Before I had Aïcha, the ladies at the church put together a folder of snippets of advise and cute poems to encourage me as a new mother-to-be. Most of the pages were filled with pithy phrases or advice like “Listen to your heart as a mother — you’ll know what’s best.” (What rot!)

However, one true gem of practical parenting advice was hidden among all the nonsense. The writer of the letter told me this: Teach your children to always eat sitting down.

Brioni, 22 months, June 2008
Happy to be sitting and eating, Brioni chose to sit on this stool while she ate some fruit.

I thought this was great wisdom and have put it into practice. As adults, we usually eat sitting down. Think about how you eat. Sure, it may not always be at the dining table, but it would rarely be while you’re running around the place.

Also, who wants to encourage more mess than necessary? Teaching your children to always sit while eating at least contains the food-mess to one location.

It works great when you’re out and about. Especially when visiting someone else’s house, asking your children to sit first reassures the host(ess) that the food won’t get smeared all over their VERY white couch.

I also find it’s a useful way to keep my children contained to one location if I’m busy or say, at the hairdresser. I sit my children down and give them something to eat. They know not to move until they have finished eating.

In our house, I keep a couple small stools near the kitchen, so the girls always have a ready place to sit if they want to eat something without having to climb up to the dining table.

Of course, I’ve had to initially put in a lot of work. I’ve had to chase after small children who think running away with their food is a terrific game. And I’ve had to take food away from a child who refuses to stay seated. Lots of tears and tantrums, let me assure you. But it has all paid off. Why not give it a try?