[On-Air Consult] How to Make Family Mealtimes More Fun with Janna Lundquist


Leonardo Rocker

[On-Air Consult] How to Make Family Mealtimes More Fun with Janna Lundquist

Happy Holidays! Toddlers could be very active during mealtimes and would rather do other things than eat. On the eighth episode of the Impressive, Janna Lundquist, a Leadership Team Advisor, consults Doctor Kimberley for tips on how to encourage her kids to sit down longer during mealtimes.

Listen up as we explore:

  • How to change dinner time dynamics
  • When to use rewards at the table
  • Why we shouldn’t negotiate with children in relation to food

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Impressive is a weekly podcast that sheds new light on the world of parenting. Join host, Dr Kimberley O’Brien PhD, as she delves into real-life parenting issues with CEOs, global ex-pats, entrepreneurs, celebrities, travelers and other hand-picked parents.


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Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 00:08

Hello, I'm Dr. Kimberley O'Brien, a child psychologist, entrepreneur, and mum with a passion for problem solving and family adventures. Join me each week for practical tips and on air consultations with the smartest, kindest parents and their incredible kids. Find answers faster, do things differently, and take your family further. This is impressive. This episode is sponsored by britechild.com. Now let's get started.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 00:34

This is episode eight of Impressive, and I'm your host, Dr. Kimberley O'Brien. This week we're speaking to a consultant Janna Lunquist. She is based in Montana. I met her recently at the Biz Chicks live conference in LA, and I met her there previously as well the year before. Janna is one of those people that just lights up her room. She's a great communicator. She helps leadership teams to make decisions that drive long term success. Janna is also a busy mother of two. She has a three year old and a five year old and husband Tyson. Together, they're working on a current parenting challenge, and that is trying to get the kids to sit at the table for longer than two or three minutes. It tends to happen in the evenings when they come home from  work and school. There's a whole lot going on, and I thought this episode might be particularly interesting for listeners that are preparing for a big Christmas banquet in the next couple of weeks. And this can often be a time when parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles are all trying to get the kids to sit down at the table at the same time, despite there being lots of distractions and a huge variety of food choices. If you're interested in the impact of preservatives on toddler's behavior, you might also like to listen to last week's episode, episode number seven with Steph Meads. So you can do that after you've listened to this one. So without further ado, here's Janna Lundquist on Helping Toddlers to sit at the table.

Janna Lundquist: 02:08

Absolutely. Kimberley, it is so lovely to be here. I love hearing your wonderful voice. It was so great to see you again. So recently in person, I am based in Missoula, Montana, as you mentioned, and I have found the niche in my consulting practice to be serving as a leadership team advisor, and really helping teams create what I call productive teaming, which is about making sure that teams are aligned and on the same page and really heading in the same direction with a singular agenda rather than sort of all in their own silos doing their own things. A lot of people think that it doesn't sound very appealing, but it is the best thing in the world, as far as I'm concerned. And I absolutely love being able to see the results of the teams that I get to work with.

Janna Lundquist: 03:04

I love your little catch cry there. Clarity yields results, and I'm thinking that if everyone's on the same page, then they're all working in the same direction and everyone's crystal clear about what the goals are, or is  that how it kind of pans are?

Janna Lundquist: 03:16

That's exactly how I think of it. It's funny, I started my business after my younger child was born and I thought of the name of my business and that tagline in the middle of the night, nursing session. But clarity yields results really has  stood the test of time. And that's exactly right. When we all know what the expectations are and what the goals are, it's easier for us to do our individual parts to help achieve that.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 03:42

I love it. Organisation's really open to feedback or do you need to work through resistance or  any kind of defensiveness, or how does it usually pan out?

Janna Lundquist: 03:52

That's a great question. Of course, it always depends. It depends on the organisational culture and maybe what's going on at a certain point in time. Oftentimes, I can sense whether there's psychological safety on a team or not. If there's a lot of fear or a lack of trust, there's probably more work that needs to be done up front to get people to let their guards down a little bit, and the more that trust grows, the more people know that they can count on each other and the easier it gets from there.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 04:28

So it's kinda around building trust and  helping people to feel confident in their roles within that organisation and not threatened.

Janna Lundquist: 04:35

Absolutely. And I think the more individuals can understand that a successful team raises everyone up and it's not a zero sum game and that a colleague can do well, and that improves the performance of the entire team rather than threatening someone else on the team.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 04:56

I love it. Can we bring that back to now your family dynamic and do you play the leadership role in your family of four, and can you tell us a little bit more about   your family, your children, your partner, and then the roles that you play within that dynamic?

