Choose your battles: Dinner Edition

I have honestly been meaning to blog about this for months and months. In fact, I started this blog post back in May this year, but for many reasons, just haven’t come back to it. At the start of this year, as had been for many years, dinner times were more often than not, a battle. Darby would ask “what’s for dinner” and after I would answer (roast, stroganoff, lasagne etc) he would ask what else was for dinner, to which I would reply that I would make him some chicken or pasta or something I knew he would eat.

You see, when he was put on meds for his ADHD, his Dr really drilled in to me that he needed calories as his appetite would be suppressed; he even said if I need to feed him ice cream every night for dinner, so be it. So even though I would never have done that (can you imagine the other three kids??) I did have in the back of my mind “this kid needs to eat, no matter what.”

I have always been really good at hiding veges in dinners, but to be honest, I wanted Darby to know that he was eating veges and that they were good for him and they would help him be a strong, healthy kid. I also wanted him to be open to trying new foods, knowing all the health benefits a good diet can offer.

The problem was, Julius had started copying Darby’s refusal to try anything new, or copy him saying “I don’t like that” and mealtimes had become such a huge source of stress for me. I talked about it with Marty, and we started to wonder if his food refusal was an actual aversion, or had it merely become a habit? I decided, with Marty’s and Gran’s support and encouragement, to stop making two dinners, and just insist we all eat the same thing, together every night.

The first couple of weeks were very hit and miss. He was still refusing to eat the veges, but I kept putting them on his plate. Funnily enough, when Darby would refuse, Julius would agree! Maybe in a “look how good I’m being, Mama” kind of way, but I was happy it was having at least some good results.

One night, it all kind of blew up with Darby screaming that he didn’t want to eat the roast dinner we had cooked on a Sunday night. He got himself so worked up in such an emotional state, that after 45 minutes, I gave his Uncle Felix a call to see if he could assist. After maybe 30 minutes on the phone, Darby came out with the game plan. If he ate his dinner, including his veges every night for a month with no fuss, Uncle Felix would buy him a new basket ball. Felix also introduced him to the art of holding his nose while eating anything he didn’t really like, and drinking water to wash it down.

Both of them using this technique!

And do you know what? It worked. Being consistent with “this is what is for dinner, let’s give everything a try” meant that over the following weeks and months, dinner time evolved from drama, fear (his and mine) tantrums, tears, (his and mine) refusal and frustration (everyone’s!) to this…

Meatloaf, mash and veg

and this…

Chicken wraps with salad
Lamb koftas with rainbow cous cous

Honestly, this has been one of my greatest and proudest parenting achievements, and it has made dinner time in our house so enjoyable. These days, he rarely holds his nose when trying new things, and even if he does, it’s only for the first few bites. Darby is so damn proud of himself as well, and trying new foods is no longer a big deal. He even tried asparagus for the first time last week, went back for more, and has asked for it every night since!!

I never would have thought this was possible!

It has opened up so many more dinner possibilities for us, and it has been great for all the kids to experience this turnaround. And even though Chance and Quinn basically always eat what I cook, the other night I made chicken pockets with capsicum and Chance took one look at it, said he didn’t like capsicum, and didn’t want to eat it. I told him he had to have one pocket with the caps, and the rest he could pick it out, but after the first one, he started eating the second one without the caps in it, and said it was actually better with it in, so added some.

I really love this dish!

The mexican meat I make is full of veges (lentils, zucchini, carrot, corn, black beans) and one week I added kidney beans as well. This nearly pushed the younger two boys back to refusal mode, until I invented the game “bean or no bean!” So they would close their eyes, I would feed them a spoonful, and they would have to tell me “bean or no bean!” and every time they got it right, (there was basically a bean in every single bite!) I would add a choc-chip to their tally to have after dinner. They ate every last mouthful, and probably got about 15 mini choc-chips for their efforts. So good!! 🙂

The other benefit has been that Darby’s eczema has been almost non-existent since he started eating better, and I have pointed that out to him, to show him the benefits of eating well, on the rest of your body. I shouldn’t have been so surprised, but it has certainly been an added bonus!

I cannot begin to tell you how much of an impact this change has had on our family, and I just wanted to share it with you all xx

Just so proud of us all!

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *