I read this article in The New York Times last week describing 6 mistakes parents make with regard to getting their children to eat well.
So here' the list of what the bad parents do (you know I'm kidding about the bad parent part, right?):
- Sending kids out of the kitchen. Certainly, when kids watch or participate in the meal preparation process, they will learn to try different foods and will learn to cook too. However, it's usually much more practical to keep them out of the kitchen. Usually by that time, I just want to be able to get dinner on the table with no interruptions or kids coming up to me right when I'm using a knife, or when I'm about to open a 500 degree oven. So, do you let your kids in the kitchen? What kinds of things do you let them do? Does anyone know of a resource with a list of age-appropriate activities for kids in the kitchen?
- Pressuring them to take a bite. I'm still on the fence about this. My 4 year old is very reluctant to try new things, and often says he doesn't like a food that I'm serving. If I encourage him to at least take a bite, then he may actually see he likes it. Nonetheless, I've heard stories of people gagging and making a terrible mess at the table because of this rule. So I think some discretion is advised. I guess there is a difference between pressuring and firmly encouraging? I definitely don't like the bribing approach, but that doesn't mean I haven't ever done it.
- Keeping ‘good stuff’ out of reach. I suppose when they say "good stuff" it's actually what's not very good for you. We like to have cookies and other snacks that we don't eat whenever we feel like it and keeping it out of reach is an effective way to keep us from eating something all at once. I don' t think it makes it more desireable because we put it out of reach. I think most people are drawn to those foods regardless. For the most part, I try not to even bring it home, or to get a smaller portion so that it will be all gone at once.
- Dieting in front of your children. Not being a dieter, this statement really was an eye opener: "Parents who are trying to lose weight should be aware of how their dieting habits can influence a child’s perceptions about food and healthful eating. In one study of 5-year-old girls, one child noted that dieting involved drinking chocolate milkshakes — her mother was using Slim-Fast drinks. Another child said dieting meant 'you fix food but you don’t eat it.'” Wow. Next time you think of "going on a diet," Think again. These so called diets don't really contribute to good health. A long term dietary habit contributes to good health. My hope is that my children will enjoy what they eat, but also learn to respond appropriately to their appetite cues. I also teach them that some foods are better for the body than others.
- Serving boring vegetables. It is really easy to prepare most vegetables, but it is also very easy to ruin them. I really like the Cook's Illustrated book, Perfect Vegetables (They recently released another one called The Best Vegetable Recipes, but they are the same). Another way to find good recipes is to go to a website that has reviews and go with those with the highest ratings. The ones I commonly go to are allrecipes.com, epicurious.com, and cookinglight.com.
- Giving up too soon. I think that happens with many aspects of child-rearing. It can be hard to be consistent with many things we are trying to teach our kids. Yet, we should not give up. We want to teach them what is good and right. I think consistency is more of a determinant to success than the actual approach you take.
One important thing that was pointed out in the article's comments is that some children have sensory feeding problems and the above strategies are not for them. They need a totally different approach altogether.
So how bad are you?