You’ll sit there until you finish your food. Because I said so. Eat it, there are starving kids in India.

How did my mother’s words get in my mouth? Granted, I haven’t said these famous phrases, but plenty of my mother has rubbed off on me…even though I swore it would never happen. You?

Here’s the essential question about becoming your mother: Do you give in and accept your fate? Or, do you fight like hell to be different?

My answer is probably your answer: I give in on the good stuff and fight like hell on the “bad” stuff. But what you once observed as the child looks a little different when you become the mother. What’s good and what’s bad?

Short story: When I was a teenager, my mother once told me that if she ever became like our Dear Old Aunt that I should shoot her. (So now you know Dear Old Aunt, was indeed Old and an Aunt, but maybe not so Dear.) Years later, when my mother did morph into her own version of Dear Old Aunt, I took her aside and reminded her that she had once asked me to shoot her. You want to know what my mother said? “Now I know the advantages of being like that.” In other words, what my mother once judged as “bad” she now saw as “good.”

What’s this got to do with feeding kids? Simply put: No matter what your motives, your interpretation, or  your feelings, it’s always important to see the world through your children’s eyes. What? You didn’t get that from my story? Keep reading.

My mother was an extremely generous woman. She was also excessively neat, clean and organized.

First the generosity: My mother would literally give you the shirt off her back if you admired it and in any way indicated that you wished you had one just like it. Her generosity extended to all kinds of giving, including being a feeder. That’s definitely one way in which I’m like my mother. I’ve confessed before to my feeding tendencies. Read Cookie Love and Hot Chocolate to Soothe the Soul.

Now the neatnik-ness:  Growing up, my mother hated it when we kids left dirty dishes in the sink, a ring of soda effervescence on the counter, grimy soap in the sink, un-fluffed sofa pillows. I think you get the point. The house had to be neat, clean and orderly…at all times.

I like to think I’m generous, and I cop to being a neatnik. (Yes, I like a fluffed pillow!)

But here’s what I haven’t done. Even though I’m always wondering if my teenager thinks there is a dish fairy who will magically put her dishes in the dishwasher (and I’ve have teased her about this occasionally) I’ve loaded her dishes more times than I care to count. I haven’t ever called her to clean the soap or fluff the pillows. I don’t interrupt her when she’s with friends to ask why the water pitcher in the refrigerator is once again—actually, why it’s always, argh—empty.

And I certainly haven’t made my daughter sit at the table until she finished her food, something my father did to me. Nor have I implemented my mother’s famous, “One for Girls Two for Boys.”

Why not? Because I remember what it felt like to be on the receiving end of those requests.

Seeing the world through your children’s eyes can resolve a lot of your feeding issues.

  • Picky eaters would like to eat the way you want them to but they can’t. Understanding their fears/pains/traumas will help you devise a plan to help them overcome the “problem.” It’s not as simple as tasting stuff.
  • Kids who eat too many sweets and treats know they do this. They feel guilty and the guilt drives their behavior underground.
  • Children who don’t eat enough food feel overwhelmed by the choices, or by the amount of food on their plates or by the pressure.
  • Children who don’t know how you decide whether or not they can have a treat, who feel like this decision is arbitrary, are encouraged to “fight” for what they want. They never know if today is the day.

Once I counseled a mother whose daughter had an eating disorder to talk to her daughter about how her daughter felt.The mother replied that she had spoken to her daughter. She had shared her fears about her daughter’s health and wellbeing.  The one thing she hadn’t done, though, was try to see the world through her daughter’s eyes. That kind of conversation is fundamentally different.

Here’s what happens when you tell your children that you wish they would try new foods. Or eat more fruits and vegetables.

 They feel guilty. 

Here’s what happens when you ask your children how they feel about trying new foods. Or about eating more fruits and vegetables.

 They feel included, respected and part of a team. 

No child is too young for this kind of a conversation.

And no child is too young to be part of the solution.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~