A second book that has formed my method of keeping food on the table is Marshall Rosenberg's Nonviolent Communication. Rosenberg's approach requires that conversants speak in terms of their own needs and desires rather than someone else's. For example, if a dad wants his son to speak quietly in the house, he would say "I need you to stop yelling in the house" rather than "You need to stop yelling in the house." The idea is that we can only know our own needs and should not assume that others have the same ones.
Making known my desire for keeping food on the table does not always result in it being met; we still end up with food on the floor at many meals. But I can tell that Goen is beginning to internalize the idea that food belongs on the table. I think that if I just let him drop it without intervening so that he could "get the experience of dropping food on the floor" (as one mom I talked to put it), I would be left with the problem of deciding arbitrarily when he had enough of the experience and of implementing the rule after the habit was set. If I fed him myself, I would never get to eat my own food at the same time as my family. And if I always fed him less messy foods, he wouldn't develop a palate for the many other delicious foods out there (like curry and avocado and squash). Instead, I decided that it would be better to set the rule from the beginning. Although there are no consequences (other than reducing the amount of food available to throw on the floor) or traditional enforcement measures for when he does not follow what I want, I continue to let him know what is acceptable and what I expect from him. My hope is that he will begin to adopt social conventions that will make it easier (or as least less embarrassing) to eat out at restaurants or at the houses of friends and family. And, so far, it seems to be working.