Monday, July 5, 2010

Parenting Tip: Dinnertime Battles

For some reason kids seem to be scared of food - especially if it's something they've never seen before.  Much to my kids' dismay, I love to try new recipes.  When we sit down to dinner and the kids don't recognize the meal as one of their favorites, their first question to me is, "Have we had this before?" followed closely by "Did I like it???"  I remember as kid making a big fuss about not wanting to try something that looked yucky because I just knew I hated it.  I didn't even have to try it, I just knew.  Then when I did finally try it and it was as good as my parents said it would be, I couldn't admit it because I had made such a big deal about hating it!  I noticed the same issue starting with my kids, so I knew I had to figure out a way to deal with dinnertime battles. 

Here's what I did, and this is my parenting tip for you today.  First, we made a rule in our house that you have to try everything on the table.  That way the kids know it's expected and they dutifully put at least one bite of each dish on their plates - casseroles, veggies, whatever was served that night, even if it's a weird color or looks like it has something in it that they don't like.  The second part of the rule - and this is why it works - is if they try it and don't like it, they don't have to eat it.  That completely eliminated our power struggles.  It's "safe" to try something new because they know if they don't like it, that's the end and they don't have to eat anymore. 

After a few years of this rule, my kids have become much less picky eaters.  They're willing to try new things without a big fuss and have found some new favorites that way.  Even if they have tried something before and not liked it, when I serve it again they still have to put a bite on their plate and try it.  Eventually they start eating things they didn't like before.  Admittedly, the older kids are much better at this than the younger ones, who are still afraid of green food and anything that looks like a tomato, but as we keep at it they get a little better here and there, and eventually (I hope) they won't be such picky, picky eaters.

What do you do to end the dinnertime battles?

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