29 May 2008

Eat me: A preschool mastermind

When D- doesn't want to eat something, he's adopted the polite phrase, "That's not my favorite" to kindly let you know this. Our response is of course that not everything can be your favorite, and you still have to eat the other things in the world.

This usually has about the effect you'd expect for a 4-year-old.

Imagine the protests we faced last night when we had a delicious salad (with chicken) for dinner-- he has a pretty good memory for things he's declared he doesn't like, and a horrible memory for stuff he gobbles up when smothered in ranch dressing. This ridiculous concoction we dared to offer him was comprised, as far as he could tell, of at least 72% of things he "does not like," which of course taints those few things he does like.

Anyway, early on in the meal, the starvingly (my word) hungry boy we invited to the table changed course and announced to J- that he was full, though willing to acknowledge he was only full of salad. J- responded that he would be eating this salad for his next meal, whether that was right then, tomorrow's breakfast, or Christmas brunch.

This approach worked well in her family and pretty well in ours, so far, though D- has pushed us to comical lengths at times. Given our experience thus far, I expect M- in a couple years to be found once every few weeks immobilized from hunger on her bedroom floor, weakly chewing on a few wilted lettuce leaves in an effort to build the strength to take just a few sips of water.

For the time being, though, it's only D- that suffers this method every so often (it's only employed upon unjustified refusal to eat rather than normal fullness and such), and in his wise old age, he has learned a few tricks. Unfortunately for him, none of these include keeping his cards close to his vest, as evidenced by his (mostly nonchalant, only a touch defiant) response to J- last night: "But if Daddy doesn't know about that, and gives me something else, then I can eat that instead."

Now, seated to his immediate right, I felt the need to speak up and point out just a short list of flaws in his argument. After a quick talk in his room, he came back out slightly deflated, but with his spirit somehow still intact. We'll have to change that one of these days, like all good parents must.

We were eventually able to get him to finish his bowl (emphasis on the "eventually"-- he was in jammies by that point) by covering it in a serving each of ranch dressing and what he identified as "ketchup," a.k.a. Catalina dressing... not that actual ketchup would be so far fetched.

Thus was I deprived of an opportunity to spend my entire morning torturing a small child by withholding all but the most undesirable food from him, and letting the music of his whining lull my ears to sleep, the way we all love to do. Oh well, there's always tomorrow's dinner, and every one after that for a decade or so...

17 comments:

Mary said...

Have you cheerfully pointed out yet how children in Myanmar or China would be HAPPY to eat that salad right now? He might help you box it up and mail it to them.

SherE1 said...

My daughter takes a few bites of her food, says that she's done and her stomach hurts, then promptly asks for ice cream. This has been happening every single night for... forever, it seems. For the love of God, just eat your food!

MamaNeena said...

We make the children take at least "X" amount of bites of everthing on their plates. "X" refers to their age in years. Even though Mia swears to hate green beans, she always takes 4 bites without complaint. Just another idea for your bag of tricks.

Half-Past Kissin' Time said...

This post inspires me to share a TERRIFIC idea for getting kids to eat (a lot). Mr.4444 and I came up with it many years ago. Thankfully, we no longer have to use it :) I'll type it up and post it some time in the next few days. Judging from this post, you are going to LOVE it!

Mama Dawg said...

Mine's not allowed to get dessert until I tell her she's eaten enough. She's like shere1's kid, she'll eat a few bites and say she's full and then promptly ask for dessert.

At least she's still asking permission to get dessert and not just getting it herself.

LiteralDan said...

Mary: He definitely would-- he's such a "giver"...

SherE1: Oh, we get that one at least every other day. It's like a running joke that's not funny.

MamaNeena: That's a good guideline-- we usually just pick arbitrary numbers based on how much he's eaten by the time he's "full" and how much is left, etc. Having a formal system is probably better, so there's no negotiation (he's already an accomplished negotiator).

Half-Past Kissin' Time: I'll look for it, and I'm sure I will!

Mama Dawg: Oh dessert is a rare treat on nights like this, but normally you can tell when they've given it a good try and really are getting full. We're not gonna pack the kids to the gills just because we served them too much-- not much point in that!

Once my kid goes and gets some dessert without asking, I will buy cabinet locks, my friend!

Kori said...

I love his comment about "If daddy doesn't know..." Smart kid. I have a two year old who won't eat meat. At. All. not even covered in ranch. In fact, he is so anti-flesh that if you try to sneak a bite in with something innocuous, like his favorite pasta, he will promptly refuse to eat anything else. ***shrugs*** at least yours is old enough to be talked to!

LiteralDan said...

Meat is a hard sell to kids, it seems. Maybe because it's harder to chew, I don't know, but man is it annoying. Meat's in so many dinners that it can be quite a chore.

I like that your 2YO punishes you for your attempted trickery by abstaining altogether lol

He's thinking, "That'll teach 'em!"

insane mama said...

My kids are older of course, but I have to say, that with childhood obseity on the rise, I think it is wrong to offer desert as a reward for eating their whole meak, what if they are not hungry? If you provide health foods then it is not an issue and let the kid snack all day. I honestly think desert needs to be on birthdays only

LiteralDan said...

I totally agree about not offering dessert as a reward, which often would entail them packing in everything on their plate regardless of hunger first.

But the same reasons that would make that strategy ingrain a constant desire for dessert/reward later in life would be present in making dessert such a rare treat (particularly our dessert/treat-intensive culture). The kid would grow up to constantly seek to make it a birthday everyday by overindulging on dessert.

I think it's better to just be consistent with whatever you do, and teach moderation at all times. That seems to be the only sustainable plan to me, but obviously I could be way off base, since my kids are still young and I can't see results yet, and even if I could, everyone's different. Who knows?

insane mama said...

I'm not claiming to be a know it all, I just think desert is so overdone, I see so many people cooking with their kids on their blogs or whatever and it's usually cupcakes or pasta and the kids are chubby! I think that America as a whole centers way too much around energy and enjoyment around "eating" Eating was meant for survival... not entertainment or control and that is where the problem is in our society.
Sorry, Ill shut up

LiteralDan said...

I agree dessert is way overdone, particularly in the U.S. Parents today have an uphill battle in trying to teach healthy eating habits, and it's good that so many are trying so hard now.

I hope we can move to that phase so many other successful empires did-- where we give up, slow down, and start enjoying this at a healthy pace. We are in more of a slash-and-burn, cram in as much of everything we can, everything-to-the-max kind of phase, regarding food, entertainment, and most other things.

So we probably agree 95% on this-- here's hoping things keep getting better!

Oakley Square Wire 2.0 said...

Although I don't have my own kids but when my nephews were around it was a pain to make them eat food. they were like 3 and 5 but still double work for us.

LiteralDan said...

Yeah, whenever a kid doesn't want to eat, the deck is stacked against you from the start.

Mac from Motorcycle Fairing said...

Well, I found helpful to make some funny thing in the food so at the time of luch the have a little bit of fun and eat healthy food.

LiteralDan said...

Oh, mealtime definitely has to be fun on those days when the kids are feeling difficult. Thanks for stopping by!

ric said...
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