July 29, 2008,
L.B. asks from Plano, TX on July 27, 2008
What Is Expected of 2 Year Old at Sit-down Meal Times?
My daughter who turned 2 years old last May is the youngest of 3. I have a son 7 1/2 years old, and another daughter who just turned 5 years old last week. I really don't remember too much about my oldest two children at that age being 2 years old when it came to dinner time when we sit down as a family. My youngest one is often the first to finish eating even if she has not eaten the whole plate. She requires more work to deal with. She will sometimes stand up or leave the table. Because we are at home, I usually allow her to leave the table and go play some where else. Maybe I should not do that. I don't know if it is realistic for a 2 year old to sit down the entire dinner meal with the rest of the family when we sit and talk for up to 30 minutes. She can't really sit very long as she gets restless. Because of this problem, I really don't like to go out to eat because it is just not pleasant at all, and usually stressful trying to keep her in one area. I try to bring something to keep her busy such as using crayons on paper or a toy, but it only keeps her busy for a short time, and then she's bored with it. I usually get a babysitter if I want leave her at home. Any advice how I can work with her a bit at a time?
A.O. answers from Dallas on July 27, 2008
My youngest is 2 1/2 right now. I definitely understand. We started taking her out to the car for a 'time out' in her car seat for her to scream until she settled down. It was frustrating at first but later she realized that she couldn't behave that way. We didn't talk to her in the car. Nothing that would give her attention.
Now, all we have to do is say, "Do you want to go to the car?" and she straightens up. We did it with our oldest when she went through that stage. That's what helped us.
Also, might try something that is just for her to play with at a restaurant besides coloring. They do have those 'invisible' marker books. Maybe it might make it special.
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J.T. answers from Dallas on July 28, 2008
i start with my expectations VERY young. once my kiddos were about 9 months old, they sat at the table with us for the duration of the dinner time meal. now, this is b/c they generally eat slower than my husband and i. i have a 5.5 year old son and a 2.5 year old son. they are expected to eat politely, the 5.5yo must chew with his mouth closed, and use good manners in general. if they misbehave to an extreme degree at the table, they are sent to bed(this has only happened a couple of times). now, in public, my kids are expected to SIT ON THEIR BOTTOMS AT OUR TABLE. i have kids of my own and i DO get annoyed with unruly children, but i mostly get annoyed with their parents. just saturday, we were eating at an olive garden in dallas with our boys. the food took FOREVER and our 2yo hadn't had a nap yet, but he was still expected to sit nicely at the table. he chose not to eat anything, and that was fine, i don't force them to eat. their was a family sitting at the booth behind us, on the side that our sons were sitting - it was a couple and a little boy, probably six or seven years old - he was turned around staring at us or hanging his arms over where our arms where our boys were sitting 75% of the time, it was SO annoying. across from us were two women and a little girl, probably about 3 years old, JUMPING in the seat and literally trying to climb up the walls. my boys were like "that little girl is not behaving" LOL! sorry for the vent, i guess it's the pregnancy hormones. but, i guess my point is, if you don't start early with expectations, when do you start? will a 4yo suddenly know how to behave in a restaurant if they've never been taught? i would start at home, having her complete at least a few meals a week at the table with the rest of you and then start with places like mcdonald's teaching her to sit.
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S.S. answers from Dallas on July 29, 2008
Each child is different!!! Keep in mind this is a two year old, attention spans are short. She will grow into it. My four and a half year old and my three year old will sit through dinner and through a limited amount of visiting time but my 19 month old wants down as soon as she is finished eating. I usually let her down if she has eaten well enough but I will not let her come back and forth and pick at food. You might try setting a timer for a reasonable amount of time and making her stay until it goes off. It will give her something to associate "THE END" with.
J.S. answers from Dallas on July 28, 2008
Children should be expected to behave the same as an adult at the table...ex: use good manners, do not throw food, eat well, etc.
Set the rules early in order for the child to learn what is expected of them. That's not to say they are going to do it perfectly, but that's why we practice at the dinner table. This will also help when you go out to dinner at a restaurant.
T.T. answers from Dallas on July 28, 2008
I say it depends on the child. Some children may be able to sit there quietly and wait for everyone else to finish and others may not have the ability to sit there with nothing to do. I myself have a restless child!!!!
I must say our dinner arrangements are different in our house. Since my husband works nights our 26 month old eats her dinner at 6:30 by herself. I am in the kitchen cooking Daddy's dinner getting it ready while she is occupied eating her dinner. Once she is done she gets a bath or gets to play. I dont force her to finish her dinner if she finishes Great if not no biggie (I prefer her not to eat everything on the plate all the time this way i know she wont over eat). I eat around 8 pm and Daddy eats at work.
If we go out to eat we try to get her to wait until we are finished eating and keeping her occupied with cheerieos, books and toys.
My daughter is speech delayed and wouldnt understand you need to sit there quietly. We try our best but we often have to take our food to go because we cant finish.
J.J. answers from Dallas on July 28, 2008
My 2 1/2 year old has to sit at the table with us for the meal, but if my husband and I decide to sit and chat after, then we allow our son to get down and play. We do not allow him to bring toys to the table. The rules are that he has to sit in his seat to eat anything (including all snacks). For times that he is feeling uncooperative, we buckle him in. He never really struggles, but the seat belt seems to serve as a reminder. We rarely have to do that though. Our meals typically last about 20-30 minutes.
T.S. answers from Amarillo on July 28, 2008
In a child development class I took in college, I learned a good rule of thumb, up until the age of 7, expect a child to be able to sit a number of minutes equal to their age. So, in your case, 2 minutes. If she is eating good and not causing trouble, let her get down. Attempting to maker her sit the entire meal will likely disrupt quality time you and your husband are getting with the older two kiddos. She seems to be strong willed, ask yourself, is this a battle I want to pick? About eating out, don't do it, it is fattening and expensive. If you must, get her a sitter or bring home take out. Your kids are only little once, savor every moment.
L.S. answers from Dallas on July 28, 2008
At home, my two year old is expected to sit down and eat, without getting up. However, once he does get up, I make sure he understands if he hasn't finished his dinner, he doesn't get anything else that evening. After a few "I'm still hungry" nights, he pretty much caught onto the idea. He eats till he's full and then he can get down and go play, whether I'm finished or not. Restaurants are another story. I tend to avoid them unless we can go to one that has an outdoor playland for the kids (Joe's Crab Shack) or at least a patio outside to sit. Before I had a child, I'd get so annoyed when parents would come into sit down places with unruly kids. As a mother, I've realized that they aren't "unruly", so much as they are just acting as toddlers do.