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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Table Manners Redux

As it turns out, Son doesn't read this blog. That's probably a good thing, in general, given that I love to write about his bathroom break booty shaking air guitar and about the crazy rules he invents surrounding major holidays. However, in the case of his table manners, which you may recall are not precisely what one might identify as absolute perfection, it might have been good for him to read the little missive I penned a few weeks ago. Then again, sarcasm is typically beyond a four-year-old.

In desperation last week, I worked with him to concoct a list of Table Rules that he could strive to abide by and that might go some way towards alleviating the rising feeling that I want to pull my hair out and run screaming from every meal. Here is the chart we now have laminated and posted on our kitchen cabinet. (Click the picture to enlarge it if you want to read the words or see the finer detail in the particularly artistic rendering of green beans. *snort*)

Thus far, it seems to be working. In part, I think this is because it was a team effort. We had a long talk about what would constitute "good manners" at the table, about the things one should and should not do, and we came to mutual agreement about what ought to be listed here. Although I drew the pictures, he dictated the descriptions. He also got a big kick out of drawing the red circles with strong slashes through them around all the bad behaviors. Suggesting that a mutually-derived picture chart can be a good way to shape pre-schooler behavior is perhaps the closest I'll come on this blog to giving parenting advice. I do think the key to its success is his participation. Also, incessant repetition. We look at this chart several times a day. We talk about it. I offer reference to it when a bad behavior begins to rear its ugly head. (Which, if you have a pre-schooler, you know is synonymous with repetition, since such references need to happen approximately 2 times per minute during mealtime.)

We have certainly NOT, in just a few days, managed to curb completely the bopping in and out of his chair, the use of salt-and-pepper shakers as dancing, speaking creatures who love to cavort with the ketchup and pancake people, or the ticklish urge in his fingers to bring actual toys to the table. On Monday, he made a pewer* out of the crust of his grilled cheese sandwich, a move Daughter immediately copied, so that I wanted to bang my head repeatedly, hard, and often on the table in utter agony of ever having children I could allow to eat anywhere--besides a corral--outside of our home again. And we had a conversation two days ago that went like this:

ME: How are you doing with those carrots?
HIM: Well, I like the strawberries.
ME: Yes, but you need to eat the carrots too.
HIM: Well, can I have an orange?
ME: You may have an orange if you eat the carrots.
HIM: [starts eating carrot; I begin peeling orange; one baby carrot later, mouth full of orange, he smiles at me] Fruit is good. I like fruit better than vegetables.

Yes, he's not completely following all the rules. HOWEVER. In place of calling vegetables "yukky," he did manage to construct a rational sentence in a pleasant voice expressing a preference for fruit, after having consumed a carrot. Progress. And he did go on to eat all eight baby carrots after finishing the orange. Also, we have had no knives in milk incidents in over a week. (If you're still wondering about that list item, here's the backstory.)

So I count this little work-in-progress successful enough to continue. At least until I lose my mind over his utter incapacity to keep his buns in contact with his chair seat for two consecutive minutes...

* For the uninitiated: A pewer is a gun. Before he knew the word gun, he referred to them as pewers because that's the sound they make when you point them... pew -- pew pew -- pew. Now pewer is his semantic work-around, since we don't allow gun toys in our house.

16 comments:

Kelly said...

My table-monster is only 20 months, so rational discussion is out. We do read the book, How Dinasaurs Eat Their Food, but lately it's been a how to of bad behaviour for him. I love your technique, and if you could just come live with me to help implement it for awhile then maybe..just maybe it would take.

MultiplesMommy said...

MT, you're right, the participatory poster is best. Big Sis and I just made a food pyramid a few weeks ago and planned out meals for a week. Her general diet consists of about 4 things, and I find myself doing the same head-banging-at-dinner move every night just trying to get her to eat. It worked well, but then I neglected to plan the NEXT week's menus with her...I've got to do it again. Good luck with the monster! I feel your pain...

Lis Garrett said...

I have three children (8,6,2), and dinner time in the past has been just awful. My son (6) has sensory issues, so eating in general is not pleasant for him. Progress is touching a new food, and we're clapping if he takes a lick. Most foods make him gag (or vomit). Needless to say, we don't often have outsiders over for dinner. As far as behavior goes . . . I could write a book!

