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Picky Kids and Hillary Clinton’s ‘Strategic Patience’ at the Dinner Table

May 27, 2010 8 comments

Pulling away works better . . .

Are your children provoking you at the table? Are they uncooperative? Misbehaving and refusing to eat their veggies? Are tensions increasing daily? Have negotiations broken down?

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in dealing with a similarly belligerent North Korea, is adopting a policy of “strategic patience” that sounds like a good example of masterly inactivity, an effective strategy for parents of picky eaters.

I can’t say if it will work with Korea, but I highly recommend this wisely passive and purposeful letting alone in the dinner table battle zone. When all seems hopeless, it’s probably time to put stalled negotiations on hold and invest less in diplomacy, not more, to be more effective.

. . . than . . .

Clinton gives us some pointers on enacting the “strategic patience” policy.  Korean has to make the first move, she says, and won’t be granted any concessions.

Likewise, a kid who won’t eat needs space to exercise his personal initiative. He’s got all the reasons in the world to eat, all on his own, without pressure from us: he’s hungry. But if he’s going to eat, it needs to be his idea and no one else’s. Back off and let his hunger lead him forward. Resist the urge to push. All your wanting leads to nothing but resistance, as you may have observed. Quit reacting to his provocations.

Don’t let him set the agenda or the menu or the atmosphere at the table. That’s your role. Simply serve food and insist on nothing but proper table behavior. Bring in the sanctions on bad behavior and hold firm. Cut off fruitless discussions. Declare a moratorium on negotiations on food itself. Be pleasant, talk about other things and enjoy your own dinner.

At the same time, don’t give in. You need steely resolve. Don’t bring out the chicken nuggets and pizza if he won’t eat the real food. Allow him to be hungry. Allow him to want to eat.  And he will want to. It has to come down to that.

. . . pushing. - photos of Aniella and Luciano by Anna Migeon

He will test you and your resolve. But don’t let him jerk you around. If the behavior comes under control and pressure is off the eating itself, chances are food negotiations need never come back to the table.

Related posts:

How to get kids to the dinner table: Get an attitude

Getting kids to the dinner table: What is the parents’ job?

How to get kids to eat at the table: The push and pull principle

This post was featured on Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday on June 4, 2010, and on the Charlotte Mason blog carnival on June 8, 2010.

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 26 May 2010 / All rights reserved