Janna Lundquist: 05:12

Oh, this is very interesting. I didn't expect to go here. No, absolutely. So I have a young family. My husband Tyson and I have been together since college and he has an active life as an entrepreneur himself, and we have two children. My daughter Keenan turns five tomorrow, and my son Lucas just turned three this fall. So we have graduated from the strollers and diapers phase of our lives into more of the preschool enjoyment and opportunities and challenges that go along with that greater independence.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 05:52

I can just picture that. I'm thinking lots of prepping, maybe lunch boxes and things  like that, and drop-offs and pickups

Janna Lundquist: 05:59

Lots of drop-offs and pickups. And they're taking a hiphop dance class in the fall, which is adorable. So not too many of those outside activities, which I understand just grow and grow as kids get older. But yes, lots of making sure that all the moving parts of our lives are hopefully, if not totally aligned, at least not totally out of order either. Absolutely.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 06:22

Absolutely. That sounds awesome. I'm just thinking  what's a day in the life of your family life look like for you guys?  What time are they awake and then meal times, bed times?

Janna Lundquist: 06:33

Absolutely. I would say our awake time with our kids lasts from about 6:30 in the morning until maybe 7:15 or 7:30 in the evening. My son is our alarm clock. He has sort of a kid alarm clock, not an alarm clock, but a kid clock in his room that shows visually when it's okay for him to get outta bed. And as soon as the bunny is awake, which is the light that comes on his alarm clock, he comes down and gets the day started for the rest of us. They actually have breakfast and lunch at the  preschool they attend. So all of that happens there, but then all my husband goes to his office downtown and drops the kids off. I work out of an office that's attached to my home, and we all come back together around 5:30 in the evening for dinner. And maybe we can talk about that and some fun evening activities is one kind or another.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 07:37

That sounds good. So tell me a little bit more about dinner and is that your current parenting challenge? I'm thinking with those age groups, that would be a pretty common.  

Janna Lundquist: 07:45

It is our current parenting challenge, it's the time of day. I've heard people call right after school after work, a number of different euphemisms.   It's a hard time of day. People are worn out. We've all given whatever day we had  over the course of the previous hours. But I find that it's really critical that we sort  get dinner on the table as quickly as we can once Tyson and the kids walk into our home, but we're having a lot of trouble  of developing norms or guidelines and sticking to them around even just sitting for a certain amount of time at the dining room table, having dinner together.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 08:31

I can imagine that they're all quite excited when they come through the door. Is there lots of talking and movement or Yeah. Can you describe to me

Janna Lundquist: 08:38

Yeah, absolutely. Yes. There's talking, there's movement, there's showing off of artwork that has been done during the day. Maybe I've picked up library books. So they have some that they get to look at. So yes, there's a flurry of activity as they come in, plus some sort of dishing up of dinner and filling of glasses and   a quick setting of the table with the hope of sitting down for a little family meal time.  

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 09:06

And then on a good day, how does it pan out?

Janna Lundquist: 09:09

Well, on a good day, it's interesting, I took it on my own, my husband was out of town this weekend. I took the kids out to a lovely restaurant in our town for brunch and on a good day, which coincidentally or not coincidentally, is outside of our home and outside of our normal routine, they can sit and carry on conversation and maybe do some colouring or a little bit of playing at the table for an hour and fifteen minutes or even an hour and a half.  And they're terrific.  They understand the expectations of a more grown up or less familiar setting like that.

Janna Lundquist: 09:54

But a more typical day in our household looks more like  by the time one of the parents is up getting the last of the table set and our kids look at what we've prepared are either into it or rejecting of it. A lot of negotiation about how many bites to eat, and then we never manage to keep them seated at the table for very long, so the time in which all four of us are all sitting down looking at each other is, I mean, maybe sometimes five or seven minutes

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 10:29

Okay, that's not a bad personal best  to work from.  

Janna Lundquist: 10:33

Well, it doesn't sound very successful on my end, but I appreciate you. I appreciate you normalising it a little bit, Kimberley.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 10:40

Yeah. Cause I'm thinking  a three year old, they've got a lot of energy and there's so many interesting things to look at when you first come through the door, those library books maybe. And after so much movement and exploring at school,  I think seven minutes is  a pretty good start. At the restaurant, sometimes they can sit and do colouring for  an hour,  hour and 20 minutes.

Janna Lundquist: 11:01

Yes. Yes.  

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 11:03

So what would you hope to achieve?  What's your ultimate at home?

