Our 15 year old daughter has ballet lessons 5 nights a week. The classes are always scheduled to begin between 5 and 6:00pm. Right in the middle of the dinner hour. She rarely eats dinner with the family because of this kooky schedule. Whenever I do eat with her, I am offended by her bad table manners (doesn't converse, eats like a viking and saddened by her food choices (still hates salad, vegetables, etc). There is always plenty of healthy food around the house and we cook good meals. Is it just teen angst that she'll grow out of or should I set up rules for her to follow in this area? At this age, everything's a struggle.
From: Joolzy, Marshfield, MA
If she's taking ballet lessons five days a week, she must be pretty serious about it. Which means she really needs to know some basic facts about her body, especially that healthy teen nutrition is critical for any teen athlete, and certainly someone who takes dance five times a week qualifies as an athlete. What's more, because of the way their bodies are growing, teens typically need a much more healthy diet than they realize. What's more, since she's taking lessons five days a week, I'm wondering if her teacher hasn't talked to her about the importance of nutrition. I also wonder if it's possible for your family to somehow be more flexible so that you can all eat together at least a few times a week.
I guess what I'm getting at is that at this age, you can't just set down rules about what she eats; she needs to want to eat in a healthy way. So my suggestion is to arm yourself with some information, make than information available to her, tell her about your concerns and offer to be helpful.
The manners piece of this -- that's another story. How did she get this far in life with bad table manners? If you have been an enabler, ignoring poor manners all these years, own up to it with some "I" statements: "I made a mistake by not doing a better job teaching table manners. I want to undo this. What ideas do you have?" Even if you haven't been an enabler, avoid "you" statements: "You eat like a slob!!" That only will make her defensive and angry.
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