By four o'clock, most people are tired. It's been a long day and they're worn out. The hours between now and dinnertime can be tough.
It's easy to give your child a packet of raisins or something sweet as a snack in this situation. There are other ways to manage their mood until dinner without bribing them with sweets. On the other hand, it's a good idea to have some fruit, a peeled carrot or a rice cake at the ready.
If you also take things easy and lower your ambitions, this will increase your patience and ability to prevent a fuss.
Aimless hours before dinnertime
Try these strategies:
• Think of this time as being set aside for your child. If you have to run an errand, try making it into a shared task.
• Remember to meet your own physical needs. Make sure you get something nice to eat and drink before tiredness sets in.
• Children may need something to chew on to regain some energy. Choose fresh fruit rather than juice, biscuits or raisins, which are high in sugar.
• Where possible, avoid getting into long conversations with other adults. This may not be the time for your child to have to stand around waiting while you just carry on talking to someone else. Leave that for a quieter moment.
• Don't make any important decisions, don't make plans, and avoid discussion at this time of day. It's fine to say “I can't answer that right now. I'll give you an answer tomorrow morning.”
• Avoid answering the phone if it feels like a bad moment. Whoever's calling can leave a message or ring back another time.
• Let your child or children help with the cooking. You can also give them their own bowl of peas, corn, chopped carrots or other ingredients for them to mix. Eating food that you've helped to make is fun!
• Prepare as much of dinner as possible in advance – if you can. Plan simple, healthy meals that you know your children like. When cooking, it's a good idea to make extra so you can freeze some portions.
• Make sure you implement a routine. Children like knowing what to expect. Having regular habits and dinner routines can make life easier for all of you.