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Navigating Family Mealtimes:  Finding Peace Amidst Chaos

Welcome to The Mom-entum Podcast, where we dive deep into the joys and challenges of motherhood, empowering women on their journey through parenthood. I'm your host, Tanya Valentine, and I'm thrilled to have you join me today.

 

In this episode, we're tackling a topic that resonates with every parent: family mealtimes. From the chaos of picky eaters to the stress of getting everyone to sit down together, we'll explore practical strategies to find peace amidst the dinner table chaos.

 

Get ready to challenge your beliefs, embrace imperfection, and prioritize your family's well-being as we navigate the ups and downs of mealtime madness. So grab your favorite beverage, settle in, and let's embark on this transformative journey together. 

In this episode, I cover...

 

- Identifying Stress Triggers: Learn how to recognize common stress triggers during family mealtimes, such as children's behavior and mealtime expectations.

  

- Questioning Beliefs: Challenge ingrained beliefs about family meals, including the need for everyone to sit together and eat at the same time.

 

- The Power of Thoughts: Understand how thoughts and beliefs contribute to stress and frustration during mealtimes, and learn strategies to shift negative thought patterns.

 

- Embracing Imperfection: Embrace the reality of messy, imperfect family meals, and let go of unrealistic expectations of perfection.

 

- Mindful Eating: Explore the concept of mindful eating and listening to your body's hunger cues, both for children and adults.

 

- Parental Control: Recognize the desire for control during mealtimes and learn to let go of the need for complete control, fostering a more relaxed environment.

 

- Setting Realistic Expectations: Set realistic expectations for family meals, understanding that each meal may not go as planned, and that's okay.

 

- Promoting Health: Understand the impact of stress on physical health and prioritize creating a peaceful mealtime environment for overall well-being.

 

- Taking Action: Implement actionable strategies to create a more harmonious dining experience, including preparing ahead for obstacles and focusing on positive affirmations.

 

Join me as I guide you through practical insights and empowering strategies to transform your family mealtimes. Embrace the journey towards more peaceful dining experiences, and don't forget to subscribe, rate, and review The Mom-entum Podcast for more inspiring episodes. Tune in next week for another dose of encouragement and practical tips!

Resources Mentioned In The Show
  • To help you take what you learned on today's episode and actually apply it in your life, use this guide I created to compliment this episode to help you turn peaceful mealtimes from something that sounds like a nice idea into reality! Click here to access your guide, do the work and I promise you that you will be experiencing more zen at the dinner table. 

  • Ready to kickstart your transformation journey? Join my 6-week Slim Down course today! Choose from 3 options tailored to fit your needs, including Course Only or One-on-One Coaching with a Customized Weight Loss Plan (available for purchase as a one-time or 3-month payment plan). Rewrite your relationship with food and achieve sustainable weight loss with ease. Worried about finding the time? This course, designed by a busy mom who gets it, includes audio content for on-the-go learning. Enjoy lifetime access and future updates—sign up now, I guarantee you will get results and I got you! Click on one of the following options to sign up today (spaces for one on one coaching are limited): Course Only, One-on-one coaching one time payment, One-on-one coaching 3 month payment plan.

  • Want to give yourself the gift of MORE TIME?  Get AT LEAST 5 hours back/week by doing a time audit.  Don't know where to start?  I've got you covered! For access to my FREE TIME AUDIT TOOL click here.

  • Click here for your FREE DECLUTTERING CHECKLIST.

  • Click here to join The Mom-entum Podcast Private Facebook Community

  • Please subscribe, rate and review the show to help me reach and support more amazing moms just like you! Click here to learn how.

  • Click here to be read more about the importance of allowing your child to get messy while they eat.

  • To learn more about the science behind why you shouldn't eat while stressed (or maybe reducing the stress when you eat) click here.

  • Read this article on adult obesity facts from the CDC.

TRANSCRIPT

Hello and welcome to another episode of The Mom-entum Podcast.  The show dedicated to inspiring, uplifting and empowering women on their journey through motherhood.  I’m your host, Tanya Valentine, and I’m so glad you’re here.

 

We’ve all experienced it.  That dreaded time of day, as my mom calls it, the “bewitching hour”.  You're trying to make dinner and meanwhile your toddler is at your feet, pulling on your clothes, crying, gesturing with both arms in the air that she wants to be picked up.  Your other two are chasing each other around the house when one of them accidentally knocks over a plant spilling dirt all over the place, creating yet another thing to do that will delay dinner time.  Then when you finally have dinner ready, the table is set and your kids refuse to eat.  Your little one stages a protest when you put her in her high chair, and the other 2 will not sit still in their seats for any length of time, it’s like they have ants in their pants.  

