I am thrilled to bring you this guest post by Jessica Donovan from Energetic Mama. Jessica is passionate about educating parents on nourishing their children with real food, helping to boost their health and heal naturally. It was 6pm on a weeknight. I had been in the kitchen from the moment we got home from school. It wasn’t intentional but I am sure you understand how easily the kitchen can swallow you up as soon as you set foot in it. So I had emptied lunch boxes, unpacked the dishwasher, done a load of dishes and because the kids were happily playing I took the opportunity to pack tomorrows lunches and get started on dinner. Well the next minute it was dinner time and I simply asked Mr 7 to feed the dog and Miss 5 to set the table. These are their set jobs, nothing out of the ordinary and let’s face it not that difficult. Mr 7 happily went out to feed the dog but Miss 5, oh Miss 5 “Am I your slave” she exploded, quickly followed by “I’m not doing it, you’re so lazy mum why don’t you do it yourself!” That was it! That was the thing that set her off that night. She had lost it, there was so much anger and resistance over a few knives and forks. She was tired and that is often all it takes. Who knows what had happened at school that day or what led to all of those emotions bubbling up inside of her but it was us, her family, that were bearing the brunt. Once she blows up like that it can be so hard to reason with her, to get our sweet girl back! So next it was “yuck, I’m not eating that” as I put dinner in front of her. Of course I was now angry! Angry that I had been slaving away in the kitchen for the last two hours only to be called lazy! I was upset that she was shouting at me in that tone and I was tired from a full day myself. Sound familiar? So she got up and stormed away from the table, started rolling around on the couch, whinging about the dinner I had served her. I gave her a choice. Come and sit down and eat your dinner or go in your bedroom to have some time to yourself. She knows the food rules in our house. Mum serves one dinner, there is no choice, if you don’t at least have a good try at eating your dinner; there is nothing else. You won’t be offered a sandwich or a bowl of cereal. Dinner is dinner. It’s a family affair, we sit together, the T.V. and other devices get turned off and we talk about our days. She was interrupting that for the rest of us so I calmly took her up to her room and told her to come out when she was ready to try her dinner. There was another five minutes of crying in her room before she came out and sat at the table with us, with a defiant look on her face. “I’m just trying a little bit” she said. Things then turned around, she ate most of her dinner and her attitude changed. Phew!! Having firm boundaries is one of the key things I have learnt works in all aspects of parenting and I am surprised at how many parents have very loose boundaries when it comes to feeding their kids. They do what works on the day to keep the peace at dinner time but that just sets you up for disastrous long term effects.
- You will never broaden a Childs food horizons by asking them what they want for dinner every night. They need to be encouraged to try different foods by being served what the family is eating. Perhaps you can forget this ‘rule’ when you are having a vindaloo!
- Children won’t learn to enjoy healthy foods if you stop putting it on their plate because they don’t like it. If your child doesn’t like going in the bath, do you stop bathing them? Ummm, I hope not!
- Children will refuse to eat their dinner if they know that mum or dad will offer them something more appealing because ‘said parent’ is so desperate for them to eat something, anything!
This is where the problems often start! Most children go through fussy periods and if we get emotionally attached to them eating certain foods, meal times soon become a very unpleasant battle. Of course we all want our kids to eat healthy food but keeping our cool supports our kids in developing a healthy attitude towards food, long term. Try encouraging them in a gentle way with firm boundaries and remember you are their role model, they are unlikely to eat a plate of steamed greens while you pig out on a burger and chips! Jessica Donovan is a mama of 2, naturopath and holistic health expert who helps families thrive. Jessica combines her deep naturopathic knowledge with a realistic, empathetic, inspiring and down to earth approach to empower women to look after themselves and take charge of the wellbeing of their families.
Jessica created an ebook – ‘5 food secrets of kids that rarely get sick’ to help parents boost their kids immune system with real food. You can download your free copy here. Do you have fussy eaters? How do you manage to avoid mealtime meltdowns? Please comment below or if you have a question for Jessica, just pop it in the comments section.