parenting through food

Parenting through Food: Making Meal Times Work

Connecting with Food – Episode 3

In my earlier post, I had written about different types of family tables – the silent ones, the noisy ones and ones in between.

I have always been a listener. So, silence was what my son, received from my end when he was a toddler. I would feed him silently and there wouldn’t be much interaction between the two of us. Somehow, making small talk has always made me uncomfortable.

But my son, like every child, was looking for sounds, and to make some of his meal sessions less painful to my mouth, I would switch on the TV. He began to watch Tom and Jerry on a loop. In the absence of a human teacher, my child began to learn from the virtual character. And it was Tom.

It was Tom, because of something that I had taught my son. I had repeatedly instructed him to not put up with any kind of bullying from others. The reason for this was since I had been a victim of bullying during my primary years, I wanted to ensure that my son would not be one.

Every time he was teased, my son would put himself in Tom’s shoes, because Tom was teased by Jerry. And he, began to behave like Tom. He lashed out in rage. He would hit everyone who he thought, had teased him. Soon, hitting out became a reflex action for him. I watched his rage rise without understanding it.

Then, I noticed a pattern…

When I realized the connections between calm, food, family and conversations, I began to understand my son’s behavior. At the same time, I have noticed similar patterns in other children. The niece who watched Barbie on a loop, and wants to live Barbie’s life. The best friend’s son who watched Oggy and the Cockroaches, and began to get attached to television watching, because that was what Oggy liked to do. Another friend’s son who has watched Doraemon identifies with Nobitha and not only stays away from his academics, but also never listens to his mother, just like the character.

The way children behave is directly connected to what they understand and take away from their initial formative years.

Why is this so?

The neurons in a baby’s brain are very less. There is more free space. So, the early connections that they make, are not only the base connections but also the strongest connections that they will carry for the rest of their lives. Since babies are always looking for calm, their strongest connections are with whatever it is that helps them reach this calm. The list would include food, sleep and family. Most of us feel better after eating our favourite food, getting a good night’s sleep or after having a therapeutic chat with our family. Babies and toddlers learn more from family, and what they learn sets the stage for their subsequent connections.

Which gets us to part where we decide…

…to create amazing dinner table conversations.

Amazing always beings in the head. But amazing will stay in the head until we can translate that amazing into actions.

The dinner table can be a place for education, laughter, excitement or fights. The first step towards achieving contentment through food begins when we consciously try to bring in only education, laughter, and excitement into this holy zone.

Next, we set the pace for the conversation. Conversation should always happen between eating. It is essential for everyone at the table to not only focus on what the conversations, but also on what they are putting into their mouth. In the moment of understanding that the food feeds the soul, we should also be grateful for the fact that food feeds the body, and a healthy mind can only exist in a healthy body.

Then, we plan and execute what the children will see at this place. We can teach our kids to eat the right foods. All we must do is eat healthy food in front of them and perform our act of liking the food. But it would also help to like the food sincerely, because toddlers can tell a lie when they see it. We can also teach values, make family plans and talk good about the world.

My son, because of his school timings, eats alone when he gets back home. I have often been at a loss on what to speak with him during this time. So, I would continue to do my own work and he would eat with only the knowledge of my physical presence. One day, I broke this pattern when I learnt about the effect of stories on the brain.
So, what can stories do to the brain?

Introspection time;

• What does your child do or see when he/she is eating?
• What has she done or seen when she was a toddler?
• Can you identify behaviour patterns based on what your child has observed? 
• Is the behaviour affecting them positively or negatively?


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