Do any of these sound familiar? Clean your plate or no dessert! Why do you have to be so picky? There are starving people in China! If so, then you're likely a parent who has gone to battle at the dinner table with kids who refuse to eat the meals prepared for them.
Meal time can be so frustrating. Parents hustle together dinners -- sometimes with kids' sports or activities looming -- and pull their children in from their yards or away from games or TV. Only then do their children hold up their noises at what they see on their plates. (When this happens in my house, the immortal words of Weird Al Yankovic emerge in my brain: Just eat it!)
It's more constructive, I suppose, to take advice from an expert such as Dr. Michelle May than the world's foremost parody singer. So here's a tip list from May, released today by the TOPS Club weight-loss support organization:
Seven things that well-meaning parents commonly say that may have unintended consequences - and what to say instead:
2. You are such a picky eater! - All children (and adults) have some foods that they just don’t like. Some children are highly taste and/or texture sensitive, but most will outgrow it. Picky eating becomes an entrenched behavior when we berate, beg, bribe - or worse, feed kids only what they say they’ll eat.
3. Clean your plate; there are starving children in ________. - Avoid teaching children scarcity eating behaviors in our plentiful food environment.
4. You have to eat all your vegetables or there will be no dessert. - Kids are smart. When you bribe them for eating certain foods, they quickly realize that those foods must be yucky and that dessert is the reward. They also learn to hold out until a reward is offered.
5. Eat all your dinner or you don’t get dessert. - This variation on the threat above translates to “you must overeat and I will reward you by giving you more to eat!” Children naturally love sweet foods, so they can learn to override their fullness signals. As an adult, they might be tempted to order a 1,200-calorie salad to “earn” a 1,200-calorie piece of cheesecake.
6. I was so bad at lunch today! Now I have to spend an extra hour on the treadmill. - Children are born to move. They naturally love exploring their environment, challenging themselves, and playing actively. Unfortunately, the messages they get from adults teach them that exercise is punishment for eating.
7. I am so gross and fat! Or, I can’t believe _______ has let herself go! - Kids learn from us even when we think they aren’t listening. Statements like this teach kids that it’s okay to put yourself and others down and judge people for their weight or other physical attributes. Perhaps they also secretly wonder what you really think about them.
And whatever else you say, remember to say often… I love you just the way you are.