Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Picker Eaters Beware

Are you one of these moms (or dad) who ends up making 4 different meals to suit the taste everyone at the table? Well repeat after me....

"I am not a short order cook."
"This is not a restaurant."
"It's this or nothing."

There use to be a day when I would try to please everyone with a meal. But as the family grew so did my impatience. You see, I have a house full of monkeys-----you know "Monkey see, Monkey do!" Once one child started with "I don't like that" or "Can I have no tomato sauce on my spaghetti? Can't I have butter instead?" than the next thing I know, the "monkey" would ask for it a certain way. With 5 children (soon-to-be 6), who has the time to custom make all those meals. After all, Chris and I do like to sit down too to a hot (or atleast warm) dinner.

So I have implemented a very simple but effective rule:

"You eat what is put in front of you.
You DO have the choice not to eat it.
If you so chose to complain or not eat what is placed in front of you
Than you do NOT get a substitute meal
NOR, do you get snacks the rest of the day."

You would not believe how this simple rule can motivate a child to eat---especially when they are told no snacks for the rest of the day (or the next if it is dinner).

As for complaining, I don't allow it. I do not want to hear "Jessie got more juice than me" or "He has more fries than me". If I hear this, your meal or drink are taken away. I try to make things as even as possible for the 3 middle children, but I am not about to count out fries or get the measuring cup out to make sure everyone got exactly the same amount of food. I believe in being thankful for what we DO have, not for what we don't.

There are other times that one of the children will prepare the meal (usually breakfast or lunch) and another child wants to be critical of it. Just a couple of weeks ago Zachary made English Muffin Pizza's for lunch. Jessica decided that he put too much sauce on it and she didn't like it. My response "Zachary cooking was a blessing to us all. If you don't want to eat it then you don't have to but there will be no other lunch served and you will not have snacks for the rest of the day. Go and drink your milk." This day, Jessica decided that she would rather go without than give in to the meal. That was her choice. I promise you, your child will not starve or become malnourished because they missed a meal.

You might wonder why I take snacks away. Well I have found children can (or will try) to live on snacks (I know I could!). While morning snack is always a healthy one (fruit or yogurt) our afternoon snack is usually something not-so-good (popsicles, ice cream, cookies, pudding). We don't regularly have dessert at night.

And just so people don't think I am the meanest mother in the world----I want it to be known that I do not serve exotic meals with far-out ingredients. I do understand that there may be a food here or there that my children don't like (CJ won't eat American cheese but can eat a whole pack of taco cheese himself ). I am mindful of those things, but some of the things are truly in their head (like Zachary will pick green peppers out of his spaghetti sauce but yet he doesn't in Fajitas). I do not penalize for green peppers on the side of the plate, however I will make Zachary take a bite or 2.

I will keep putting food on their plates even if they say they don't like it. You would be amazed at how a once thought of "yuck" food can turn into "yum" (zucchini and broccoli both come to mind with this one).

As for exceptions to this rule---Emily and CJ. Emily is only 2. As a baby she gobbled up fruits and veggies. Now she will only eat bananas for fruit and corn for vegetables. I do keep putting f & v on her plate. She can also be a little picky with eating. As an example, pasta with chicken---one day she will down the chicken and want nothing to do with the pasta. The next time we have it, it may be the pasta she only wants and no chicken. While we encourage her to try the other thing she doesn't want, we will give her more of the food she is eating that day. I believe it is sometimes her body looking for the nutrition it needs for the day (like protein).

CJ (who's 16) most of the time makes his own breakfast and lunch. I allow this if he: 1-cleans up his mess. 2--doesn't use ingredients that I have marked for another meal (again, taco cheese comes to mind). Lunch time for him is usually leftovers from the night before, which is a help to me---no wasted food!!


The Happy Housewife said...

Great post! I agree with your philosophy. With so many kids who has time to police the dinner table?
I have noticed my younger kids are less picky than the older ones, it is probably because I put up with less the older I get, lol!

mattswife1990 said...

I agree with you there on the "monkey see, monkey do" thing. Once I allowed David to be picky about a few items, the younger kids started to be picky, too.

They've missed a few meals here and there, and we keep the snacks off-limits, too. But you're right... they won't get malnourished or starve from missing one meal!

Amy :)