Growing up my siblings and I ate what was put in front of us, no fuss and if we didn’t eat it we went hungry. However, food wasn’t so commercialised when I was growing up and we also weren’t targeted by advertsing agenceys and drawn into their latest offerings such as the ‘healthy’ veggie sticks (Mother Earth we’re looking at you) that are actually nearly 28% sugar!
I wonder what would have happened if I’d let my children eat whatever they wanted when they were young. I think they might have died of scurvy before their 12th birthdays. An exclusive diet of chips, lollies and burgers doesn’t get you very far – probably only as far as your first coronary. Let me tell you about a technique that worked really well in our family and reduced the ‘ew yuck, I don’t want to eat that’ food wars – a food amnesty list.
At a family meeting each child wrote a list of five foods they don’t like eating. The deal we offered was that they never had to eat those foods if we served it. They could push them aside and there would be no trouble. But if something served was not on their list, they had to eat it. They didn’t get something else instead, they just didn’t get served the listed food. They also had to be specific, like they couldn’t just put down ‘all veges’ as one item.
You see, kids love to have choice and control. With the food amnesty list, we respected their choice, and because of that, they didn’t complain about the food they did have to eat. The option to change their list was available – but only at the next family meeting. We stuck to it, they stuck to it, and it worked – no more complaining from the kids (or parents).
Kids love to feel that their opinions are heard and taken seriously. The food amnesty list is a fun way of doing that and it might just change the atmosphere around mealtimes at your place.
By John Cowan, The Parenting Place
Improving and equipping families to thrive.
Read more from John and The Parenting place here.