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Hitched: Time to break bad habits, start new ones
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By Dorothy Schneider and Brian Wallheimer
Dorothy Schneider and Brian Wallheimer have their hands full with three young children: two daughters and a son. They tell stories about the kids, but also the challenges of building and maintaining their own relationship through all life’s ...
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Hitched
Dorothy Schneider and Brian Wallheimer have their hands full with three young children: two daughters and a son. They tell stories about the kids, but also the challenges of building and maintaining their own relationship through all life’s challenges.
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By Dorothy and Brian Wallheimer
Jan. 12, 2018 11:02 a.m.

More than any of our children, 3-year-old Charlie is a creature of habit.

The girls, Katie, 5, and Ellie, 8, had certain routines, but they were never set in stone. Their favorite toys and movies change almost daily. Even as babies, they were always moving targets.

Charlie, however, is fairly predictable.

For years, he's had a favorite blanket. His 'Red' is a woven gift, and has no traces of the color red in it.

Coming home from morning pre-kindergarten, he has long expected to watch one television show before lunch. For more than a year, it was always 'Nature Cat' on PBS. Only recently has he asked for other options, but he still expects his show.

On the way to the car from school, he stops every day to kick the fence. On the rare occasions he forgets, other parents notice and ask if he's OK.

One of Charlie's other guarantees is his attitude about dinner. With few exceptions, Charlie isn't going to like what's on his plate and it's going to be a fight on every bite.

It's actually gotten to the point that dinner isn't terribly enjoyable. After 30 minutes or so, Dorothy or I will usually break down and force a few bites in. Though he knows how to use utensils, Charlie apparently forgets how to get anything onto a spoon or fork by himself after 5 p.m.

I've known the solution to this problem for a long time. But enacting it requires doing the hardest things I think parents have to do these days – stay strong.

Our children test their boundaries all the time, and once they sense blood in the water, it's game over. Give in and let them get up from the table without eating? You'd better expect they're going to try it again the next night, and the one after that.

It's so easy as a parent to take the easy path. But that breeds those habits. Charlie's 'Red' is super cute, but he's a monster if we forget it. On the flip side, his dinner habits are awful, but they're not going to get better until we create new routines.

This last week, I stayed strong for the first time in a long time at dinner. I promised the kids a movie, but required that they eat their sweet potatoes and vegetables. Once the girls had finished, I put on the movie.

Charlie leapt from his chair to watch, but I put him back. After a few minutes of tantrum, he gobbled down everything.

It was one win. And there's no telling if I'll be strong enough each night. But that's the goal.

With his tendency to create habits, I'm hoping he starts to form some good ones around dinnertime.

If so, I'm guessing dinner guests who see Charlie eating well will have the same questions as fellow parents at Charlie's school on those rare 'not kicking the fence days.' Is he OK?

Brian Wallheimer; brian.wallheimer@gmail.com

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