Archive for May, 2010

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

More Dinner Table Lessons from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Food Revolution’

May 6, 2010 3 comments

Behind the times as usual, I finally watched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution—all six episodes at once. We can draw out some meaty lessons for parents who want to change the way their kids eat from Oliver’s strategies to change the way America eats, one school at a time and one town at a time.

Oliver’s first attempt at getting elementary school kids eating healthier was the addition of a healthy meal with real chicken (something unfamiliar) alongside the school’s regular fare: pizza. When given the choice, between the new, healthy meal or their usual pizza, of course the kids chose pizza.

As Oliver also found out, if you offer pink milk or chocolate milk alongside plain milk, the girls take the pink and the boys take the chocolate. Nothing terribly shocking there so far. However, he discovered if you boldly, ruthlessly take away the flavored, sugary milk options altogether, the kids have to take the plain milk. When you get rid of the junk and offer only healthy choices, they have to take them. And they do. Why? Because they’re hungry!

Luciano tempts Aniella with a piece of sausage. - photo by Anna Migeon

If your kids are picky eaters, chances are it’s because you:

  1. Try to make them eat certain things.
  2. Give them what they do want to eat after all when they won’t eat what you try to make them eat, just to get them to eat.

As Oliver shows, if we use this riding-the-fence, half-ass, afraid-they’ll-go-hungry approach of serving our target food while still making available their target food (just in case), we shouldn’t be too surprised when they keep eating their target food. If we continue to supply children with bad choices, they will keep eating them. It’s wishful thinking to think they’ll eat what you want them to eat unless that’s their only choice. If all your kids will eat is chicken nuggets, it’s high time to quit enabling them. Quit buying chicken nuggets.  If they get hungry–and they will–they will eat what’s available, what you know they need, to be healthy. If we’re so afraid that kids won’t like the healthy foods that we give them harmful junk just to get them to eat, what a major disservice we do them. Our only choice is to follow Oliver’s bold move, and. as he says, “Make every choice a good one.”

©  Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 6 May 2010 / All rights reserved