 

You wonder, “why do I even bother?”

 

And all of this time, inside you are like a pot of boiling water, allowing the suppressed emotions of frustration, overwhelm and stress to bubble up until you just can’t take it anymore and you explode.  Can’t you just sit down and have a peaceful meal for once?

 

Does this scene sound familiar to you? Trust me it’s something that I know far too well and its going to be the topic of today’s conversation.  How to have more peaceful mealtimes with your kiddos. I know this is a pain point for so many.  And before you think well Tanya that’s nice in theory, but you don’t know my life and you don’t know my kids, it’s just impossible, and I’ve tried everything and this is just a season of life that I have to ride out. 

 

Listen, that type of thinking is exactly what will prevent you from experiencing more peace at this time of day.  And if there is a way you can experience more ease and peace, why wouldn’t you want this for yourself?  Why torture yourself unnecessarily.  Try something different.  If what you have done in the past or what you are currently doing isn’t working, do something different.  The worst that can happen is it doesn’t work and your in the same place you are now, right? So the worst that can happen is just what you are experiencing now.  

 

So Now do I have your attention?

 

   I promise you, if you promise me that you will keep an open mind, actively listen until the end of this episode,  you will walk away today with an actionable plan you can try this week that will help instill a little more peace around the dinner table.  

 

Listen, I am not immune to this.  I know the struggle around this time of day is real, I have experienced it myself.  And I used to get so stressed out, but I can tell you that now, since I have started practicing the things I will share with you today, I can actually sit down for a meal and be so much more relaxed and at peace.  


So let’s start by getting our minds right and gaining some clarity.  Ask yourself what is it you want and why?  Do you want to be able to eat your dinner in peace?  Or is it more important that your kids sit in their seats, no matter what it takes, even if they are not eating, even if they are crying and you have to use force tactics or bribery to get them to stay at the dinner table.  Is the goal to get them to listen or to have a more peaceful environment at this time of day no matter what happens?

 

Honestly, like take a step back a minute and question why is it so important to you that your kids sit down to eat dinner with you?  And I do want to clarify that today’s episode is directed more at kids ages 6 and under.  Because as your kids get older I think this conversation would be a little different.  As your kids mature, their comprehension improves, and it allows for more reasoned discussions.  You can explain the importance of things to them, and they are more inclined to understand and comply. But when you have littles, it’s a totally different ball game.

 

So anyways, Get real with yourself, I had to do this for myself, too.  And when I asked myself these questions and gave myself some time to come up with a thoughtful answer, it was so eye opening and game changing.

 

So if it IS important that everyone sits around the table together at dinner, ask yourself WHY?  And at what cost?  At the cost of my sanity?  At the cost of me fighting with them to stay seated until everyone is through with their meal? Is it worth the stress it causes? And what is underneath all of it?  Why does it bother us so much if everyone’s not sitting around the dinner table eating at the same time?

 

I can tell you, it has everything to do with our programming.  Understand that our brains are like computers that have been programmed throughout our lives.  These programs consist of beliefs and patterns  we are running and many times we aren’t even consciously aware of them because they live deep in the subconscious mind.  It is this programming that can create a lot of problems for us. 

 

 So let’s unlock the programming you have as it relates to this topic, families and mealtimes, and what mealtime is “supposed to look like”.  It’s as simple as getting curious and asking questions, and it’s important to note that you MUST be honest with yourself when answering these questions.

 

Figure out where did this idea come from that it’s important for everyone to sit around the dinner table together to eat?  

 

Am I  doing it just because this is what my family did when I was a child?  

 

Or did i hear someone somewhere say that it’s important for the family to sit together at dinner and go around and talk about their day?  

 

Or is it coming from what i see on TV shows, commercials, and movies?  You see that vision of a family sitting around the dinner table politely passing around the sides and talking about their day.  

 

What you don’t see often though, is the reality.  The kids playing with their food, food and drinks spilled on the floor and on the table.  Kids fighting.  The messy hands, and the stained clothes.  The power struggles between toddlers and parents when they just don’t want to eat. 

 

Why does it bother us when our kids refuse to eat?  Are we worried they are going to starve?  Are we worried we are not doing a good enough job as a parent if we don’t make sure they eat?  What are all of the thoughts coming up for you?  

