A true-life horror story!
Or what to do when your child asks to try a food you think is unsuitable for them!
WARNING: This’ll make your eyes water!
Those of you who have read the introduction to Getting the Little Blighters to Eat will know that my own childhood memories of mealtimes are not pleasant ones!
I’d like to share another story from those times with you here – one with a moral to the tale.
With certain meals, like sausages or liver and onion, my mum and dad liked to have mustard – you know, the classic, strong, yellow Colman’s stuff. Now one dinner time, my little brother, then two years old, became very curious about that little mysterious yellow pot on the table.
“I want some!” he said.
“No!” replied my parents. “It’s not for children. It’s really hot.”
But he pestered and pestered and pestered … until eventually my dad grabbed the pot, opened it, scooped out a whole teaspoonful and offered it to him. My little brother, delighted, opened his mouth wide and eagerly took in the whole lot.
You can imagine what happened next: Red face, spluttering, coughing, nose streaming, eyes streaming…, and tears, real tears with awful, inconsolable sobbing that lasted a long, long time. Not just because of the burning sensation in his mouth, but because of the betrayal of it all.
“That’ll teach you,” said my dad. “We told you!” said my mum.
Was it cruel? Yes. Did it kill his curiosity in new foods? Yes. He was going to be very wary about trying new foods in the future. Did it kill his trust in food? Yes – and almost certainly his trust in my parents too!
So should they have stopped him trying it? No! Should they have done it differently? You bet! Here’s the dos and don’ts of what to do when your child asks to try a new food that you think is unsuitable for them?
Stop them trying anything! We want them to be curious and open-minded and adventurous about food. That’s what non-fussy eating is, right?!
However, if it’s something strong, spicy, exotic or eye-watering, give them the teeniest, tiniest bit! Say to them in a neutral – not a negative voice – “I’ll just give you a tiny bit because it’s a spicy/strong/etc.”
Say “I don’t think you’ll like it” as you give it to them . Put no negative thoughts in their head whatsoever!
Let them make their own minds up. They may love it!
Say “It’s only for grown-ups” or “It’s not for children”. We don’t want to teach them that children should eat – or are only capable of eating – bland foods.
Obliterate the line between “children’s food” and “adults’ food”. This is mostly a modern, marketing idea pushed by food companies so that they can sell us more products like turkey dinosaurs and squeezy tubes of yoghurt!
Make a big thing of it if they reject, spit out or say they don’t like the food – or say “I didn’t think you’d like it”.
Deal calmly with any mess and say nothing! You want them to be open to trying it again in the future.
Curiosity about food (and the whole world!) is a natural, normal trait in little humans. Let’s do everything we can to keep it alive!