Posts Tagged: Alyson Schafer

Holiday Dinner Proper Table Manners

It’s that time of year once again. When we gather around the table and enjoy holiday dinner with our extended family.

Joy… right?  Ahh, not so much. Especially if you are stressed out about your uncouth 7-year old son’s behaviour. Will he break bread, break wind, or worse, toss bread? Or maybe even pout about hating his gravy touching his peas?

Shouting “Where are your manners?” is just as much a part of the holiday meal as cranberry sauce.

We forget our children have substandard table manners until they’re under scrutiny of company and extended family.  Suddenly we think that a stern look or a quiet reminder is somehow going to snap them into shape like yet another Christmas miracle.

Instead we have to invest some time BEFORE the holidays to prepare and train our children in the ways we expect them to behave when we have company. Here’s a quickie dining etiquette course.

Alyson’s Table Manners Bootcamp:

1) Don’t teach table manners during the special occasions.  Instead, have some easy family dinners together that are “fancy” in the dining room with china, crystal, and gravy boats on a Sunday night when it’s just your family.  Get dressed up.  Make it over-the-top fun, like you are actors in a play about movies.  “Pardon me, but would you care for some more water with lime in your goblet?”

2) Teach instead of correct.  Discuss proper etiquette in a relaxed “did you know” way.  Usually we just correct children for their mistakes which they hear as criticism. “Your bread plate is the one on the left” is nicer than “Hey – that’s not your plate, use the other one”.

3) Explain that there are different levels of manners based on the formality of the occasion.  It may be okay to skip the napkin when you are eating grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, but Christmas dinner means you need to put the cloth napkin on your lap. Discuss this BEFORE company arrives. If you don’t, your children will think you are inconsistent and are just making up different rules all the time.

4) Create a list of misbehaviours (privately) that you specifically want to parent around – and tackle them NOW.

3 common ones and their solutions are:

1. Interrupting while others are speaking. Try passing around the salt shaker and whoever has the salt shaker has the floor and can speak while others listen.  You may also need to bring a timer from a board game to the table to make sure no-one goes on and on (and on) longer than 3 minutes.

2. Getting up and down from the table.  Try applying a logical consequence: “ If you get up from the table, that tells me you are done the meal”.  If your child opts to get down, so be it.  Quietly and calmly remove their plate, and don’t offer alternative food until the next meal time. They’ll soon learn to stay at the dining room table and eat enough to fill their tummy.

3. Bubbling milk and other hijinks. Most dinner disturbances serve to keep the lime light on the child. Instead of responding to misbehaviors with nagging and reminding – ignore poor manners and use distraction to engage the child in a more positive conversation.  Ask them about their favorite super hero, or what they want to be when they grow up.

If your children don’t use their proper manners, you can excuse them from the table and invite them to come back when they do want to use their manners.  OR, you can excuse yourself and choose to eat in the kitchen where you don’t have to watch bad table manners.

Try some of these in the weeks to come BEFORE the big holiday feast with family.  And when in doubt – you can always have the kids and cousins eat on a card table in the basement!

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

Your Child Refuses to Wear Underwear – Is That So Bad?

Boy, you think once you’ve gone through potty training your nightmares are over. But recently, I had an email from a mom asking me what to do with her 4-year old who refused to wear underwear.

Well, all you Adlerian trained parents who have taken courses with me, are you thinking back to the theories you’ve learned to answer this one in your own heads?

I guarantee there are no journal articles written by either Dr Dreikurs or Alfred Adler on this exact situation, but here is how I pieced my answer together:

  • I asked myself what is the usefulness or social benefit of the behavior? Probably she gets into a fight with mom and so this could be a power struggle.
  • If it’s power we ask ourselves to divest our personal power and authority and instead try to look at things situationally. What are the TRUE needs of the situation?  Well, gosh, why do 4-year olds wear undies? I agree they must cover their private parts, but if they are wearing pants or leggings or opaque tights, does it really matter to anyone else if they have panties on underneath?  If it doesn’t bother the child and she is covered, is this something we need to busy ourselves over?

I think not.

What say you?

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

Make a lunch kids will eat

You might know what’s best when it comes to your kids’ lunch. But if they aren’t eating it, who cares?

We have all seen it: That uneaten and mushed sandwich, mustard bleeding through the pores of compressed slices of bread. The apple decomposing at the bottom of a backpack. A mysterious and empty potato chip bag floating between homework papers.

Parents often struggle with the lunch game. Packing five meals a week for the kids is not always easy to manage. The misconception is that micromanaging this tricky task will produce healthier results.

While nutrition is important, so is eating. Experts say that getting your kids involved and having them participate in packing their lunches can tackle an important part of the school year and hopefully bring home empty lunch boxes.

This really speaks to self-sufficiency. They ultimately need to know how to take care of themselves and one of the tasks that we need to do is make ourselves lunches.

Banana or apple? Chicken, turkey or veggies? Yogurt or cheese? Children can be picky, but giving them the power to decide what food comes out of the fridge and into their brown bags is a powerful example of ownership. By taking part in the lunch packing process, their choices are recognized as something they want to eat.

Young kids get really excited about getting the bologna from the fridge and putting it on the bread and getting the mustard and smearing it on, because they are making their sandwich. A lot of parents will think if they pack the lunch, kids are going to make poor choices, but it’s actually a great opportunity for parents to teach about food. You can put the Canada Food Guide on the fridge, or whatever food policies you are following, and say ‘do we have one thing from the protein, two things from the vegetables?’, so that you are able to show them what balance looks like – and yet they still get selection.

Timing also comes into play. Mornings can be rushed, while preparing in the evening is asking a lot of pre-planning from a busy family. The idea is that you find the formula that works best for you and if you find doing it the night before is better – great! If you find doing three lunches in a row and keeping them all pre-packed and in the fridge is going to work for you, then great! It’s all about thinking creatively about how to do it better so that it’s not a stress point.

This can also be great chance to get some quality time in with the kids while you take care of the task at hand.

Don’t forget, being rushed or grumpy about picking out a piece of fruit or the filling for a sandwich is going to rub off on your kids. If you put on some great music and you show that it’s supposed to be fun time, things will unfold in the spirit of that. What you are really trying to do is get yourself out of a job. Eventually you are going to wake up in the morning, read the paper and have your coffee and your kids are doing everything on their own, which is what you want. No rushing, no hassles because you have spent time doing the proper training.

Some reasons why food returns home:

  • Too much food. Sometimes parents have no idea that they put so much food in their child’s lunch. If it’s coming home, it’s because you are over-packing.
  • Lunch is boring. There are a lot of fun ways to get kids to actually eat. They have these great little things called bento boxes that have come out of China and Japan and they are great because it is a way for food to look fun, be fun, but still be small, reasonable portions.
  • Timing is everything. Some schools have a policy where the kids eat and then play. In those schools, kids take two bites of their sandwiches because they want to get out and play. It’s the only time they are allowed to socialize in school now, because everything is about learning and desk work, so they get very little free play and they want to get to it. In schools that flip it around and say you can play first and then eat, kids eat much better. So you might actually be curious about what is going on at lunchtime, because it may not just be appetite, it may mean that the school schedule is against them. You may want to see if the school wants to try something a little bit different.
  • When and where they eat. A lot of kids don’t want to eat in public. They find it a private thing, like going to the bathroom, so sometimes it takes them time to feel comfortable.

I would lay off and pack a little less and trust that over the course of 24 hours and 7 days, most kids manage to compensate and get it in at other meal-times. It’s probably ineffective to nag, it’s just going to hurt the relationship and it won’t really bring about the change you want.

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

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