A few weeks ago, Yoshi & Salvador’s mom took a well deserved vacation overseas. This left Dad & me solely in charge of the household. Dad is one of the busier bees I’ve known, so he tends to get home later in the evening than Mom, which frequently leaves me in charge of dinner. I happen to be the total package, so that’s not a problem for me.
One particular evening, Dad arrived home just as I was serving plates. (That was good timing for him, because I had just grilled some steak to absolute perfection. Total package, I tell you.) Now, Salvador is a great eater, at least to the extent that he can keep his attention span on the food long enough to eat it so he dug right in. Yoshi, on the other hand, is a champion of picky eating, and he wasn’t about to give in without a fight. Oh no, he was ready to battle, and within seconds he launched his opening salvo.
“I don’t like this,” he said, before he had even finished climbing into his chair.”You haven’t tried it yet,” I replied.
“Oh, you’re right,” he responded. “Fair point.” And he started eating.
Juuuust kidding. I threw that last bit in to make sure you were paying attention. As if any discussion with a child ever ends that way. Louis CK has taught us better than that. (Video clip NSFW.)
In actuality, he did the predictable thing and dug up another excuse: “It’s hot!” No, it isn’t. Then, when all attempts at excuses and even marginal logic paid off, Yoshi went to his finishing move: yelling and crying until you surrender.
“I want something else!” He cried out, “I WANT SOMETHING ELSE!!”
All the while, Dad and Salvador are at the table eating dinner. Dad is also trying to convince Yoshi to eat. He asked nicely. He instructed firmly. He tried making it a game. Nothing worked. So, he bargained. Yoshi wanted something else, so Dad offered him something else.
I was cleaning up in the kitchen when Dad entered and said, “He says he wants pasta. Am I sucker if I make it for him?”
I generally keep my opinions and philosophies to myself when Mom and Dad are about. They should be allowed to parent their children the way they want, and I want to be allowed to keep my job. So, I was reticent to answer. But since, Dad specifically solicited my opinion, I gave it to him.
In a word: yes. You’re a sucker, Dad.
Now, I’m an admitted hard ass in situations like this, but there is no way I would have gone out of my way to make a special meal just for Yoshi. In fact, I’ve fought that very same battle with him before, and I’ve yet to yield. Why am I so rigid? Because this is a teachable moment, where Dad has the opportunity to reinforce a skill/habit/expectation with Yoshi. Here are some things to consider with this particular moment:
That doesn’t mean that I recommend simply saying, “Eat it or go hungry” to a 4-year-old. He will choose to go hungry, and then you’ve just got a burn out kid with low blood sugar on your hands. Good luck with that one.
Instead, be firm, but not authoritarian. The goal of parenting is to teach kids skills and healthy habits, not prove who’s boss. Approach it from a teaching point of view. This is a chance for a child to learn things like table manners, showing appreciation, respecting others and the importance of trying new foods.
So help him out. Sit next to him. Eat with him. (I’ve found those two work particularly well with Yoshi. One time he ate almost a whole burger because I was mimicking him as he did so, which he found endlessly amusing.) Still stuck? Try these tips for picky eaters from Amanda’s guest post last week.
Cultivating any habit takes time, and it means being consistent, even when you’d rather just make the kid some pasta so he’ll be quiet. But that’s really only making more work for yourself later.
Oh, and for the record, Yoshi ate the steak. Dad didn’t have to make pasta. There were no suckers that night.
Has your kid ever made a sucker out of you? When did you realize (s)he had taken you for a ride? Share your input in the comments below!
(Image credit: ToastyKen’s flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.)