Eat What I Cook Or Don’t Eat At All
A blogger, Amanda Nelson, wrote this article, which appeared on Huffington Post. In it, she explains that her children eat what she prepares or they don’t eat at all. She has several reasons for this: “I don’t have the energy or the time to be a short-order cook in my own home. I don’t want my kids to think they can customize the world to their liking by having a tantrum when something happens to not suit their whims. I don’t want them to eat only bread and cheese and bread and cheese (which is exactly what would happen if I let them pick their meals). Admittedly, there’s also a bit of “My Parents Never Made More Than One Meal And I Had To Eat What Was In Front Of Me And I Turned Out Alright, Dammit,” with a side of “Because I’m The Parent And I Said So.”
This, this, and more this!
Nelson goes on to add that another big reason her kids eat what they are served is because she is irritated by grown ups who are as picky as children. Not the people who just don’t like some foods and manage to carry on without letting the world know about it, but the people who don’t like this or simply can’t eat that and become spectacles at restaurants and dinner parties, inconveniencing others with their persnickety behavior.
Related: ASK RENE: FAST FOODS AND BAD MOODS
I have to say—I’m with this mother. The one big reason I wouldn’t cook more than one meal is that I just don’t have time. What if all four of my kids want something different? I’d never leave the kitchen. I have other things to do, like read books with them, help with homework, give baths, iron clothes, and so on. Not to mention all the things that I do for myself.
Also, I think catering to a child’s every food whim (which change almost daily) is likely to create children who do not appreciate the efforts of others. Sometimes I open up boxes and packages, but mostly I get out pots and pans and cook. Because my children are so young—2, 2, 4, and 6—I don’t expect that they will automatically appreciate the time, attention, and love that goes into preparing their meals. But, they certainly won’t develop that gratitude muscle if I spend an hour in the kitchen and then say, “Oh, you don’t want this vegetarian spaghetti casserole? Okay, I’ll make you a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead.” One of my fears is raising children who don’t appreciate that we all get by on the efforts and generosity of other people.
Some people are shocked that my policy is “eat what I cook or don’t eat at all” with the 2-year-olds. “They’re so young! You would let them go to bed hungry?” they say. Well, yes. Yes, I would. They’re not THAT hungry. They probably would have had a snack like fruit not too long before dinner. They will typically take a few bites before deciding that they don’t want more. They are healthy and eat 95% of their meals with no problems. I’m not worried if they miss a meal. Besides, I’ve found that once bad food habits get started, they take on a life of their own and become difficult to break later.
As with all rules, there are exceptions. I don’t want to be completely inflexible with my children when I know there’s a food they just don’t like. For example, I love chili and so does my husband. If I could get away with it, I would probably make a different kind of chili every night of the week. None of my kids enjoy it that much. On chili night, I will offer them another choice because they have tried it prepared many different ways and they’re just not fans. I’m cool with that.
The only place where I diverge a little bit from Nelson is the “because I’m the parent and I said so” line of reasoning. In my opinion, this is an explanation that explains nothing and its only purpose is to assert the parent’s will upon children. Sometimes parents do have to push their will on kids. For me, it should be used sparingly for Really Big Things and food isn’t one of them.
What about you? What are the eating policies or food rules in your home? Share your thoughts below.
Alexis Trass Walker lives in Gary, Indiana, with her husband and four children. She is managing editor of Good Enough Mother. Read more about Alexis on her blog www.lilliebelle.org or follow her on Twitter @LillieBelle5. You can email her at alexis [at] goodenoughmother [dot] com.