Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Thoughtful Tuesdays - How to feed your child without a fight?

I saw my mother doing this.... 
I saw my aunts doing this...
I saw my sisters doing this.... 
I saw my friends doing this.... 
I realized I was doing it too.....

Running after my kids with food in my hand.... pleading them to eat!!! When I looked at families with toddlers sitting together and eating dinner properly in restaurants and TV shows, they seemed Aliens to me... 

My situation was not good.... As a toddler Reya ate everything. But as she grew up, Reya refused to eat anything that had even a hint of spice. She avoided Indian food and preferred eating frozen food which I hated... I even took it as an insult and considered myself as a failed Mother. Then came along Rithik. Rithik was a better eater than Reya, but picky nonetheless. And Rahul wanted extremely healthy version of Indian food. My options were limited. Either I could prepare 3 different cuisines to satisfy 3 palates or ignore Rahul and just cater bland child friendly food. I was totally stumped.

Then one day I decided that things have to change and I will have to change them.... I put my foot down and announced that I was enforcing new food policies in the house.

The new rules
  1. I will only make 1 kind of food not 3... and everyone will have the option of eating it or making their own arrangements... 
  2. Frozen food will be limited to once a week, twice if you are good all week. Thursdays are very hectic for us and this options was more for saving my face... he he he
  3. Reya has to start helping in the kitchen. If she helped me make food, there is a higher chance she will eat it.
  4. I will not wait for Rahul to get home to serve dinner. Reya, Rithik and I will eat together on the dining table and if the kids left the table, their dinner was over (I am still working on enforcing this... but huge progress so far)
  5. Kids will put their own dishes in the sink. And their dirty clothes in laundry for that matter.
I also decided to present the food in a more interesting way to the kids. Kids are allowed to decorate the food themselves or ask me to decorate the food the way they want...

I wouldn't claim that the system was an instant success. There were days when Reya made her own sandwich for dinner. There were days when I just forced Rithik's mouth open and shoved food down his throat. There were days I just resorted to frozen food or got fast food. And there were days when I had to let them eat food in front of TV.

But overall it worked...
  • Now the kids sit on the table and don't run around. Well Reya needs some reminders to stop dancing from time to time. But I don't yell as much as I had to before. The headache medicine consumption in our household has gone down.
  • The kids eat relatively spicy food. Rahul and I don't have to resort to pickles and extra pepper to spice up our food. 
  • Kids no longer ask for frozen food. My moment of joy came last night when Rithik forced me to cook "Khichdi" even when there was pizza on the table. 
  • They might need reminder, but the kids put their dishes away. Reya washes her dishes if we have time.
  • Reya often helps in the kitchen. She makes all the salads and cooks rice. Rithik just makes a mess.
  • We really have fun decorating the food.... Flowers, stars, butterflies, volcanoes, castles, caterpillar... when we have time, we let our imagination go wild.... 
I really think the letting the kids help in kitchen and presenting the food well made the biggest difference. It's so much fun for kids to bring their spoon airplanes and destroy the rice castle. Or find a way for the river of daal in the rice land. 

I may not have reached the end goal, but we are definitely on the right track. The situation has improved and most importantly I have also learnt to take it a bit easier on myself and not feel like a failure anytime we eat frozen food or get food from outside.

Until next time!
PS: It makes me very sad to see you all visiting but not leaving a comment... Cheer me up... leave a comment!


  1. Shilpa, I decided to follow these rules of feeding kids when my first one was still an infant. So my two boys now don't know any other way (yes - once they get up from the dining table - mealtime is over and the plate is taken away! Everything you mentioned - even the dinner at a set time, whether Daddy is home or not...). I remember another mom watching Vidyut throw the leftovers in the trash at the food court - and she was surprised! Why is this so rare? These rules are the correct way. You are doing the right thing!
    Even grown-ups don't like change. It is an uphill battle. So Shilpa, I am Amazed at how FUN you have made this transition for your kids. You are an AWESOME mom!

  2. Thanks for the confidence boost Archana. I have to say that I have learnt a of of things by watching you... I am trying to be awesome, you already are!

  3. Haha! Sweet of you to say that. And Here I am taking notes from your blogs. We all are. Thanks for writing them.
    I want to add for your readers here about not waiting for Dads for dinner. It is actually a relief for them as I found. My husband hated to have to disappoint the kids or be so late and mess up their schedule when work clearly needed his attention first. So it is a relief for him to be off the hook. He is home for bedtime routine instead. That being said - there should at least one family meal per day where everyone is at the table. Solution? Breakfast! One: you put effort into the most important meal of the day. Two: Family meal - done. Three: kids go off to school in a great mood with safe and happy outlook (see book Brain Rules). 
    Mamma has to wake up just a bit early - but the benefits are worth it!

  4. Good job Di! I guess, time has come for me too to enforce new food policies. Is there a copyright for your rules? :)

  5. Welcome back Disha! Long time... where have you been?