Home > Carrots & Sticks: The Price of Praise, Rewards, and Other Control Tactics > How Much Do You Care about Your Kids’ Eating? How Much is Too Much?

How Much Do You Care about Your Kids’ Eating? How Much is Too Much?


ANGELA can't bring herself to eat her peas because her mom wanted her to so badly.

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In the mid-90s TV show My So-Called Life, a baby-faced Claire Danes plays Angela Chase, an emo teenager.

About four minutes into the pilot episode, the scene opens with Angela’s sigh, and an arial view of her plate of peas with mashed potatoes and gravy and meatloaf being pushed around by her fork.

“I cannot bring myself to eat a well balanced meal in front of my  mother,” says Angela in a voice-over. “It just means too much to her,”.

JEREMY MAY FEEL A LITTLE SMOTHERED now and then.

An old Zits comic strip uses the identical statement to illustrate the same kid attitude.

Jeremy is earnestly confiding in his best friend, Hector, how he wants to join the Peace Corps and give back to society in response to the abundance and opportunities he’s been given in life.

Just then Jeremy’s mom walks by. Her ear is caught instantly and her head stays behind to catch the rest.

“Are you kidding?” Jeremy yells when he sees her eavesdropping. “Spiderman with a laser gun would beat Hellboy any day!”

Mom walks on past, with a sigh and a roll of her eyes.

“I can’t bring myself to ever have a serious conversation in front of my mom. It means too much to her,” Jeremy explains.

Isn’t this the kids’ fault? Aren’t they little stinkers to act that way? Maybe, but we probably can’t change them. Maybe they’re only responding as normal humans to our pushiness and over-eager parenting.  It’s known as hovering. Being control freaks.

Parents may need to summon up more dignity, more leadership, more self-confidence, more confidence in their kids and less fearful fussiness when this is the kind of reaction we get from kids.

Maybe these examples help explain why begging, pleading, praising and telling kids how much it means to us when they eat their peas only results in more resistance.

Maybe our kids, like Angela and Jeremy, actually do want to do the right thing, if we’ll just get out of the way.

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Related posts:  The Secret Life of Kids: Are Picky Eaters Still Picky When No Grownup’s Around to See?

The Golden Rule and Helicopter Parents at the Dinner Table

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