Big Kids, Parenting

Even Jamie Oliver struggles to get his kids to eat dinner

Melissa Imbesi by Melissa Imbesi
November 3rd, 2016

Before I had kids, there were so many things on my ‘I will not do’ list. I will not yell at them. I will not bribe or reward them with junk food or chocolate and I most certainly will not let them play iPads and phones, ESPECIALLY at mealtimes. Dinner time would be our family at the table together, talking about our day and enjoying whatever meal my husband or I had prepared. No TV, no distractions. Yeah, I’m laughing at myself too.

If there’s anything I’ve learnt since becoming a parent it’s this: You have to choose your battles. It’s nothing new and you’ve probably heard it millions of times before, but that’s because it really rings true. While I don’t let my kids bring their iPads to the table regularly, there are nights where I CANNOT BE FUCKED dealing with the complaining and resistance to eating my “disgusting” food. Those nights, when they are being particularly stubborn and my patience is about to boil over, the battle comes down to which I want more: for them to eat their dinner or NOT have the iPad. On those nights, the iPad is the winner and the simple distraction of some annoying voice showing them how to make Minecraft villages is enough to get them to eat. It’s not ideal, but sometimes, it’s just the way it rolls in my home. We will still have a chat and a story before bed (tick, tick) but I can relax knowing that they’ve got some good stuff into their bellies, even if they were in a trance while it was going in.

If there’s anything I’ve learnt since becoming a parent it’s this: You have to choose your battles.

That’s why it was so refreshing to hear that Jamie Oliver, father of five and king of vegetables, often struggles with getting his kids, particularly his son Buddy Bear, six, to eat their veggies at dinner time. “When it comes to food, my kids have good days and bad days. You can be all purist and say ‘Look, no TV at dinner time’ or ‘No iPads at the dinner table’ – and I do say that.

Jamie and his adorable son, Buddy Bear

Jamie and his adorable son, Buddy Bear

“But the truth is, if Buddy is being a little sod and not eating his dinner and he’s just in a funny mood, my wife puts an iPad in front of him and he goes into a trance and eats his dinner.”

It’s not that we need a celebrity chef to endorse the choices we make around our kids at mealtimes, but just knowing that someone whose entire life revolves around food admitting that they too struggle – and cave – in order to get their kids to go to bed with full tummies is affirming what we already know. Parenting is work. It is hard work. I say that instead of beating yourself up about letting your kids eat at the coffee table in front of the TV, or with an iPad in their face every so often, pat yourself on the pack for actually preparing a meal for them. And if you can get them to eat their veggies, you’re a goddamn genius.

What’s your top tip to get your kids to eat their meals? 

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