Janna Lundquist: 11:08

Even 15 or 20 minutes Sounds lovely. I would love to be planting the seeds or setting age appropriate expectations  so that dinner is a special time, a  yet recurring time that we connect as a family each night.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 11:30

Great. I love the sound of it. I'm thinking of maybe changing it up a little bit so that instead of sitting in the same spot at the same table with the same rules,  you could do maybe just a  test run of somewhere different.  Maybe using a, I'm not sure how this would work, Janna. I'm thinking like a picnic rug on the floor in the kitchen, perhaps and some cushions, and then  some period of time actually sitting on the floor cross-legged like you would in the park  

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 11:59

So it's a little bit interesting and different.

Janna Lundquist: 12:01


Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 12:02

You have some  music on, or you could drop the lights and  have some candles going higher than where you're sitting, so the kids are not grabbing at the candles, but just something a little bit special and different just to see whether you can get past your five to seven minute focus.

Janna Lundquist: 12:17

Right. I love those idea.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 12:23

Hey, have you heard of therapeutic resources? They're the sorts of things that child psychologists use to encourage kids to express themselves. And they're also available to parents and teachers via the therapeutic resources.com au website. You can find out more about children's books that convey stories and strategies around making and keeping friends, as well as managing bullies,  winning and losing turn, taking a whole bunch of different things that are helpful when you were helping your young people overcome issues. And you don't wanna do it directly. You might wanna use a bedtime story to help convey that issue and to give them strategies on how to manage it. You'll also find some therapeutic cards, which are helpful when it comes to talking about feelings and how to express emotions. But to find out more, go to therapeuticresources.com and you can check out the Quirky Kid Pack. It's a complete kit featuring all of quirky kids resources, which we've published ourselves. So take a look, therapeuticresources.com au.

Have you heard of timer.com? They use those quite a lot in preschool settings. So it's just  a big red block of time that you can move with your finger around a circular clock sort of style. If it's five minutes to go, it's just a   small slither of red that you can see. If you've got half an hour, it's a bigger block. And so you can watch the red getting smaller and smaller until it goes ding when you run out of time. So that's one visual timer, that's timer.com or otherwise you can use a   big hourglass or egg timer, something that shows the sand dropping through so the kids are knowing you could even mark the egg timer. So if you can get to this point and there's a little pen mark on it, that's when we're going.  

Janna Lundquist: 14:14

Those are beautiful ideas.  

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 14:16

It's quite visual, isn't it?

Janna Lundquist: 14:18

Like its visual and that's so helpful.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 14:20

Mm-hmm. Engaging a three year old and making it fun,  

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 14:24

And the five year old. Tell me more about  what she does. Is she just all talk and well yeah, What's her behaviour?      

Janna Lundquist: 14:33

It really depends on the day, and it depends a little bit on the food that we're serving.  She is a very focused eater. If she's on board with the menu, if she's not, she might be quick to eat a little something and then sort of dart off to another activity. And we're sort saying come back, it's time for dinner, and with gradually less patience in those requests.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 15:00

I'm just thinking, again, making it fun when you're not at the table, if you're playing a game of  musical chairs,   how you put all the chairs back to back in the centre of the room and then put the music on, There's four people in the family, so just having three chairs and working your way around, and then when the music stops, you have to go sit on a chair and how the kids grab those chairs hold themselves on because they really want the chair.

Janna Lundquist: 15:23


Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 15:25

I feel like we could maybe let Keenan know that during dinner, it's kind of  a game of musical chairs where you've gotta be stuck to that chair.  That's the aim of the game. You can't slip out or give your chair up. You gotta own that chair. And if you do, I think it's good to have rewards. So if she's thinking, I just wanna slip out and go, And  what would she be looking to do? What's her motivation?

Janna Lundquist: 15:44

Oh, she would wanna go do a puzzle or colour or find a toy to play with any of those things.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 15:52

Yes. So now I'm thinking   at the restaurant where they were able to sit for over an hour. I wonder what it would look like to have colouring and paper and things at the table, or whether that would be too distracting and they'd forget to eat  at home. What do you think?

Janna Lundquist: 16:05

Well, they eat at the restaurant. The food's probably also  a little better than what we   have in a typical Tuesday night. Right. It's  worth a shot. I think I  would probably look to your guidance about that too, because what I'm trying to nurture is healthy eating habits and  of connectedness with each other emotionally and socially and all those sorts of things. And I'm willing to experiment with other tools or distractions or whatever,  as long as we're getting towards those goals.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 16:40

I love it. So use it as a motivator. So if you can sit on your seat for the first two minutes, then yes, you can pull out the little box of pencils and  colouring paper. So just maybe to get them through the last   five minutes or something like that. So you got two minutes of good focus without any props and then five minutes of getting over the finish line, which is  that seven minute mark or the nine minute mark.

