Things not to say #3

roast dinner

I caught this snippet in a pub on a Sunday lunchtime. A boy, about six, was enjoying a roast dinner with his mum and dad.

Boy: [points to cauliflower cheese on his plate] What’s that?

Mum: Cauliflower cheese. Try it.

[Boy turns up nose.]

Mum: You haven’t even tasted it. Just try a little bit, please.

[Boy scrapes cauliflower cheese to side of plate.]

It drives us nuts when kids decide they don’t like something before they’ve even tried it, right? “I have a rule,” parents sometimes say. “They don’t have to eat it, but they have to at least try it.” Like it’s an antidote for fussy eating. Perhaps a cure?

Absolutely, we want our children to try everything. Our goal is for them to be open-minded, adventurous eaters who are happy to taste any new food that comes their way. But making them try everything won’t achieve that. In fact, it will backfire big time. Are they going to go, “Ooh, mummy, I’m so glad you made me try it. It’s delicious. I’m going to eat it all! And every time I see it from now on!”? Are they heck!

Telling them to try something invites them to a battle of wills. Now it’s Us v. Them. We’re the enemy to be beaten. Yes, if we persist, we might ‘win’ and get one mouthful into them – but no more. Worse still, we’ve almost certainly killed any chance of them voluntarily eating that food next time they see it. The little blighters don’t forget!

So what’s the best way to get them trying new foods? Leave it entirely up to them. Children are born curious. They’re programmed to explore and experiment, including with food – as long as we don’t interfere and intervene. So, let’s re-run that conversation:

Boy: What’s that?

Mum: Cauliflower cheese. Cauliflower with a cheesy sauce.

And Stop. Right. There.

Maybe he’ll taste it, maybe he won’t, but the odds are way, way higher!


Have you read Things not to say #2?