We have a problem in our house and I can use your help. Our 4 year old takes a long time to eat. I know it sounds silly but is there a way to get her to eat her meals in a reasonable amount of time? Unfortunately, being a nurse, I can eat a full meal in 5 minutes… it’s not pretty and I’m NOT proud… but truly my expectations (and hopes) are NOT for her to be able to do the same! But again, we spend a lot of our meal times scolding and begging and I am tired of this everyday. What can we do?
I am not sure how long she is taking to eat but I am assuming it is more than 5 minutes. Kids have a different clock than we do. They have a hard time rushing through life and if they were graded for time efficiency they would get an F.
Kids don’t feel the pressure of time like we do. They can’t even tell time. As I am writing this I realize it is a sort of blessed existence but it drives us modern, efficient parents up the wall.
Not only do kids take a long time to eat (actually most parents complain that their kids don’t eat at all) but they take a long time to do everything, getting into the car, getting dressed, climbing into bed etc.
The only things that they do quickly are the tasks that we would like them to spend time on, brushing teeth, cleaning their ears and picking up their toys.
So now that you know your child’s behavior is pretty typical of a 4 year old, I would try to revise your schedule. Calmly assess how long she takes to eat and work around that. If it is 15 or 20 minutes than plan for that. Try to relax during that time and enjoy your meal and spend the time discussing your day. You might even see that you like having a slow paced dinner. (Personally, when my kids were young all I wanted was for everyone to finish up so I could clean up and get everyone into bed. But now that my kids are older I find myself lingering and enjoying dinner- there is hope yet!)
If you can’t, because you have too much to do, you don’t have to sit with her while she eats. You can leave the table and start cleaning up so you don’t feel as if you are wasting time. She is 4 years old, she can sit at the table by herself.
I would try to avoid the scolding. Some kids like to make their parents angry, it gives them a feeling of control. So find ways to keep yourself calm and allow her the time she needs. Try not to give her a lot of attention if you think she is doing this as a way of feeling empowered. You might see a reduction in the time she actually needs to eat once you let her do her own thing.
I hope this helps,