Janna Lundquist: 17:05

And then this is a little different question than a little kind of an additional question. Do you have any guidance about how much we should be trying to control, how much they eat of a certain meal, or are there ways to be, again, healthy about that? We're not trying to just make them eat to eat, and obviously they  ought to play a role in deciding what they enjoy and what they're hungry for and that sort of thing. Do you have any good rules of them about that?

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 17:32

Yeah, I think no negotiating, so it's not one more bite and then you can leave the table or one more bite, and then you can have dessert. If there's too much negotiating, then it sort of gives them too much power. And it's like this kind of devalues the meal. So kind of thinking more of like, Oh, I made that today and I put a lot of love into that. I rolled those little meatballs and  I had the music on while I was rolling them. That kind of,  I really enjoyed making that meal for you and you guys, I'm really gonna enjoy it and that it's not so much about what you've created, just more the intention behind it. So they're like, Oh, mum's made something special and she's really proud of it.

Janna Lundquist: 18:12

It's not about the calories necessarily the transaction, it's more about the experience and the intention.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 18:21

Yeah. It's important to mum and she's put the time in, and so just out of, because you've already got that love and respect from them in your relationship, so you can be quite influential without needing to go through all the nutritional facts and figures and things like that.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 18:37

That never goes very well anyway, so I'm glad that you're giving me permission to stop that

Janna Lundquist: 18:42

Okay, that sounds good.  And also smaller portion sizes. So again, you can have success. It's like you ate a lot or you've done three quarters. Try not to do too much dividing of the plate, Let them have control of the utensils. Or for the three year old, he's more comfortable using his fingers, and that's the way   the meal's designed to be eaten with the fingers. Then  let  them do it their way rather than reaching cross and correcting them or anything like that. So the atmosphere should just be pretty light and playful. And I have found that sometimes when kids don't wanna come to the table,  often when they're older and  between eight and 10 years, sometimes they're just feeling a bit anxious before meal times because that's when   dad's just come home from work or mum's really particular about how things are supposed to be. So yeah, try not to have a big behavioural focus more about, so good to spend time with you guys and we'll put the music on. We've got the candles. Yeah, This is gonna be so nice.

Janna Lundquist: 19:40

Nice. The tone for the evening together.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 19:42

Yes. Yes.

Janna Lundquist: 19:44

That's brilliant.  

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 19:46

So I just kind a little bit of a change, I guess. But you can also have a family meeting around that to say, I just want meal times to be more fun. What about you guys? What do you think we could do to make it more fun?

Janna Lundquist: 19:54

And they're both verbal enough that they'll  have some ideas, right?  and they'll probably be more bought in if  we're incorporating their ideas into the process.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 20:04

Yes.  Maybe there could be a little game the girl likes, sorry, I can't say her name as she likes puzzles and things. So if they can stay at the table for that period of time, instead of getting right into washing up and jobs straight after dinner, it could be like, now it's puzzle time, or now it's your little boy's choice to make the after dinner game.

Janna Lundquist: 20:28

Absolutely. Dinosaurs this month. So there's a little more instant gratification rather than dinner. And then we clean up and then we'll give you the attention that you are, you're looking for. Kind of give them attention through the dinner and then have the payoff of a fun activity right after our allotted time has been completed.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 20:56

Yep. Sounds good.

Janna Lundquist: 20:57

I can't wait to share this with my husband. We're gonna be incorporating your ideas asap, Kimberley.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien:

Oh, that sounds good. Let me know how it goes.

Janna Lundquist: 21:06

I will. Thank you so much.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 21:08

No problem. So let's wrap it up. Thanks so much for asking. It's such a good opportunity. I just love consulting to high achieving  CEOs and  having the opportunity to hear how well you're doing with work. And then one tiny thing you'd like to fix at home. That just fills me with gratitude because I love brainstorming and I'm making things better because in every family it's the same situation. There's always a new challenge to tackle.

Janna Lundquist: 21:34

Absolutely. Well, and I love being able to access experts like you, Kimberley

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 21:39

And Janna. How will they go when there's more than just your immediate family at the table? Does that lead to more challenges? I'm just thinking of when our kids were that same age. Sometimes a grandparent would jump in and say, hey, sit down, changing the tone

Janna Lundquist: 21:55

Isn't that interesting? That's a really interesting question. We'll actually have a pretty small group. Just two grandparents will be at the Thanksgiving table in addition to us. So it'll be a relatively small group of six but it can depend on who's at that table. In this case, my mum and her partner are extremely supportive. And so once I clue them into some of the ideas that will be incorporating, they'll be completely on board in an alignment and supportive of  trying to nurture some of these good skills for them.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 22:30

Sounds good. I also had a thought about how they have their breakfast and lunch at school. Yes. I wonder, have you ever observed the way they do their meal times and other things from that that you could take home?

