for good and I ask my hubby to hide it.
When researching my dilemma, I found a very helpful article called “Getting Toddlers to Sit at the Table for Dinner” by Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and a mom. The basic gist of Markham’s advice is that few children of my daughter’s age are developmentally ready to sit still for a family dinner. She also recommends allowing toddlers to graze, because their stomachs fill up quickly, yet they need a constant supply of energy throughout the day.
Regarding TV-watching during dinner (as I suspected), Markham says it’s a no-no. It encourages bad eating habits, like overeating and not paying attention to the food you put in your mouth. An alternative is to read to your child while he is eating.
What this expert advice says to me is “Pick your battles.” While I may want to have a nice family meal where we all eat our food together, that just isn’t in the cards right now. And that’s okay. I’d rather establish a no TV during mealtimes rule, and wait until L is developmentally ready to join us at the table for a longer period of time.
What battles are waged in your household that you find yourself having to choose the lesser of two evils?