Everyone loves the class clown.

Clowns make things fun. They entertain. They make us happy.

Unless, that is, you’re trying to get something done.  Like teach a class, or serve some dinner.  As a former college professor, this question really resonated with me.

Brenda writes:

I have a child who spends more time being the entertainment at dinner than eating his dinner. He is 7, almost 8 and from the time he could sit in a high chair, he has enjoyed dinnertime but especially because it’s his time to talk and tell jokes and be silly. Sometimes he’s out of his chair, most of the time he’s in it. And I’ll admit, he’s so darn entertaining that it’s hard to ignore him! He talks a mile a minute and asks a lot of questions–generally just an inquisitive and engaging child.

Brenda continues:

How much do we push our children to eat SOMETHING. Or is it the old, let them be hungry after dinner a few nights and they will then realize mealtime is the time to eat, not 20 minutes later?

Though I’m not a fan of pushing kids to eat more, and I believe that sometimes a little hunger can go a very long way, I think there’s a better, more nuanced, solution than simple starvation.

Read Two More Bites and The Upside of Hunger.

Balance entertaining and eating by changing the mealtime environment.

  1. Don’t focus on the food…
  2. Or on how much your son eats.

Instead, alter how you interact at dinner.

Read Meals: The Daily Struggle and When Playing is More Fun Than Eating

My 10-Point Plan for Feeding an Entertainer

1) Talk to your child about the importance of eating at mealtimes, and acknowledge that eating rather than entertaining can be difficult and boring.  Brainstorm solutions with your son, including some of the following suggestions.  Read Table Talk and Conscious Parenting.

2) Give your son 10 minutes of pre- or post-meal attention every night so he can revel in having an audience.

3) Limit snacks before dinner so your son is hungry when he sits down to dine.  Alternatively, consider giving your son a quality pre-meal snack (fruit, vegetables, salad, etc.) so you know he’s “good to go,” even if he never really settles down to dinner.

4) Teach your son to share the stage by giving everyone time to talk during meals. Consider using a talking stick to promote table time democracy with a visual cue of who has “the floor.”

5) Set some of the conversation by introducing a topic for discussion: politics, world affairs, geography, the pros and cons of something that’s on your mind….

6) Require everyone to stay seated for the duration of the meal (even if standing would really, really enhance the story).

7) Decide, with your son, how much time he should have to complete his meal after the last other person has finished eating.  Use a timer if you think it will help.

8) Give your son gentle reminders to let him know how much eating time he has left.

9) Eliminate after-dinner snacks.

10) Remember to enjoy the nightly show!

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~