I am so done with catering to my children’s dietary cowardice. Done!!
Ergo, we have recently adopted a take-no-prisoners, allow-no-substitutions, take-it-or-leave-it dinner policy. You don’t like it? Tough. No, you can’t have something else. No, you can’t have bread with butter. Don’t you know there are starving children in Africa?
OK, I try — really try — not to pull the whole “you-should-be-grateful-so-many-people-don’t-have-anything-to-eat-at-all-and-would-be-happy-to-eat-whatever-food-they-could-get” thing. Or the “kids in France/China/Ghana/India/Uruguay/[insert any foreign country here] don’t eat something different from the rest of the family!” angle. (Which, truthfully, I’m not actually sure is true. I mean, I assume kids in India eat spicy hot curries, when available; they don’t say ‘I only want rice!’ but maybe I’m wrong.)
But I do say, “look, this is what’s for dinner tonight. And part of being a big kid is learning to eat more than just (plain, no-sauce) pasta and bread and fruit.”
Now, before you accuse me of being unreasonably cruel (in case you were going to), I try very hard to include something in each meal that I know they’ll like (e.g. rice or pasta) or, if not, make something that I think has a pretty good chance of being liked. I mean I’m not serving the poor things liver and onions or five-alarm chili.
And — as I remind myself when I myself start to feel like I’m being unreasonably cruel — they’re not going to starve to death. They eat like truck drivers at breakfast and…er…cab drivers (?) at lunch. They also get to eat pretty much all things they like and, for the most part, choose at those meals.
So, given all this, I think I’m doing the right thing by being a hardass. Even though it means suffering frequent whining and complaining and sometimes tears. I am hopeful that, eventually, it will work, and their food vocabulary will expand.
The only thing that is stymying us a bit is this: We typically let the girls have fruit for dessert after dinner, but now that we’re taking this more tough love approach, we find ourselves wondering, well…do we give it to them anyway, even if they haven’t eaten any of their dinner beyond the required one bite of each thing? I know the “experts” say you’re not supposed to punish / reward / bribe with food. But the fact of the matter is, it tends to work.
So, how do you get your kids to eat their damned dinner?
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