**If you would like to listen to this blog post, scroll to the bottom for the audio version.
You want to talk about insanity? Insanity is trying to get a toddler to eat brussel sprouts. Truest form of the definition.
I have a client that I adore. She was telling me how she wanted lunches to go a little smoother with her toddler and preschooler. Every day she would put all this pressure on herself to make lunches and dinners that her kids would eat. The issue was that she always wanted them to check off all of the boxes of being “healthy” (i.e. what experts tell us we NEED to feed our kids so they don't shrivel up and die).
This was causing her stress.
She just wanted her children to eat well and grow strong. I think she believed it was solely on her shoulders and if she didn't follow through; she'd mess up her kiddos.
I asked her, “Did you eat healthy all the time growing up?” She answered, “Well, no. But we know so much more than we do now.”
Yep. We do know more. We know more, but yet we are still so stressed out about it all.
A lot of times I watch moms beat themselves up about feeding their children the PERFECT food. It has to be colorful, whole grain, no added dyes, no sugar and of course look like a circus on their plate so they eat it. I believe this comes from a place of fear and guilt. Fear that our kids will some how develop some strange syndrome if we don’t feed them good food all the time. Guilt comes when we break down give them crackers and fake cheese when they won’t eat anything else.
Here is the thing, when we do things because out of fear and guilt, we have good intentions but we our actions are not lining up with what we want or what our kids need.
I see this with potty training ALL THE TIME. Mom’s put so much pressure on themselves and their children to potty train at a certain age. They see that a friend’s little one, that is the same age as their child, is potty trained. All of sudden that means that their child must need to be potty trained now too. They do not take into account if the child is actually showing signs of being ready or taking any interest in learning how to use a toilet.
These are important first steps moms.
Classic case. The mom pushes it. The kid is kind of interested but would rather play or watch Daniel Tiger learn to go to the bathroom. The kid pees all over the house the first day. The mom takes it in stride. The next day though, the kid poops while sitting on the carpet. The mom loses it. She doesn’t understand how this could be so hard. The kid is crying, the mom is crying and pouring a glass of wine. She’s done for today. The third day, the kid doesn’t want to sit on the toilet or even step foot in the bathroom. Mom digs in her heals. She bribes the child with everything under the sun. The child doesn’t care. She's not giving up though. She still puts underwear on the kid. There is pee everywhere again. Plus, now the kid found that poop is kind of like finger paint for the walls.
You know how this turns out. In the end everyone gives up until the memories of this awful time have been forgotten by the child (mom never forgets). Nothing was accomplished and the situation ended in frustration and defeat.
This is the typical example of good intentions with bad reasoning behind it. Yes, it’s good to potty train your child, but not because the neighbor three doors down said her child was completely potty trained, writing their first symphony and making a five course meal for the family by “this age” (i.e. age of your child).
Now lets go back to feeding your kids. If you want to pull out your hair because your child only eats saltine crackers and grapes, ask YOURSELF these questions:
If your kids are pretty healthy and are at a healthy weight, what is the worry? Kids' innate sense of hunger hasn’t been screwed up yet. They may not eat the best food, but often they don’t over eat which is actually what gets the majority of us into trouble.
What is the mood like when you feed the kids? Are you in a rush? Are you frustrated? Are you scolding and yelling at them? Are you being forceful and upset? Well, if you are, no worries! That can change. First, you just need to bring awareness to the fact that you’re not helping the situation. Create an environment in which your kids actually do want to eat and LISTEN to you.
The last one is most important to remember. What do you eat in front of them? What example are you showing them? Do you have a vegetable at every meal? Are you gagging down the 100-calorie soup and then shoving your face with cookies ten minutes later? (Even if you think they do not see… they know)
My kids are pretty good eaters. The two older girls actually pack their own lunches now. They know that they need to bring a vegetable, a fruit, and some sort of protein. My oldest will actually pack a salad for the main portion of her lunch. The middle loves bell peppers. My youngest was on a stint in which he would only eat carrots, literally ALL DAY LONG. Guess what, his bowel movements had a very orange hue to them. (I know, TMI)
BUT…I'm going to have issues if I put brussel sprouts or cucumber on their plate.
Here is the thing, they still see me eat ALL of these. I offer them every single vegetable I eat. And every once in while one of them will try a new thing or something they haven’t had in a while to see if they like it.
Why? BECAUSE I’M EATING IT REGULARLY and they hear me say how good my body feels when I eat this way. They also see me actually enjoy these foods.
Kids do what you do. Not what you say.
Kids eat what you eat, not what you tell them to eat.
So you want to take the stress out of meals? You want your kids to eat healthier? You want them to want to have vegetables?
YOU DO IT FIRST. And do it consistently.
Another thing… my kids eat chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, pizza and everything else your kids do. They actually eat these quite regularly. But I don’t stress about it. It doesn’t bother me one bit because most of the time they ask for some green beans to go with.
They KNOW it will make them feel better if they eat the good stuff.
For me, that’s the most important lesson I can teach them about food.
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