This is The Feeding Diaries, an ongoing series about the feeding escapades in my house.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how the golden rule applies to feeding my family. For me it boils down to R-E-S-P-E-C-T for all. Mom. Dad. Daughter. And son.
And here’s how it works.
How would you feel?
First consider how you would feel being fed by someone else. Let’s say you are staying at a friend’s house for about a week. This friend knows you like to eat a mostly vegetarian diet. But your friend is more of a meat and potatoes person.
You probably would feel bad if every night for dinner your friend only made food you liked knowing their taste in food. But if all they made were meat-heavy dishes, you wouldn’t be happy either.
But what if two of the nights your friend made an entree you really enjoy and on the other nights she made sure there was ample veggies. This would be nice right? You’re happy and your friend is happy.
But when it comes to feeding kids, the advice centers on two extremes. One extreme is making a meal you want and have your kids take it or leave it (known less kindly as “eat this or starve”). The other is to make another meal if they don’t like it (known as short-order cooking) or forgetting the family dinner altogether and just feeding separate meals.
The third strategy — the one I would feel most comfortable when getting fed — is one that considers the whole clan.
What this looks like in my house
When planning meals, I make sure each person’s favorites show up often enough. On the other nights, I make sure the sides are something everyone enjoys. This has gotten easier over time as my kids gradually expand their tastes (mostly Big A — Little D is a late bloomer remember?).
When planning meals, I also consider how the little people are growing and learning about food and I try to help bridge the gap, the same way we use training wheels to help children ride a bike. For example, my kids aren’t ready to eat salads like we do. So I often modify them in little bowls. Big A likes to make her own salad sometimes.
Another example is Big A prefers a breading mix on her fish, so I cut off a special portion for her.
When we make pizzas or quesadillas, they get a say on what goes in or on top but I put the extras on the side for them to try if they want. And most nights, I serve meals family style, in bowls to pass around where everyone can pick and choose (see table below for more ideas).
This keeps everyone happy (most nights) and offers plenty of food exposure without the pressure.
The Golden Rule = Respect
The idea for this post is inspired by what I’ve learned over at Respectful Parent, my new favorite site where a friend of mine blogs.
In Webster, respect is defined as “a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way.” In terms of parenting, this means showing children that they matter by how we treat them. And one key way to treat them well, is to ask our self how we would want to be treated if the tables were turned.
My kitchen table is built around this mutual respect. And in my house, this has made mealtime more rewarding because most of the time, we all feel good about the simple act of sharing a meal.
Jenn Hoots says
I’m struggling with this one a little bit, I’m not sure where to draw the line. I love the concept of respect at the table! Where I question myself is in how much decision making I let my kids have about their food. If I asked what they (specifically my 4 year old daughter) want on their taco, pizza, sandwich, etc the answer would likely always be “just cheese”. But what if I’m making Asian tacos or pesto pizza with tomatoes and mozzarella, or Reuben sandwiches? If her requests turn my meal into something I wasn’t making in the first place, haven’t I just catered to her? Yet she gets pretty mad at me sometimes when I fix up her plate like everyone else’s. I usually just say, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it, which always stops the arguing but she would still feel much happier and “respected” if I gave her the choice. Any advice?
Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD says
For us the choice meals are mainly tacos, quesidillas and sandwiches. For taco night they have to pick at least two items but the choice of what those are is there’s. Pizza is the same. But then there are other nights I don’t ask like lasagna etc. I think you just have to figure out a way that you and your child are comfortable with. It’s important to remember that while they may choose boring toppings (like cheese) for a while, they will get tired of it and move on. Make sense? Here are more tips from ES http://ellynsatterinstitute.org/htf/family-friendlyfeedingtips.php