Each night, my son gets a “treat” if he eats a good dinner. A treat is basically a small dessert, like a cookie, a piece of candy, or pudding. I’ve heard that as a parent, you need to be careful about using food — especially sweets — as a reward, because you can create “food issues” down the road. I try to be cognizant of this, but nothing motivates my son like the thought of not getting his treat after dinner. And when you see your kid wolfing down a plate of broccoli or taking a bite of a food they’ve never tried before, well, that’s a great feeling.
My son isn’t required to eat everything on his plate. We just ask that he eat a good dinner and we keep the definition of that sort-of vague, because it varies from day to day. Some days he is hungrier than others, and some meals he likes more than others, so each day we agree on what constitutes a “good dinner.” Usually about halfway through his meal, he’ll start negotiating with us about how much more he needs to eat to earn his treat. I just try to make sure he eats a few vegetables, a few ounces of meat, and that he at least tastes anything new we’ve given him.
Our method seems to be working, because our son is a great eater. He eats vegetables, especially broccoli, peas, and beans. He despises spinach, but he knows this because he tasted it. So, I don’t make him eat spinach. There are plenty of wonderful vegetables he does like, so we focus on those. I’ll try spinach on him again some day and see if his palate has changed at all. He eats all sorts of meat — meatballs, chicken breast, rotisserie chicken, pork chops, pot roast. When we give him something new, he’s always convinced it will be horrible, but after tasting it, he usually discovers that it’s yummy. I never could have convinced him to try new things if it weren’t for the promise of “the treat.”
Last night was one of those rare nights where he really didn’t want to eat. He was having leftover tacos, which he had devoured the night before. Maybe he’d had a big lunch. Maybe the tacos didn’t taste as good the second time. I’m not sure, but he just wouldn’t eat. So, no treat. He was pretty upset about not getting his treat, but when he saw that his pleading was going nowhere, he changed his approach. “How about a snack then?” he asked. A snack? Sure, why not. So, we went to watch some TV together and he munched on sliced carrot sticks. I can’t complaint about that.
My husband shared this with me on Facebook today, and it is so timely. I wish I knew who to credit for this, but I can’t read the artist’s name. But it’s brilliant nonetheless.
Questions for YOU!
Do you have any great suggestions on how to get kids to try new foods? To eat their vegetables? What is your rule at the dinner table? Do your kids get dessert every night, only when they eat well, or just on rare occasions?