How Do Other Moms Handle Cranky Kids During Dinner Prep?

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I’m doing a series this November called Mom Panel. As a parent, I always want to know how other moms handle things that I struggle with. Everyone does things just a little differently & we can all learn from each other. So, I gathered together a small group of moms that I respect, but are different from each other. I’m going to ask them all a question each week & we will get enjoy their different perspectives, wisdom, experiences. Let it wash over you, anything not helpful, just let it pass on by. We are NORMAL mamas; all trying to figure this thing out. Together we are wiser.

The first question I asked the ladies was: How do you handle cranky kids during dinner prep?


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“Ha! This was an easy answer for me. If my kiddos are being abnormally cranky when I’m trying to cook supper, I will have them work on their chores. A bedroom or something always needs to be picked up right??

If everything is relatively done as far as chores go, I’ll let them watch a short video while I’m cooking. It saves my sanity, makes them happy, & then all is good in the world. Supper gets cooked & everyone can sit down & enjoy a meal together & have happy conversation. There is no SHAME in popping in a video & letting the kids get a little TV time, so that you don’t burn the supper. Give yourself some GRACE!

Another thing I do when they are a little cranky while cooking is LET THEM HELP. My kids are little, so sometimes all they really want to do is hang out with mom & be involved. I hit the brakes, slow down my own personal agenda & invite the to help me in the kitchen. I take the mess & all, along with the extra 20 minutes it takes to get dinner ready, to enjoy them.

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For our family, if our kids are cranky that means that someone is getting on someone else’s nerves, so they usually need some separation. After I take a deep breath and turn the stove off (or put the chef’s knife down…ha!), I try to get several fun options out to engage the boys in some different activities. My go-to’s are: Netflix, drawing/coloring, outside playtime for big brothers and going ahead and feeding my toddler dinner. I would love to say that I pull out my lovingly prepared busy boxes, but nope, this is real life. After 5 minutes, someone is usually spending time with Chris and Martin (aka the Kratt brothers), someone is eating and won’t stop for a long while because eating is his favorite) and another bubba is still whining, but occasionally picks up a marker to put some color on paper. But a lot of the times, dinner time has to get pushed back or gets majorly simplified, a toddler isn’t interested in eating and instead stands at the sliding door crying because he wants to go outside with his big brothers and all of a sudden, I decide that it is really nice outside, so we all go outside for bit. My keys to surviving dinner prep are much like how I survive all aspects of parenting: have a flexible plan and remain calm. They won’t likely go to bed hungry.


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To pacify cranky kids when I’m cooking dinner, I usually do the really respectable thing and have them watch TV. 🙂 Sometimes I’ll also allow them to have a healthy snack like carrots or fruit while they wait. I’ve also discovered that PLAY-DOH can occupy mine for hours. I know many moms hate play-doh, and yes, it creates quite a mess to sweep up, but they can play with it at the bar while I cook and it occupies them really well.


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Cranky kids. Dinner time. They seem to happen simultaneously EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. First, I think it’s important to understand the reality of the “Witching Hours”. This is a real occurrence that happens between the hours of 3ish to 6ish. After nap, before Dad gets home and also the time when you may or may not be starting dinner. Just embrace that this is real, horrible thing and you do whatever you have to do to survive. Which brings us to dinner. I have honestly asked my children if they want dinner and silently prayed that they would respond, “No, thanks, Mom. We’re good. You just sit down and watch Netflix while we happily do our homework.” But after being a parent for 14 years that has yet to happen. Handling cranky kids while fixing dinner needs to be broken down by age:

-infants (0-6 months): wear them or put them in a bouncy seat/swing where they can see you, talk to them, explain what you are doing while you make dinner and just know that they will survive if spaghetti sauce gets dropped on their heads

-bigger babies (6 months and beyond): contain them. Put them in their high chair and give them snacks, put them in a pack-n-play, let them see you, talk to them, sing silly songs

-toddlers (up to 3ish years): the TV is your friend. Don’t let mom guilt set in. Put those little cuties in front of the TV with some fruit snacks and cook away. Play doh, coloring books, paint with water… or again, the TV.

-preschoolers (3-5 years) again, TV. Give them a job to help you in the kitchen. Make them feel involved and important. Give them an apron. Let them set the table. Or, just let them play on your phone. Whatever works for that day.

-big kids (6 plus) have them read out loud to you, have them do their homework, let them help you or just sent them to their rooms to hang out while you fix their delicious healthy dinner of macaroni and cheese.

Let’s not underestimate the perk of having older siblings. I find it highly convenient to let my older boys entertain their little sister while I’m making dinner. That way everyone is entertained and otherwise occupied leaving you in peace to get dinner on the table before the Hangry (hungry+angry) monster consumes your entire family.

I mean, the goal is to feed them so whatever gets you there is fair game!


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My daughter is 13 and I always thought the witching hour would get easier when she got older. It’s true that she can make her own food now, but even big kids sill like their mama to fix it. FAST. Like I’m hungry right now. And teenage girls are hungry RIGHT NOW. All day long.
Just like all mothers before me, I don’t want her to “spoil” her dinner, so I tell her to eat something healthy if she feels like she just can’t wait for dinner to hit the table. Mostly, I have healthy food on hand so she’ll snack on that instead of, say, Doritos. #fruitbowl #yogurt #nochips #dontsassme

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I love all this REAL life mama advice. Maybe there was something in there helpful to you. Maybe it helped you realize that #1: The struggle is real! & #2: You are not the only one just trying to make it!!  Next Sunday we’ll back with these mamas getting their take another difficult issue.

About Jacqueline Presley

Owner/Author Creative Outpour. Member of Arkansas Women Bloggers & Northwest Arkansas Bloggers. Jacqueline lives in Springdale, AR with her husband Spencer & her two children Katie (9) & Jackson (7).

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