The morning of the mealtime standoff

Friday, April 6, 2012

The dining roller-coaster with Declan must be on one of its uphill climbs because lately he seems to be less open than ever to the idea of straying from his favorite foods. In his defense, his breakfast of choice is not that bad, he is a fan of the cereals that I would classify as having a healthy balance of nutrition and sweet stuff. Life and Honey Nut Cheerios are among his favorites.

I have found it is crucial, when attempting to start a day off on a good note, that I ensure we have adequate breakfast cereal in the cupboard. Not only an adequate amount, but of a flavor "unofficially" approved by Declan as well.

I once spent nearly an hour of my evening on the phone with his kindergarten teacher, attempting to find the cause of one particularly grumpy morning Declan had. I don't remember exactly the trouble he caused, but it warranted an evening phone call from his teacher and resulted in a couple of solutions.

His teacher came up with the idea of tapping into Declan's competitive nature by starting up a "student teacher game" that would score him for his behavior. Throughout the day his teacher monitors his behavior and gives him a tick mark when he is being good, also scoring one for the teacher when he is acting out. Typically Declan scores points for the teacher by not keeping his hands to himself, not following directions, spitting while on recess, those are all common.

The idea sounds so simple but has really helped Declan. How he scored for the day is the first thing he tells me when I pick him up in the afternoon and according to his teacher he asks her for updates throughout the day.

The other solution that came from the conversation with his teacher I may not have shared with her at the time. It was for me to ensure the cereal shelf never again runs dry on a school day. It occurred to me as I was discussing Declan's behavior with her that the morning of his grumpy tirade I had attempted to substitute pancakes and syrup for his cereal. When he refused to eat, I stood my ground and did not allow him to have anything else.

At the time I repeatedly reminded myself of the advice a TV child psychologist gave on a show I had seen some years ago. She had said that the key to getting children to eat healthy was to control their options and snacking habits and not to give in. "Their bodies will not allow them to starve, don't worry," she had said.

Well he may not have starved, but she could have warned me about the chaos he would cause at school after skipping breakfast.

I don't regret my decision the morning of the mealtime standoff, it wasn't like I was trying to get him to eat a grapefruit, it was pancakes with syrup for crying out loud. But the conversation with his teacher and the grumpy little tyrant that she informed me he was in class that day, certainly took its toll on me.

I have since made it priority number one, even ahead of keeping gas in my car, that we have plenty of breakfast cereal in stock.

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