 

I can tell you that it is NOT the fact that your kids won’t eat at dinner, or that they rebel when you try to get them to sit still in their seats that is causing the frustration and the stress.  I know you are going to want to argue with me on this, but remember, keep an open mind.  

 

What is causing the stress and the frustration are…now if you’ve been listening to me a while now maybe you know the answer to this question…can you guess what I’m about to say? Your THOUGHTS! The cause is your THOUGHTS.  And what your beliefs are about families and dinnertime, this is your programming. And beliefs are just thoughts you have been thinking for a long time.  

 

So if that’s true, and if its your thoughts causing the turmoil, then let’s first start out by identifying these thoughts, questioning them, and then work towards brainstorming new thoughts that feel good to you, ones that you can believe, that will have you and everyone else in your family experiencing more peace at the dinner table.

 

So thinking about dinnertime, I want you to imagine what it would be like if you could just let go and allow your kids some freedom, just notice what comes up for you when you allow them to do what they are going to do.  You might have thoughts like it’s not supposed to be this way.  I’m doing it wrong.  Families are supposed to sit down for dinner together.  I’m not being a good parent if I don’t show them and reinforce how they should behave at the dinner table.  And if I can’t get them to sit still in our home, how are they going to act in someone else’s home or when we are out in public?  People are going to think I don’t have any control of my kids and I’m NOT A GOOD MOM.  They are going to find out I don’t know what I’m doing.  Right? 

 

 Our brain tends to catastrophize. We make it mean something negative about us when the truth is, they are just kids doing what kids do.  Testing boundaries, and they don’t have the attention span to be able to sit still in one spot for hardly any length of time.  

 

And it’s supposed to be a mess.  It is.  I know it’s annoying and just adds more work for you, but don’t add another layer to your frustration by thinking it’s not supposed to be this way.  I actually read a blog post from proactivepediatrictherapy.com that discussed all of the reasons why it’s actually important to let your baby and toddler get messy when eating.  

 

Reasons like:

1.it provides opportunities for sensory play

2.  It allows them to explore and learn about foods  by touching, seeing, smelling or hearing the sound a food makes when they squish it.

3.  It helps them learn about the texture and consistency of food.

4.  Touching and playing with food typically leads to then tasting the food.

5. It creates a fun, positive association with mealtime.

6.  It lengthens the time they are interested in the food.

7.  It gives them a feeling of control, which can prevent picky eating.

8. It helps them learn to self feed and develop fine motor skills needed for finger foods and utensils.

 

So there you go. The next time you feel yourself getting all hot and bothered when your baby or toddler is making a mess, just take a deep breath, remind yourself of all these benefits, and then save yourself some time and frustration and wait until the kiddo is completely done before you start cleaning up.

 

Another thing I want to talk about is this idea that we need to eat 3 meals a day with snacks in between.  I think this is a contributing factor to the weight problem in this country.  According to the CDC, records from 2017-2020 showed that 41.9% of Americans were obese. Is it really necessary to eat that frequently? The answer is sometimes, yes. Maybe if you have a health condition that requires it or if your kid is going through a growth spurt. But most often though the answer is no. Part of The reason it is not good to eat so frequently is that every time you eat, your body secretes the hormone insulin. Insulin is responsible for taking the sugar from the food you eat and depositing it into your muscle fat and liver cells so it can be used for energy or stored for later use. And when it’s stored for later use it is turned into fat. And your body cannot go into fat burning mode as long as it’s in fat storage mode. AND your insulin levels go up every time you eat. So if you are eating so frequently that your not allowing enough time in between meals for your insulin levels to go down, then this can lead to insulin resistance which is a precursor to chronic diseases and conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

 

Listen,  Our kids are eating according to their body’s wisdom, and this is something that we have lost touch with and can learn from them i think.  They eat when they are hungry, and when they’re not hungry, they don’t eat.  We should a take a page out of that book.  How many times do you think you eat when you are not hungry just because it’s “time to eat”.  And do you even know what it feels like to be hungry?  Do you know the difference between emotional hunger and true, physical hunger?  Did you know there is such a thing as emotional hunger?  If not, no worries.  These are the kinds of things that I teach in my 6 week slim down course. 