Janna Lundquist: 22:41

That's a good idea. I observed breakfast sometimes because they're sort of serving breakfast as the kids arrive in the morning. I haven't been there around lunchtime, but I could definitely pose that question to their lead teacher to say,   Are there any sort of rituals or other ways that you do things that we might incorporate at home?

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 23:02

I remember when  our son, Benji, was about three years old at their preschool, they would sit the kids in little groups of maybe four or five on a mat, and then the teacher would sit on a chair in front of them with  a tray of finger food, and then she'd use tongs to pass it to each child as they raised their hands. So it was quite  structured, and the kids were like, puppy dogs just kind of sitting and focused and ready to get the next snack when they put it

Janna Lundquist: 23:29

Waiting for the tongs to come their way.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 23:32

Exactly. And so different to a standard family meal home. So we  would do the same as you guys. We'd sort  sit around the table and put the options out. And after the high chairs, we used high chairs. I don't know whether you did that with your kids and those were brilliant, of course, because they were strapped in. And then there's different parenting  schools of thought around   strapping kids down,  whether it's respectful or not, even with car seats to have restraints. And that is obviously an area where I'm feeling like that we need to put safety first. And sometimes when they're little and they're trying to crawl out of their  high chairs, I feel like straps are important.

While we just listened to the last part of this episode, would you mind checking out your podcast app to find out how you can share this episode? It's quite simple. Look for the small dots in the corner. Click on that, and you'll see an option to share this episode. You could do it with a friend, colleague, family member, local GP psychologist, or someone   in children's mental health and education who might benefit from some of these strategies. I'd really appreciate it. And now back to the show. When you said that you weren't using high chairs at this point, is it because they're too big for high chairs, or how did you transition from high chairs to chairs and when did that happen?  

Janna Lundquist: 24:58

We kept my daughter in a high chair for a long time. My son, he  just got to a point probably before he turned two, where he just refused to sit in it anymore. A kicking   wrestling match to get him into the chair or into the tray.  And so we just gave in more or less at that point and let him sit at the table in a regular adult chair with the rest of us.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 25:26

Is he on some sort of a booster so he is high enough to see what's happening at the table, or does it feel like a bit of a reach for him?

Janna Lundquist: 25:34

He probably mostly, he sometimes sits on his knees to have a little bit of extra boost, and he can sort of sit on his bottom as well, I think, and have enough height to spoon from his bowl or that sort of thing.  

Janna Lundquist: 25:53

Would you suggest a booster for someone his age maybe?

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 25:56

It could be more comfortable.  I'm thinking you're on your knees. I'm just thinking of what your chairs might be made of.  If it's wooden chairs, I'd be more likely to wiggle around.  And then I'm thinking of  one of those Vista seats that don't require any straps or anything, but they're quite comfy, you know?  Can, Yes. So they'd have  a cushion on top. Maybe he'd feel like even being slightly higher, it's like, Whoa, look at you

Janna Lundquist: 26:19

Kinda a big kid sort of experience.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 26:21

Yeah.  Which is I think what he's wanting when he didn't wanna be in that high chair anymore, think he'd like my sister. So now if she's got  a special throne, it's like, ok, maybe that will just make you feel a bit more of a presence at the table or something.

Janna Lundquist: 26:36

No, that's a terrific idea.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 26:37

Yeah. See how it goes. I love it. Good. Well, I love talking to you, and I feel like I need to go and wrap up. It's  7:30 in the morning here in Australia, so we need to get our breakfast started.

Janna Lundquist: 26:50

Starting your day. Absolutely. Yes. Yes. Well, thank you for your time and all of your wonderful insights and suggestions. I can't wait to follow up with you to let you know how they're going.

Dr Kimberley O'Brien: 27:01

Thank you so much to Janna again for being part of this on-air consultation. And if you'd like to be part of an on air consultation, you can, You just need to email support@quirkykid.com.au. That's support quirky kid.com au. And let them know you'd love to be part of an on air consultation. Our reception will send you a Zoom link and we can talk in a time zone that suits us both so it can be anywhere around the world. I'm happy to talk to you about your current parenting challenge. I'm Dr. Kim O'Brien and this was impressive.

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