I’d done it again.
“You have to eat 4 bites before you can leave the table….” My own words circled around in my head, mocking me. Laughing at me. Pinning me to the chair where I was now stuck beside my scowling 4 year old, counting said bites. It was like watching paint dry. So far, I’d witnessed half of a bite…
Dear self: Next time, just be quiet…Yes, he should eat, but this is lousy!
Who can relate? Surely someone else has experienced the ‘pinned to the chair’ scenario, or maybe the other one where I’d try to get something done in the kitchen, and then have to go order the under-bite-count-runnaway-offender back to the table to finish his bite allotment?
Just. Eat. The. Darn. Food.
So. You know what works?
Well, I sure know what doesn’t. What doesn’t work is counting bites. Where kids have to sit beside that now stone cold plate of pasta with the offensive mushroom chunks until they’ve managed to get “something nutritious” into their belly.
A few other tactics have their drawbacks too, in my books.
“Just don’t give her anything else. She won’t starve.” Great. And now I’ve sent my 3 year old to bed on an empty stomach and he’ll be awake at midnight rambling around trying to find a banana!
“Hide the veggies!” So now I’m sneaking around my kitchen trying to sneak spinach into something without any of my 5 kids noticing… “You put green leaves into that!”
“You have to clean your plate before you can have any dessert”. Well, what if I don’t want to finish what I have on my own plate? What if I’m just plain full? What then, oh wise advice sages?
All this did was create a kitchen that feels a bit like a battle zone. And made myself practice 30 minutes of ‘mom has more patience than you’, outwaiting the refusal to eat.
Mom vs kiddos. Bad tasting healthy food vs good tasting junk food.
A place that would have be counting to 10 far too often, and all the deep breathing exercises (calm… calm) would likely have me blowing my entire cake across the room next birthday.
So I quit following that advice. All of the advice. All the ‘hide the veggies’, ‘no thank you bite’ … everything.
Because it hasn’t worked for me and I’ve had much more success with a far easier method.
So what have I done instead?
If I’m not counting bites, bribing with dessert, or standing guard by the pantry door so no bedtime snacks are snuck by those who didn’t finish their meal, what in the world am I doing?
Confession time: I’ve gotten completely underhanded and have been fraternizing with the enemy. I’ve joined forces with my kids. #teamkiddos+mom
Waitaminute… what do you mean you’ve joined forces with your kids? Can you do that?
Yes. Yes you can. I have, and you should too. Your tailbone will thank you.
So what do we do over on ‘team kiddos’?
Let me fill you in, mom friend. I tell you, these little guys have all kinds of great ideas. So in no particular order, listen to a few of these gems.
- We tell stories. Stories about what animals like what foods. What size bites a dinosaur takes of the carrots. How a dragon learns to fly when he drinks a green smoothie…
- The kiddos enjoy telling me what I should make for them. In fact, they look through cookbooks and point out scrumptious looking recipes for us to try.
- Sprinkles are everyone’s friends. It doesn’t matter if they are chia seed ‘faux-sprinkles’ or not… even healthy sprinkles=fun.
- Sometimes we eat under the table. In a secret fort. Where pirates can’t find us, and dragons stalk by on the prowl.
- There’s a lot of laughing involved around chopping up the peppers for omelettes. Kiddo scissors all around, and my boys are pepper cutting champions.
- Sometimes we sing. The songs don’t even always make sense, and following a tune is optional. “Twinkle twinkle little star… what a tasty carrot you ARE!” Crunch.
Team kiddo official rules:
- Eating is fun.
- The table isn’t stressful.
- I decide how much I eat.
And since joining the enemy, we’ve found peace. Blissful, enjoyable mealtime peace.
You want to know the best part? Even when we have a ‘normal’ meal with no stories or forts or singing or scissors… it’s fine. The kids eat. They’re used to eating healthy food. It’s normal. So for the great majority of the time, they just eat.
So, mom friend, I give you my secret to less picky eating: Rather than looking for ways to ‘make’ your kids eat healthy food, look for ways to help your kids ‘fall in love’ with healthy eating. (Or at least tolerate it, fuss free, at first.)
Not only is it a lot easier and less time consuming than constant mealtime battles, it’s a whole lot more fun too.
Now… excuse me while I go scrub the glitter glue off these kids’ scissors. I have peppers that need dicing for omelettes.