 

In my course, I address misconceptions about eating patterns and habits, encouraging you to listen to your body's wisdom like our children do. They eat when they're hungry and stop when they're full—a concept many of us have lost touch with. By learning to differentiate between emotional and physical hunger, you can develop a healthier relationship with food and achieve lasting weight loss.

 

In many ways, our societal norms dictate that we must adhere to specific meal schedules, often overlooking our body's natural cues. This rigidity, I believe, contributes to the weight issues prevalent in our communities, as evidenced by obesity statistics and rising rates of diabetes. It's time we reevaluate our approach and learn from our children, who instinctively eat according to their body's wisdom. They listen to hunger signals, eating when they need nourishment and stopping when satisfied—an intuitive practice worth emulating. This paradigm shift, from rigid meal programming to intuitive eating, is at the core of my 6-week slim down course, which you can check out on my website Tanyavalentinecoaching.com.

 

In just 6 weeks, I guarantee you’ll experience weight loss, backed by science-based tools and strategies. This program is designed for busy moms at home with little ones, presented as an audio course for convenient, on-the-go learning. With two options available—one for the course alone and another that includes personalized coaching and a customized plan—I’m here to support you every step of the way.

 

If you’re ready to kickstart your weight loss journey before summer or prepare for an upcoming trip feeling confident in your skin, I invite you to sign up for a free mini session with me. Act fast—spots are limited, with only 5 available for the week of April 1st. Don’t miss this opportunity to take control of your health and well-being and Sign up today!


So anyway, back to peaceful meal planning. Ask yourself what you think dinner is supposed to look like.  Is the family sitting around a beautifully set dinner table?  Bowls and plates of food organized neatly in the middle of the table, family style.  And little Johnny says, “mom can you please pass the mash potatoes”, to which mom responds, “well certainly, son, here you go, thank you for using your manners”.  And the kids are sitting nice and still in their chairs, napkins on their lap, eating their food like civilized human beings.  Dad asks everyone about their day and everyone takes a turn sharing how their day went.  That sounds so nice, right?  But the truth is that this is not reality.  And if you are thinking that this is what dinner is supposed to look like, then that’s the problem right there.  That is the source of all of your frustrations.  Because what you are doing is you are arguing with reality.  The reality is, this doesn’t happen.  I can tell you firsthand.  I mean, maybe it happens for some people, and good for them more power to those families.  But for the majority of people, including myself, this is not reality.  And when you argue with reality and compare something in your life to someone else’s, the way other people are doing it, or you are comparing your life to some “ideal” version, you are setting yourself up for much unnecessary suffering.

 

Another cause of the stress that ensues at mealtimes is this need to control.  That feeling of being so out of control.  When we feel like this, we can become control freaks, trying so hard to control everything and everyone around us so that we can start feeling that sense of control.  Because being out of control feels scary doesn’t it?  When you are not in control, life is unpredictable and uncertain right?  We all like to know what to expect because we want to feel prepared.  But in reality, life is unpredictable, there are so many things that are uncertain.  So let’s just try and let go of this need to control, and just kind of go with the flow.  It’s so much more peaceful this way, and you are so much more likely to achieve the outcomes you desire from this space, because you are no longer fighting, it takes your body out of that fight or flight mode, and you can then get out of that primitive brain and think from your rationale, higher brain, the prefrontal cortex which is in charge of executive functioning such as logical decision making and problem solving.

 

So what does this look like in action?  How do you get to this place of peace that I am speaking of?  Well it takes some practice, but I promise it’s possible, and yes you can do it.  And notice that you might make progress and then slip into old patterns and this is completely normal and ok.  As long as there is a progressive movement forward.  Give yourself grace and know that you are fighting years of programming, so yes there will be times where you will lose your cool but just know it was caused by a belief that slipped in under the radar like “this shouldn’t be this way” or “im doing this wrong” or you might be tempted to think that you are harming your kids in someway by not forcing them to eat or sit down for a meal with you.  I know this all too well, because this kind of stuff will still come up for me.  But I just have to remind myself that all is ok.  I have to remind myself that they will eat when they are hungry, and that the goal is to experience more peace.

 

So to begin I would say take some time to ponder and answer these questions:

 

  1.  Is it important that everyone sits at the table together at dinner?

  2. Why is it important to you?

  3. Does it cause you stress and frustration trying to get everyone to sit still at the dinner table and eat?

  4. Is it worth the frustration?

  5. When your kids don’t eat their dinner and/or they frequently get up from their seat throughout the meal, what do you make it mean about you?

