I Bribed My Son to Eat Dinner

So, lately my youngest son (he just turned six) has gotten much pickier with what he'll eat. He was already picky, but now it seems a bit extreme. Some of his long-time favorites are suddenly now taboo (salmon, seaweed, mushrooms) so I’m not cooking/serving most of them right now. Instead of trying too hard with lots of different foods, I am going with healthful foods I know he will eat.

broccoli bowl and frying pan

For his health and our sanity I am serving mostly the following foods: broccoli, sugar and snap peas, green beans, celery, carrots, apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries, pears, yogurts, milk, and fairly plain salads. He’ll eat other things apart from these fruits and vegetables as well, but really limited considering the rest of the family -- brown rice, pasta (plain), chicken, baked white fish, couscous, hummus, peanut butter, steak, lamb. Okay, so many parents with picky eaters may say, "Wait, you said he was picky? That doesn't sound too picky." You just have to understand that my kids overall eat a lot of different foods and will not usually flat-out refuse to eat my dinners. They may whine, cry and throw themselves on the floor, but they usually end up eating it. Not this one.

He won't even eat a sandwich. (Well, peanut butter sandwiches but he can't take them to school.) No ketchup, mayonnaise, jam/jelly or mustard either.

He won’t eat soup, chili, stew, stir fry, and most foods that are one pot meals. Fairly recently that was especially difficult since that’s mostly what I made. Makes it challenging but I am still making him eat a little of the food if I’ve made it. I figure just like he is “off” certain former favorites and not liking things mixed, he will eventually come back to a greater variety if I don’t push too hard, but remain firm. I remember when I was his age taking a dislike to the cheese on pizza and sauce on spaghetti, but I got adventurous again not long after and my mother didn’t push. Instead of any possibility of a fight, most of the time lately I am cooking things I know he’ll eat.

But one night he plain refused to eat the duck breast, bok choy, spinach and potato dinner my husband made. He looked at it and said, "I'm not eating any of it!" Well, my husband was incensed and I was not too happy either. There was no coaxing him, no cajoling, no "just take one bite, you don't have to eat it," no saying he’ll lose a privilege, nothing we tried would work until... "I'll give you $1.50 to eat it." That piqued his interest and he said since he was turning six the next day, he'd do it for $1.60! Ah, that was it.

And he ate it... ate it all to get the money.

He even liked the duck (my favorite). I think it sometimes comes down to power. It's not that all the picky kids don't like the food; they just need to exert their power. (Yes, some do have taste and texture reasons.) But, he's the youngest and often one who does exert his power over his older brothers and peers, but I guess it's my husband and me he needed to feel a bit of control over. When I handed out the money, he even remarked that it wasn’t enough since he was turning six he should get six -- so I made it $1.61 (1 dollar, 1 quarter, 2 dimes, 1 nickel and the one extra penny). I think he likes many of the foods he’s off right now, but he’s choosing to eat/not eat what he wants.

As a child I remember going to some friends’ homes where the mom made my brother and I eat the overcooked zucchini and squash. Big-seeded, mushy, thin-cut vegetables are not appealing to many young kids. I held my nose and choked it down. My brother sat at that table all night. He exerted his power at the time, and finally they gave in after 11 pm. Both of us wouldn’t touch them for years. Now, it’s a different story. I think if the vegetables are cooked right they are more appealing, but it’s not a guarantee that they’ll pass muster. Also if you push too hard, if you aren’t flexible, it can backfire. It’s a fine line and not an easy thing to decide. Being firm yet flexible. Not giving in every time, but understanding when you must bend the rules. So making sure the alternatives aren’t full of sugar and that his dietary needs are met. Thankfully my son still loves his broccoli; he's been eating it every day.

And sometimes, you just have to do what you can to make sure your kids get what they need (not always what they want) to remain healthy… even if it resorts to bribery.


My Kids Really Eat This …and yours can too!
Follow my blog at www.mykidsreallyeatthis.com

Photo Credit: stone-soup.

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