I am far from a perfect mother. I lose my patience too quickly, sometimes I yell, and my house is never clean enough. But my kids will eat just about anything. This is my one triumph, the place where I feel that my good enough is actually really good enough. I get asked all the the time, by other parents, readers of this site, how do you get your kids to eat that? So I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I actually think it boils down to doing three pretty simple things:
1. Continue to be adventurous with food: Before we had kids my husband and I basically used food to experience different cultures without ever having to leave town. Now that we have two little people, this hasn’t changed. We obviously don’t take our kids out for fancy meals but we are regulars our local Szechuan joint that serves unapologetically authentic fare. And my kids have opinions on the menu. They are gaga for the dumplings, green onion pancake, and hand pulled dan dan noodles. And this is also a good example of how if the food is yummy, nothing will stop kids because those noodles are spicy but my son will just gobble them up, while gulping copious amounts of water or milk. My 2 year old daughter is nuts for soup dumplings (this shocked even me) and has found a way to navigate the hot liquid in them. My kids also have their favorites from our local Japanese, Filipino and Mexican restaurants. I don’t ever limit myself to places with bland food or that have a kids menu. I want to give my kids the gift of learning to love new foods because I’m hoping that curiosity about different cuisines will bleed into other parts of their lives and they will be better global citizens because of it. People who are adventurous eaters are generally broad minded and open to new experiences. And those are the sorts of people I hope to raise.
2. Never have an preconceived notions of your child’s palate: I’ve seen parents do this over and over. Their child will want to try something and they will automatically say “Oh, you won’t like that.” Which basically means you are giving your kids permission to not like it. I’ve even heard parents lament about they love a particular cuisine, like Thai, but don’t go anymore because their kids won’t like it. And to that I say bollocks. Don’t deny yourself a food you love because you are worried about your kids! This is one time where being selfish actually results in good parenting. Because you are only broadening your children’s horizons by taking them to try new cuisines. And eventually your kids will find something they like on the menu. Maybe not the first time, but that just leads to another important lesson – don’t give up on something after just trying it once. Plus there is a little bit of fake it until you make it in play here. If you believe your kids are picky, and won’t eat anything with sauce, or anything that tastes like curry, guess what? They won’t. If you go into an experience thinking, they are going to enjoy this and discover a new food that they love, they will.
3. Keep trying: This is another one I hear a lot. Parents often tell me, “But my kids won’t eat cauliflower.” Guess what? My daughter didn’t eat cauliflower either. But I love it so it is on regular rotation at our house. And on the 12th time I offered it to her, she tried it. And then proceeded to eat it by the fistful. Kids are also fickle. I often find they can love something and then not care for it as much the next time you make it. I wouldn’t take any of it too seriously and let it make an impact on how you eat as a family. Kid’s tastes are constantly changing and if you try and cater to their every whim you will drive yourself crazy. Make food you and your partner enjoy so at the very least there are two happy people at the table. And if you look like you are enjoying the food, the kids are much more likely to jump in and follow suit.
Hopefully, the above will result in some happier meal times among the samosa junkie readership. And before I sign off, I want to tip my hat to all the hardworking Dads out there. You are tireless, make difficult sacrifices and are often under appreciated. I hope you get to eat what you love on Sunday! That means donuts for my Dad (care of my brother) and a killer egg sandwich for my better half. I would love to know – are you celebrating Father’s Day with food and if so, what are you eating?