  6. Whatever it is you are making it mean about you (for example if you make it mean you are a bad parent), is this true?  Do you really think that if your kid refuses to eat or sit still at dinner makes you a bad parent?  Let me rephrase that, if your best friends kids were doing this would you judge her and call her a bad parent?  My guess is no.  

  7. How do you want to feel at dinner?

  8. What do you think you will have to believe in order to feel this way?  So what are some thoughts you could practice ahead of time that will be like your “safe word” or your mantra, like a reminder to you of what is actually important and what the goal is.  For example if you want to feel peaceful here are some example of thoughts maybe you can write down on a sticky note that you might want to chose whenever you are tempted to lose your temper.  Thoughts like, “its supposed to be this way”, “my kids are not the only ones that behave this way at dinner time”, “I'm not doing anything wrong”, “I love my kids”, “ they are not going to starve and they will eat when they are hungry”, “by not forcing them to eat im actually instilling good habits because I'm allowing them to eat according to their body’s wisdom.”

 

Also, I read an article by GIDoctors.co.uk that stated researchers have found that stress contributes to the build up of body fat particularly around the abdominal region, and this problem affects women more than men.  Which adds up to a compelling argument to avoid eating when you are stressed, or how about find ways to not be stressed when you are eating!!!  So strive for a peaceful environment at mealtimes, it will make for a healthier you and healthier family overall.

 

So once you have taken the time to kind of change your brain, change your thinking by taking the time to ponder and answer those questions, now you are prepared and you have set the stage so to speak.

 

Next it’s time to think about the obstacles ahead of time and prepare for them-obstacles like your kids may not like what you prepared- decide ahead of time what you are going to do about this and how you are going to feel.  Either you make the decision to say well you either eat what’s in front of you or you don’t eat at all and you stand your ground.  

 

Or if you decide it’s more important to you that they eat and you don’t mind making a couple different meals, then go ahead and do this but have it prepared ahead of time. Make sure everyone has what they need.  What do they usually ask for after you’ve already sat down to eat.  Napkins, drinks. Everyone has gone to the bathroom and washed their hands.Make sure they have at least one thing that you know they will eat on their plate. Double check everyone has what they need and announce once you sit down you are not getting up until you are through with your meal.

 

Now you get to sit down and eat your meal.  And you enjoy every bite.  And if the kids get up to go play, so be it. Or if the kids are not eating what is in front of them, it’s fine.  Decide you are not going to stress about it, you are not going to worry about it, refer back to those mantras you brainstormed earlier.


After exploring the challenges and misconceptions surrounding family mealtimes, it's time to take action. As you reflect on your own beliefs and programming, remember that change is possible. By identifying and questioning the thoughts that contribute to stress and frustration, you can pave the way for a more peaceful dining experience.

 

Consider the importance you place on everyone sitting at the table together and why it matters to you. Is it worth the frustration and stress it may cause? Challenge the beliefs that lead to feelings of inadequacy or failure as a parent when things don't go as planned. Remind yourself that your worth as a parent is not defined by your children's behavior at the dinner table.

 

As you embark on this journey towards more peaceful mealtimes, arm yourself with empowering mantras and thoughts that align with your desired outcome. Embrace the idea that it's okay for things to be messy and imperfect. Focus on creating a positive environment where your family can enjoy each other's company without unnecessary pressure or control.

 

Remember, stress not only impacts your emotional well-being but can also affect your physical health. Strive for a peaceful environment at mealtimes to promote overall health and well-being for yourself and your family. By taking proactive steps to address obstacles and prioritize peace, you can create a more harmonious dining experience for everyone involved.

 

So, as you sit down to your next meal, embrace the journey towards more peaceful mealtimes with an open heart and a willingness to let go of expectations. Trust that by shifting your mindset and approach, you can cultivate a dining experience that brings joy and connection to your family.

 

As we wrap up today's episode, I encourage you to take the insights and strategies discussed here and apply them to your own family mealtimes. For help with application I recommend that you print and fill out the PDF that was designed to go hand and hand with this episode. Remember, change starts with awareness and intention. If you found value in today's conversation, don't forget to share it with fellow moms who might benefit. 

 

And hey, if you haven't already, be sure to subscribe, rate, and review The Mom-entum Podcast on your favorite platform. Your feedback helps this podcast grow and reach more moms like you.

 

Tune in next week for another inspiring episode filled with practical tips and empowering insights. Until then, take care and keep nurturing those beautiful moments in your life.

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