Here’s the scene: Dinner time.  The evening in our house runs on a tight schedule because frankly, Chase is a crabby patty. He goes to bed at 7:00 pm…and when I say he goes to bed at 7:00 pm, I mean he is bathed, changed, fed and IN bed at 7:00 pm. Therefore, come 6:00 pm, he starts to get very fussy.

In the best-case scenario, Cooper and I are eating dinner between 5 and 5:30 pm (Chase eats around 4:00 pm) so that we have time to eat and then get cleaned up BEFORE Chase starts to get too crabby. If I miss the mark on this then I’ve got trouble.

The problem: Cooper. Yes, Cooper is killing me with his slow eating. Last night, I was a little late getting dinner on the table. (Totally my fault.) It was 5:55 pm when we sat down. At 7:19 pm I was ready to send the child to China and he was still eating (and crying) and I was attempting to put Chase to bed because the evening was so off kilter. Cooper didn’t want me to take his food away because “he was hungry”, but he wouldn’t be quiet and eat. (There is lots more to this story but that is the short version of what happened.) This is getting to be a regular evening issue here in the Nevil household and I’m pretty perturbed by it.

Additionally, the problem is that he won’t just shut up and eat! I love him and he’s a fun kiddo, but really, REALLY?

Therefore, my question to you all is this: What is a reasonable amount of time that I should/you give to your children to finish their dinner?

I am a firm believer in kids sitting at the dinner table with their parents.  I don’t do the getting up and walking around thing either. Dinner is dinner and you don’t get your bootie out of that chair until I say. But I also understand that I eat way faster than a 4-year-old, so I try to add a little extra time in there for him to finish his food.  I enjoy talking with him because that is another fun part of dinner; conversation around the table is what families do!

I feel like 30 minutes is plenty of time to eat. I don’t want him to rush, but I also don’t want him to eat slower than mollasses pouring out of a glass bottle on a cold day. You know?

If he can’t do it in that alloted time, I feel like it is perfectly ok to take his plate away from him and tell him that dinner time is over and so sorry you didn’t finish. Especially if he is clearly not making an effort to finish his dinner in a timely manner.

So that’s my issue. How does dinner time conversation and allotted time to eat work in your house at night?




6 thoughts on “Mommy Question Time: Dinner Time…

  1. Good question. Brayden has slowed down eating his dinner too and it drives us crazy. Although we don’t want him scarfing it down, there is no reason for him to take 45 minutes to eat 5 bites of food. So, when we sit down to dinner, Brayden can’t join in the conversation until he is done eating. He hates it, but it helps him along. We do family devotions at the table and he has to be quiet for those anyways.When he is done eating, then he joins in with talking. Good luck and God speed:)

  2. Tiffany – here’s what we’ve done. Both of our kids have gone through super slow eating phases and now that they are interacting with one another, they tend to mess around and not eat, which makes things take forever. So we set a timer.

    I think 30 minutes is more than reasonable. You can still talk and enjoy one another while also comnsuming a full plate of food in that amount of time.

    The timer works great for our kids because it takes the responsibility of hurrying them along out of our hands. You can either set it for the full 30 minutes, or eat for twenty then set it for the last ten.

    Our kids know that when that timer goes off, their plates get taken away – no questions asked. And we try really hard not to constantly remind them of the ticking timer. I generally give them a 5 minute and a 2 minute warning and that’s it. And a lot of times they are shoving food in their mouths those last 2 minutes! 🙂

    Anyway, it sometimes results in tears, particularly from Tia, but we always let her know that she made the decision to talk and play and not eat.

    Oh – and if they don’t eat, they don’t get any snacks. So if that timer goes off and there is still food on their plates, snack time is a no-go. Boo!

    Good luck! I know it can be frustrating. But the most important thing is that you can’t let Cooper’s slow eating monopolize your whole evening. That’s not fair to you, Chase or even Cooper. He’ll get the hang of it.

    Love you and hope you guys are feeling better!

  3. I’m with Kelly, I think 30 minutes is plenty of time. We *usually* keep a pretty strict schedule around dinner/shower time/bedtime, and they know that. We do the same as Kelly, if they don’t eat, too bad. Nothing until the next day. Olivia is our slow one, I think she’d sit there all night if we let her! I’ve noticed if there’s an “incentive” (like dessert) then they usually eat pretty quickly. It’ll be good practice too for when he eats lunch at school. I know they don’t get too much time to eat there!

  4. Awesome ladies! Thanks! This is great stuff!

    Erika, I’ve tried the dessert incentive and you know what that stinker will say? He says, “that’s ok mom, I don’t really want any dessert anyway”. I know, I know…it’s crazy. The best “consequence” for him is usually the loss of tv! Kel, I can totally see my kids being like this once Chase is older…I hate dinner time battles. Though, thoughts of them hamming it up are kinda cute….

    Honestly everyone, this is really making me feel better. Thank you! If you haven’t weighed in yet-please do!

  5. Well this is a fun conversation. Takes me back. 30 min is plenty, but I wonder what it is that Cooper likes about sitting there…is it conversation time with you? is it interaction with the sibling and the mom? is it because he knows bedtime is coming and he doesn’t like that? is it because after dinner you’ll be with Chase and not him? or does he just like the unstructured time to goof around? We’ll probably never know, but if there is something he likes to do after dinner (i.e. story time with you, etc) then he does have something to look forward to. Perhaps reminding him of that would help. Also, since we all can assume that if after 30 min the kid hasn’t eaten, then he’s really not hungry….then we can also make removing the food not a bad thing (something that might seem like a punishment) but an OK thing. It’s OK – you just aren’t hungry so let’s go do something else.

    The timer was a really good friend of mine when the kids were little. It does take the pressure off and when it dings, well that’s just the fun of it.

    Thanks for letting me get my two cents in. Loved seeing your responses.

    1. Hey Jo! So glad you weighed in! Those are great suggestions, thanks! And yes, I’m sure part of it is the attention he gets in that time. We do have time together one-on-one after dinner because Chase goes to bed. And usually, I try to make it something fun like “hot chocolate with mommy” or we’ll watch a show together or play a game, etc. So it’s not like the evening is “over” in terms of attention once dinnertime hits. But thanks-you’ve given me some things to ponder….

      Love ya!

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