A friend on Twitter asked the other day, "Moms...Q: are you fearful of passing on your crazy eating issues to your kids? I work so hard not to. Food shouldn't =reward!"
This really hits home with me. I have two young daughters, aged 6 and 2. My husband and I work hard every day to make sure they are safe, know that they are loved, and we try to teach them how to be kind, loving, productive members of society. My parenting confession: I am terrified my daughters will inherit my food "issues."
My oldest daughter is the classic "picky eater." She liked traditional kid-friendly food - mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, peanut butter & jelly, etc. She is not a fan of vegetables, but she does like fruit. She doesn't really like meat, and isn't really keen on trying new things. There have been many times in the past where we have argued about food. I always said I would not be that mom who would make more than one meal for the family, but you know what? I've come to a place where I don't want to put so much focus on food. If that means making a little something else for her if she doesn't like what's on the menu, then I will. I'm not going to force her to eat something just because I think she should eat it.
My 2 year old - she'll eat just about anything. She is my adventurous eater and loves spicy and sour flavors. Vegetables are among her favorite foods and she loves all fruits with the exception of cantaloupe and kiwi. She loves trying new things and loves to "help" me cook. She also loves treats, but come on - who doesn't?
I do not make food a reward or a punishment. It's not a focus of our life. We explain the nutritional value of food, explain that it fuels our body and leave it at that. I will not shame my children if they don't like the things I like. If they don't like it, I'm not going to force them to eat it. I won't force them to clean their plates, nor do I praise them for cleaning their plates. I do praise them for trying new things, but that's about as far as it goes.
We make the conversation at the dinner table our focus, not what's on our plates. And I pray that it works - and they don't end up like me.