Heidi Klum was in the news this week after she revealed that she gives her kids $1 if they finished the healthy smoothies she makes them.
I believe this is genius parenting because I do the same thing. Actually I don’t need to bribe my kids to drink smoothies because they have one for breakfast almost every morning, but I do sometimes need to hand over cash to get them to eat vegetables.
My boys used to eat everything, but once the older one reached 5 (they are 7 and 9 now) they turned against anything green or red. That meant peas were spit out onto the plate, broccoli was held away from their mouths with two fingers, and tomato sauce – once their favorite – was left untouched along with the pasta or pizza it covered.
I tried all the tricks to get them to eat vegetables again. I pureed spinach and mixed it with blueberries to make bars a la Jessica Seinfeld. I covered broccoli in butter, then salt, then soy sauce, and their favorite condiment Ketchup, but none of those worked for long. I even flashed back to my childhood and told them they couldn’t leave the table unless they finished their vegetables. They would not and after an hour I gave up.
Then one night last year, after I had steamed organic broccoli bought at the farmer’s market that I was too embarrassed to return after I was told how expensive it was, I turned to my son. “I will give you $1 to try this broccoli.” We talked about it for a very long time. “Wait, how much do I need to eat? Are you going to make me eat another one before you give me the dollar? Are you really going to give me a dollar?” he asked. I told him he just needed to eat the top of the broccoli and he couldn’t spit it out.
“Is this a trick?” he asked. “Yes.” He ate the broccoli.
I would love to say he started eating broccoli right away. It took about five bribes and five tries until he decided that he liked it. Now he eats broccoli all the time. To me, that was $5 well spent. A similar thing happened with my younger son and carrots. After all was said and done, I gave him about 6 quarters and he was hooked.
Now, I’m under no illusion that this is good parenting. But somehow, even after steaming, pureeing, and freezing organic vegetables, and introducing my boys to many different types of food, they are picky eaters. I want them to eat healthy and I’ll do what I can within reason to get them to do that.
Sometimes we even go out of the reasonable box to try to get our kids to eat but it doesn’t work. Unfortunately we’re stuck in the elementary school birthday party circuit but my boys will only eat pizza without sauce. Once, after 20 minutes of trying to convince them that it was time for their survival instincts to kick in and eat what food was available when they were hungry, my husband offered my boys $5. This is a fortune to them and was the money they needed to buy the Lego set they wanted. Still, they refused.
Bribery might not always be the best option, but it’s fabulous when it works.