So the other day I was at a local restaurant having lunch with my son for his birthday. Of course since it was his birthday, I let him choose where we should eat. He didn’t want anything greasy so he chose a sandwich place. I was good with that since I knew that was a good choice for me too. Sometimes making healthy choices is tough so when he made that choice, I was pleased. But don’t get me wrong, I will never say no to a burger.
As we were eating, another family of a mom, two young children and a grandmother, sat down just next to us. I didn’t think anything of it at the time. But as we were eating, I couldn’t help but watch how this mother handled her children. The boy was maybe Kindergarten or grade 1. The little girl was of preschool age. The boys lunch consisted of a white bun with bacon and cheese. That’s it. No lettuce. No cucumber. No veggies. Nothing. I know, seeing as I have four children of my own, that getting my kids to make healthy choices isn’t always easy. And yes, there have been times I have let them get away with those bad choices. And maybe more often than I am willing to admit. As for the girl, she was sharing a bowl of soup with her Mom. By the time the boy was finished his sandwich, he was still hungry and was wanting the soup. You could tell the Mom had seen better days as she was easily agitated by the behaviour of her children. The girl was struggling to eat the soup as it was visibly still quite hot. (Since I was sitting right behind her, I could see the steam still flowing upwards from the bowl). But the mother insisted it wasn’t hot and continued to force the soup rather hastily into the little girls mouth. I couldn’t help but cringe. No wonder the girl was not wanting to eat. The mother tried scaring the girl into eating or she was going to give it to her brother. You know the ole’ trick, ‘if you don’t eat this I’m going to give it to your brother’, after which most children cave.
I said all of that to say this: why do parents insist on using fear and threats in order to ‘teach’ their kids? Why can’t we do the opposite, like teach our children to make good choices from as young as two years old by giving them options to choose from and then teaching them which is the best option? So in this case, the mom used fear and threats in order to get her children to behave in the way she wanted. Instead, she should have led by example, nurturing her children and guiding them to make the choices that are best for them at the time. Of course, kids will often make the bad choice but that’s why they need parents; to teach them how to make good choices. Children need to be taught how to do this by training their hearts, not their behaviour. Behaviour training, as in this case, will often get immediate results but later the outcome will be disastrous. Fear was the motivation to eat the food or lose out. The result? An unhealthy relationship with food and poor decision making skills.
We as parents have the huge task of teaching and training our children to become well-rounded, responsible, healthy, mature adults. What we teach them when they are young will, without a doubt show up when they are old. If this is the norm for training our little ones, then it makes sense why most people struggle with healthy eating patterns. It’s really very sad. So I hope this article will encourage you to be more aware of what goes into your little people’s mouths and the tactics used to do so. Here’s to healthy eating!