Sometimes you gotta do things you never thought you’d do.

Like let your kids eat in front of the TV.  Or eat sugary cereal.  Or cater to their cravings for chicken nuggets. Don’t feel guilty. Sometimes, letting your kids graze-on-the go is the right thing to do.

If you are locked in a battle over breakfast, you’ve got to change the dynamic.  TV might be just the ticket—even if this tactic goes against every parenting instinct you possess.

Sometimes you have to be willing to consider the unthinkable.

Consider this scenario: Your child won’t eat breakfast unless you sit at the table with her.

Under ordinary circumstances you don’t mind sitting down for a little one-on-one table time with your tot.  The problem is, it takes you about 3 seconds to tackle your toast and then…you have to get dressed for work. Or you have another child who needs to be dressed for school.  Or mornings are the time when you find yourself running between the kitchen and the laundry machine.  Or there’s some other real event that prevents you from lingering in the kitchen while your kid dawdles.

If you’re like most families, the meal begins with a brief period of calm (while you’re sitting at the table) followed by increasing levels of stress while you encourage your child to hurry up, take a few bites, or to eat more while she either a) patently ignores you or b) has a meltdown.  Pressure meets resistance.  More pressure meets more resistance.

After awhile, both you and your child approach the morning meal with reluctance, opposition, and strain and your child’s eating goes from bad to worse.  What can you do?

  1. Turn on the TV so your child has “company” and go about your business of getting ready.  Or you can…
  2. Serve a cereal your child is sure to fire down. Or you can…
  3. Let your child graze-on-the-go.

I’m not saying that using the TV or a sugary cereal will automatically resolve the problem at hand—you may have to search for another unsavory solution—but I am saying that you have to change how you interact with your child in these moments in order to change the outcome.  It’s the only way to reduce the pressure.  Read The Pressure-Cooker Problem.

If the idea of turning on the tube during mealtimes makes you hyperventilate, don’t panic.

I’m talking about a temporary fix, not a permanent solution.  You can turn off the TV (or get your kids to sit at the table, revert to healthy breakfasts, etc.) once you get over whatever hump is holding you up. But get over the hump you must. Otherwise you’ll be stuck in the same interactions forever.

It’s kind of like the argument I make for introducing kids to spinach with a creamed, not a steamed, delight: the creamier version is an easier sell. It’s all fine and good to insist on the healthier option upfront, but if your kids won’t go near it, where do your high standards get you?  You can always move on to other ways of serving spinach once your kids willingly eat it. Read When the Less Nutritious Choice is Right.

Sometimes you have to go through the back door to get where you’re going.

It doesn’t matter whether your goal is to get your kids to consume more vegetables or to encourage them to finish their meals in less than 45 minutes, you might have to use an unsavory solution, one you swore you’d never employ.

And I get it. By asking you to consider an unsavory solution, I’m asking you to consider violating one parenting principle for another (TV habits vs. eating habits), and to risk replacing one problem with another: Do you really want your kids to be great eaters if they become television addicts in the process?

Your concerns are not unfounded.  After all, everyone knows at least one family where these tactics have been abused.  But by failing to consider the unconscionable, parents often get in their own way.

Believing any change is permanent—and that you get only one change per problem—trips parents up.

In practice, you may have to go through a sequence of changes to get where you’re going.

  1. Consider a concession that makes you crazy.
  2. Reduce the pressure.
  3. Resolve the original problem.
  4. Correct the correction before it becomes entrenched.

The trick is to keep your eyes on the prize, see the larger picture, focus on the forest not the trees, and never win the battle only to lose the war. (Surely there are other cliches but I’m sure you get my point!)

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~