When my husband, Bill, was a little boy his parents took him to the Smoky Mountains for a family vacation. While they were there his dad went into a little country store and bought each of them a ham sandwich. The sandwich was slathered with mayonnaise and Bill hates the white, creamy condiment. His dad forced him eat the whole sandwich. Bill did as he was told but it immediately came back up and to this day the mere sight of it makes him gag. In fact, he refers to it as "Gagonaise."
Fast forward 20 or so years and we are on a family vacation. We stop at a hamburger joint to grab a bite on our way to the beach. Fast food places are notorious for messing up orders and when you have five children who all like something different on their burgers, the odds of the order being filled correctly drop to less than 50 percent.
We get our food, take it to a nearby table and sit down to eat. Our oldest son opens up his burger and starts complaining because it wasn't exactly what he wanted. Bill was just a tad-bit stressed (driving for 10 hours in a van with five kids can do that), and he immediately launched into a long, loud speech that went something like this, "You should be thankful you have food to eat! Did you know there are starving children all over the world that would love to have that hamburger? Stop complaining and eat every bite!"
Then Bill unwrapped his burger.
It was dripping with mayonnaise. He didn't say a word. He looked around the table at all the little eyes watching him, picked up his burger and ate the whole thing. I know I shouldn't have, but I loved watching him eat his words. I can still see his face as he choked down bite after bite. Fortunately, this time the mayonnaise stayed down.
My husband's father isn't the only parent to force a child to eat something they didn't like. My brother and sister-in-law made my nephew eat peaches once. He promptly vomited them back up and to my knowledge has never eaten them again.
So why do parents force children to eat something they don't like the taste of? Here are a few reasons I thought of but I'm sure there are more.
1. I paid for this and I don't want to see it go to waste.
Okay, but do you really want to have to clean up the mess when you see it again, because there is a good chance you will.
2. It's good for them and they need the nutrients.
Yes, but a multi-vitamin or finding something else that is nutritious that they do like to eat, might be easier than making them eat something they don't like.
3. I'm the parent. You are the child. If I tell you to eat something and you don't, then you are being disobedient.
Have you ever heard the expression, "Choose your battles carefully." That definitely applies to children and food. If they don't want to eat it and they are made to, the parents may win the battle but could lose the war. A child who is repeatedly forced to eat something they don't like will learn to dread meal time.
When I was a child I hated Brussels Sprouts. If my mother had forced me to eat them I probably would have done exactly like my husband did with his ham sandwich years ago. But she didn't make me and guess what? Today I love them. Over the years our tastes change and so do our attitudes about foods. What was unappealing as a child may look delicious to us now.
I do remember my mom putting a few bites of broccoli on my cousin's plates and telling them they couldn't leave the table until they ate two bites. I'm not sure how long they sat there before they ate it but I bet they do.
Children do need to eat fruits and vegetables but if I'm keeping my grandchildren and they don't want to eat the broccoli I put on their plate, I'm not going to make them. That's one of the best perks of being a nana, I don't have to be the bad guy. That's what their parents are for.
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