My husband and I have always been competitors.
We grew up playing sports… and being from different states, we love our respective sports teams so much that our first “fight” after we began dating happened when our teams played each other.
It’s becoming increasingly obvious that those competitive genes were not missed on each of our three kids. If one loses a board game, the other one wants to play again until THEY win. In a game of “keep away” with a single balloon, a borderline tackle will be delivered to gain an advantage. Races will be created around the house and one will go until they outdo the other one’s time.
I can’t say my husband and I are mad about it. I hope they use that competitive spirit to propel them in whatever goals they have in their lives.
But there’s a goal that I have right now that I knew I could use their competitive genes to help me achieve.
TO GET THEM TO EAT.
At the ages of 6, 3 and 2, I have found it difficult to keep all three of them sitting down until their meal is complete. If our spunky 2-year-old wants to get up and dance, the other two do the same. If one finishes their meal and gets up to play, another one wants to get to their toys, too.
I knew I had to try to do something to change it.
So this past week, I laid out all of the items I would normally separate on individual plates on a single serving tray. My thought? I knew AT LEAST one of them would realize that if they left the table before the food was done, it would mean that the others would get more than they would.
“What is this, Mom?” my oldest asked.
“It’s your lunch,” I said.
“But where is MY plate?” my middle said, concerned.
“It’s right there. That’s for all of you to share,” I said as I leaned against the counter waiting for the mad dash for the food to happen.
But it didn’t.
Instead… they just seemed to like the idea of doing something different for lunch as they each leaned over the tray making their choices. The best part? When my older two had their share of the cheese slices, my son turned to the youngest and said, “Go ahead. Those are for you. We already ate ours!”
By the time lunch was over, only two half-eaten carrots set back by the baby were left.
The next day I did the same thing, and the same result happened. The kids shared. They were excited about their choices. They sat until everything was eaten.
But like everything in parenting… something that works today can shift as early as tomorrow. I know the novelty of the “one big plate” will wear off at some point.
And that’s ok.
Because if there’s anything I’ve learned in a lifetime of being a competitor (and six years of being a mom), it’s that you do what you need to do in the moment that’s in front of you… and when a new challenge presents itself, you just have to be ready with the next game plan.