Toddler Dinners: Tough Love

Thought I would bring up the fact that we are a tough love kind of family. Lately this has been very apparent at dinner time. Landon has decided this is control time. He is going to fight for something. It has nothing to do with food. He just wants to see what he can get away with. He stabs his food and waves it around. He makes the broccoli dance. Going to potty 4 times after we start dinner. Dinner is taking like 45 minutes and driving us insane.

When he starts acting out, we start with warnings. “If you don’t calm down and finish your dinner, there will be no time for TV” Ya know, basic facts. Then we step it up, ” Please eat all your X of there will be no special treat”. His ears perk up. Sometimes he takes the cue and eats but sometimes the screams and whines start. Then to avoid spaghetti on my damn carpet, the plate is taken away. This usually results in more screams and cries but he knows he has to calm down and ask nicely to get it back. Strangely enough, this usually works. He is asking for that food and eating it the minute it comes back. Now sometimes the behavior is so bad, it results in time out. This doesn’t really help our marathon dinners but sometimes…tough love is needed. We don’t tolerate goofing around when eating. It is just something Kevin and I agree on. Table manners have to start somewhere and we say here.

What say you?

And because he isn’t always a hellion, here is a video of Landon showing his toddler dinner

And a few toddler dinners for the week:

Toddler Dinner 1
Toddler Dinner 2
Toddler Dinner 3

Toddler Dinners is my weekly series of posts to explore the world of feeding munchkins. Each Monday I will post our previous week’s meals and a rating on how they went as well as discuss numerous issues we all face. Find out more here.

Also be sure to follow me along throughout the week with your creations on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #toddlerdinners.


  1. What I need to know is HOW you get him to eat salad and broccoli?

    My daughter is 2 years and 3 months old. The only veggies I can squeeze into her are the ones that come out of the fruit and veggie packs that are sold in the stores. Sure, great that she is eating them but at $1.00-$1.50 per pack they are pricey! I’d love for her to eat some real veggies!

    • Well first…I don’t really have to GET him to eat them. He loves broccoli on his own. He requests it. I give some credit to daycare. They talked up “chomping trees” early on. I just roll with it. Salad was a lesson I learned. I assumed he wouldn’t eat it. Weird texture…not easy to eat. I never served it. Laughed when it was on the daycare menu. Then one night we got takeout and I had a greek salad. He wanted some. He proceeded to eat half my salad. I realized I had to stop assuming he wouldn’t eat something. Now salad is an easy go to for us. So my word of advice is to keep trying things. Make it fun. Make it a bribe. Do what you have to. I am convinced a lot of things are control mechanisms and not picky palettes. Just gotta let them think they are winning.

      I did a post on secret veggie ideas too:

  2. You know I am tough love!
    We are currently in phase where they talk SO MUCH that dinner lasts way way way too long. We can’t have that on weeknights because of homework and sports so tell them they can’t talk until they have eaten half their food.

    Apparently this is common in the elementary school set because some of the Wake County schools have a rule that there is silence the first 10 minutes of lunch time!

    • Yeah. and you would think he would get it. If he takes too long, there is no TV before bed. DUH kid. and i know i will have an even more crazy talker. Oy

  3. First I love your toddler menus!! I am constantly looking for new things to feed my 18 mo, Noah. I feel like we get in dinner ruts with him.

    Second, I swear I thought you were describing my child when I started reading. We are tough love too and he is pushing every single boundary. It is driving me insane!!! Glad to know we aren’t alone. 🙂

    • Oh you are not. While Landon still eats great overall but the actual dinner times are nerve wracking. They go through phases. It could be much worse.

  4. We have a hard time knowing what reasonable expectations are for a 2.5-year-old. We have a few definite rules – no banging silverware, throwing food, or putting shoes on the table. But beyond that it feels like a gray area… like, is it really so bad if he plays with his food? (I wasn’t sure if “making broccoli dance” was a no-no in your house or just a stall tactic, but I feel like I’d be okay with it in ours as long as it’s not thrown when dancing is over!)

    We have a little bag of “cars and choo choos” that he’s allowed when he’s done, at home or restaurants. At some point, having a toy at the table is probably not appropriate, but for now it feels like it’s just unfair to ask him to sit still for a long time.

    Lately at restaurants have trouble getting him to sit down in his seat. We always threaten to get a high chair if he won’t sit, and that usually works. I also think we need to avoid getting a booth, as the temptation is just too great to stand up and play.

  5. Yeeaaaahhh, I’m not big on certain manners, especially at a table with just the family. I can see why others are though. It’s definitely good to stick to your guns though, with anything. Wishy washy wobbly parenting is super confusing to the kid and it makes the times where you are firm, a complete joke to the child. Kudos my lady.

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