Veggie battles are about much more than just carrots and peas. They are power struggles between us and our children. Today I am sharing some tips that can teach you how to get kids to eat vegetables.
Kids have very little say in their lives. We tell them when and what to eat, when to sleep, when to play, what to wear, everything. They are looking to have control over their lives. As parents, if we are always ordering our kids around and demanding they do certain things (like eat their vegetables), we are taking away their personal independence and power. They will act out and try to regain some control.
There are essentially two things that children have ultimate control over, going to the bathroom, and eating. They will use both of these things as “power tools.”
Kids will test us. They are looking to get a response and reaction out of us. They will exert power (like refusing veggies) to see how we respond.
When our kids feel trapped or helpless, they fight back. They know they are dependent on us and that we make the rules, so the helpless feeling leads them to negotiate, talk back, argue, refuse and fight.
Our kids are always looking to exert their independence. Regardless of their age.
That said, we can be pretty hard on ourselves when our kids won’t eat their veggies. But just because your son won’t eat his broccoli, doesn’t mean you are a bad mom. I can’t get my husband to eat pickles or olives. That doesn’t make me a bad wife.
So what CAN we do?
One of the best things we can do when it comes to vegetables is give our children a choice. Yep, give your child two different vegetable options at meals. One option will make our children feel forced. “You have to eat carrots.” Two options gives them a choice. When we give our children choices, even if they are small choices, they feel in charge of their lives. They feel responsibility and ownership. Your child will be more likely to actually eat the vegetable because they chose it.
Instead of telling them what to eat, they get to choose what they want to eat. Now, I am not implying you become a short order cook, or start cooking them different meals than the rest of the family. Instead, explain the importance of eating vegetables and then ask if they would like broccoli or peas and let them choose.
Giving them this choice will help them feel in control, strengthen your communication and give you a better understanding about your child’s preferences and how to deal with them.
Respect your children’s opinions and they will respect you. DON’T GIVE UP. Allowing choice doesn’t mean your kids have won. It means you really love them and treat them as you would want to be treated. We can’t let our egos, take over our parenting.
Don’t let your kids throw their food, or shove their plates across the table. Don’t let the situation escalate to that point. If our child is young, ask them to use their “words” to tell you they don’t like something. When they tell you they don’t want to eat it, respect their opinion and thank them for talking to you instead of throwing a fit. Then, take the food they don’t want away, and move on. If your child feels you are listening to her and respecting her opinion, she will start to come around and maybe even try the veggies she rejected.
We don’t want veggie battles to ruin our family dinner either. We are trying to create memories and rituals that stay with our family long after the “vegetable battles” are over. Make dinner enjoyable and fun for everyone. If our children know that every time your family sits down to eat there is going to be stress over the food, they will not want to be there. “One bite” or “just one carrot” is not worth it. We don’t need to get frustrated, loose our temper, or get worked up. When we act that way, we are letting our pride overshadow our love for our child.
We have fought the veggie battle in our house. Our son has always been very willing to try every single vegetable we offered him. Then we had our daughter. She would sit tight lipped, refusing to even open her mouth. It has taken time, but the more respect that I show her, the more she is willing to try new things. The more I listen to, and respect her opinion, the more she is willing to try new things. The more I give her choices, the more she feels in control and the more she is willing to try new things.
Remember that children have to be exposed to food approximately 10 times before they will accept it. What ever you do, don’t stop offering the vegetables. Always offer them, always.
Remember, this is bigger than just zucchini and carrots. We are building relationships of trust and family memories. Don’t let the vegetables become more important than your relationship with your children.
Do your kids like vegetables?
How do you handle “veggie battles” in your house?