Your chart is lovely! In fact, my son suggested we make a chat, even though we've pretty much curbed the bad behaviors at dinner. We have been seeing a family therapist, and she suggested giving each child three tokens at the table. If they broke a rule, weu removed a token. We also devised a reward system based on how many tokens were left after dinner.

It took us awhile before my son didn't lose any tokens at dinner, and now we're applying the token rule to other aspects of our life.

PS - My son is also highly motivated by quarters. ;-)

MIQuilter said...

I wish I could make a chart for the puppy :( Well, I could, but it would be useless.......

lattemommy said...

Oh, yay! It's the dinner chart! I've been dying to see it since you told me about it. Amazing work there - you're quite the artist! :)

Good luck at the food court today! You should make a mini laminated dinner chart to keep in your purse! hee hee

MommyTime said...

Yes, Latte, it is the long-anticipated, prize-winning quality chart. ;) Your purse-sized version is a brilliant idea. I'll get right on that. Now that I've scanned the thing, I should be able to reprint it any size, right? Don't know if any of it will be distinguishable at credit-card size, but since Son can't read, it's the reference that matters, right?

And the story of what happened today? Table manners were actually okay. The short version of today's particular hell is "this is why I don't have three children, each one year apart."

MommyTime said...

Kelly, I'll come live with you and play Super Nanny (ha ha ha) if you cook for me while I'm there. :) Don't know what I'll do with my kids at home...but maybe if I make enough charts, they'll just be able to take care of themselves while I'm gone?

Lis, Wow, you have much harder issues than I do. (Not to mention one more kid!) You probably should write a book. I'm serious. I bet there would be a huge market for it. I like your tokens idea. As Son gets a bit older, we might add that too.

Sandy C. said...

I need to print out your chart, blow it up at kinko's and display it on the fridge...my daughter is a nightmare at the table...

OHmommy said...

A pewer? That is genius!

Another thing I swore I would never do as a mother is... to buy weapons.

Well... it started with a sword, cause we were into knights, dragons, and castles. Oh my.

Ever since then, he started building "pewers" from legos. And it went down hill from that point.

I love your chart by the way. It is genius too!

MommyTime said...

Sandy -- if it will help, please take the chart. Honestly, though, I think one of the biggest reasons it's working is that we created it together, so you might want to sit down and make one with your daughter. If you don't want to draw, you could always cut pics from magazines or something to represent the behaviors. It's easy enough to find a pic of a knife, one of a cup, and the glue them in the annoying knife-in-milk pose! :) Good luck.

MommyTime said...

OhMommy, ahhh.... the things we swear to ourselves. We have relaxed our no weapons rule to the extent of allowing swords too. It didn't matter in the sense that he was already making pewers out of everything by then, so it wasn't anything new. Also, the Knight in Shining Armor costume didn't come without a sword, and we LOVE costumes, and he was shopping with his birthday money, so we were a little bit stuck. I was much more excited to have him choose that costume than some enormous ouzi looking laser gun (which I actually would not have allowed him to buy), so when he got all excited about the costume, I chose to pick my battles, as it were... good luck with your own foray into this! It's pretty crazy having boys, no?

OHmommy said...

Hey, where did you get your knight costume?

Pottery Barn Kids had some for $80 around halloween but I haven't found good quality ones for less. since then. We would love to have a cape for our collection of foam swords. :)

MommyTime said...

OhMommy, Our knight costume was cheap -- $10ish at Target. It has a breast plate that straps on, a sheild, a helmet (I had to add a strap b/c the helmet wouldn't stay on) and a sword. It's all molded plastic but looks very good. Here's the link for the online version.

Good capes are impossible to find. They're always made out of seriously crummy fabric. Son has a wonderful one long, flowing red that my mother made for him. I've made capes for friends' kids for their birthdays (princess, superhero, etc). The pattern is extremely easy if you sew at all. Email me through my profile and send me your real address if you want me to send you the pattern and basic directions.

OHmommy said...

Oh no. Can't seem to find your email anywhere on your page or profile. Email me at classychaos at gmail dot com I have a sewing machine! Needs to be dusted, but it works. I would LOVE that pattern... I have some upcoming Spring birthdays too.

Huckdoll said...

Haha, the pewer pic is just a little scary - thankfully you explained what it was :)

I also love, no knives in milk..haha. This post had me laughing.

MommyTime said...

Huckdoll, you are hilarious. I had no idea what that pewer might look like, since to me it was so obvious -- but now I feel like I've made a dirty little chart that hangs in my kitchen! tee hee

 

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