We've been having trouble with ungrateful children at dinnertime. I'm hoping this story helps...
Once upon a time there was a bunny and her name was Molly bunny. She lived in the forest with her mama bunny and daddy bunny. Molly bunny loved to scamper through the woods, hopping over logs and ducking under branches. Now that she was seven years old, she could hop just as high as her neighbor, Jack rabbit, and run just as fast as her chipmunk friend, Agoo, who was very quick and very agile, being as little as he was. Molly spent all day hopping and running with her friends, and was always very hungry by dinnertime. Carrot cakes were her favorite food. She wished she could eat them every night.
But carrot cakes were a special treat. Most nights, Mama bunny prepared meals like beet stew, or cabbage crunch, or bean pudding. Molly didn’t like any of these meals and wrinkled her nose when she saw them on the table. “Yuuuuck”, she whined one night as she pushed her cabbage around her plate. Mama bunny frowned and reminded Molly that she was being unkind. “Eeewwwww”, she protested as she took a spoonful of beet stew and let it drip unappetizingly back in to the bowl. Daddy bunny furrowed his brow and asked Molly bunny to stop playing with her dinner.
“I hate beans!” Molly bunny cried another night as she thumped the table, almost knocking over the candle. Mama bunny raised her eyebrows and Daddy bunny looked very stern. “You may eat your dinner or you may leave the table and go to bed,” Mama told her. Molly scowled back, “I won’t eat this yucky meal. You never make me anything good.” Mama bunny sighed and Daddy bunny declared dinner to be over. Everyone went to bed early that night.
The next day, Molly bunny played hard with her friends all day, and by dinnertime, she was ravenous. But when she got home, the kitchen was dark and the table was empty. Mama bunny and Daddy bunny were sitting in the living room reading. “Aren’t we having dinner?” Molly asked. “I’m hungry!” “There are lettuce and carrots in the fridge, you may help yourself,” answered Mama bunny without looking up from her book. Molly bunny liked lettuce and carrots, so she helped herself and had a nice dinner alone.
The next night was the same: the kitchen was dark and the table was empty at dinnertime. So Molly helped herself, again, to lettuce and carrots. She sat by herself munching her cold meal. The next night, and the night after that, and the night after that, the kitchen was dark and the table was empty at dinnertime. Molly bunny sat by herself eating cold lettuce and carrots while her parents read in the living room.
Molly was starting to feel lonely. She wanted to tell Mama bunny about how she had jumped higher than Jack. She wanted to tell Daddy bunny about the races she had run with Agoo. But she couldn’t because she now ate dinner all alone. Molly was also getting tired of cold lettuce and carrots every night. She missed the warm glow of the candle and hearing about her parents’ day.
She wandered into the living room. “When will you make dinner again?” she asked Mama and Daddy bunny. “Oh, Molly bunny. You are so unkind about the meals we prepare for you that we’ve decided not to make dinner anymore,” explained Mama bunny. “Ever?” asked Molly. “Well, maybe if you show you are grateful for the meals, then we might be willing to make dinner for you again,” replied Daddy bunny. “But what if I really don’t like something?” asked Molly, who really didn’t like cabbage, beets, or beans. “It’s our job to prepare meals that help you grow strong and be healthy, not to just prepare food that you like,” said Mama bunny. “Yes,” agreed Daddy bunny, “and it’s hard work to prepare dinner. We would like you to be grateful for the meals we prepare.” “Oh,” said Molly. She didn’t know how to be grateful for something she really, really didn’t like.
Then Daddy bunny made a suggestion. “Molly, what if, when we prepare a meal you don’t like, you can say to us ‘I don’t care for cabbage, but thank you for preparing this meal for me’. Then you can chose to eat it all of it, or just one trying bite.” “And,” added Mama, “you stop stomping your feet and whining at the table.”
Molly bunny thought about it. She really hated cabbage and did not want to eat beet stew or bean pudding. But she also missed dinnertime with her parents. “Ok,” she agreed. “I will try.” Mama and Daddy smiled. “Good. Tomorrow night we’ll have a nice family dinner,” Mama declared.
The very next night Molly bunny arrived home to a bright, warm kitchen and a candle on the table. As Molly sat down at her spot, her mama served her cabbage crunch. Molly frowned, but then remembered what she was allowed to say. “I don’t care for cabbage, but thank you for preparing this meal,” she said. Mama replied, “You’re welcome.” Daddy smiled. Molly sat straight and tall at her spot and told her parents all about her day. She didn’t stomp once as she listened to Daddy’s stories. She even ate four trying bites of cabbage, and then quickly drank a whole glass of water to help make it taste better.
Molly bunny was happy, and so were Mama and Daddy. They had all missed their family dinners. Molly bunny knew she would never like cabbage, beets, and beans – at least not while she was a kid, but she did like eating diner with her parents. So she tried very hard to behave and be kind about the meals they prepared for her. Even when she really didn’t like it.