Getting Kids to Eat, Lesson Two: Using Water
Johnny has been eating eggs a lot lately but I’ve been worried he hasn’t been getting enough carbs. Apparently Cheerios are now too boring to eat. And I know well that trying to force a kid to eat something is the surest way to make him loathe that thing forever.
This morning I tried a trick – whisking eggs, milk, and a little flavoring with some soft shredded bread. As I cooked it and noticed how mushy it was turning out I began to dread trying to get Johnny to eat it.
When the mixture was thoroughly cooked I sat down with it in front of Johnny’s high chair and made a great performance of eating a few bites. Then I offered it to him.
He took the bate, didn’t spit it out, and smiled. So far so good. He took another bite and another.
And then suddenly he started pushing it away.
“Would you like more eggs?” I asked politely as this has been known to do the trick…Johnny gets upset if I start shoving food in his mouth like a machine.
He condescended to take one more bite but that was it.
Now normally at this point I would have thrown my hands up in bewildered misery, thrown the eggs-and-bread in the trash and started rummaging around for anything else I could get Johnny to eat. Today was different. We had some unexpected expenses this last week and payday is not till Sunday. What’s more I have no vehicle (this involves the aformentioned expenses) and no way to go to the store. What it comes down to is that none of the usual grapes, banannas and very little of the Smokies that are Johnny’s old standbys were available. I was saving the Smokies for lunch and for tomorrow. And I was tired. Too tired to fight with my kid and too strapped to waste a whole egg and a slice of bread.
So I just sat there. We stuck out our tongues at one another; we took turns making funny noises with our lips. A couple of times Johnny reached his hand out in that “give me some more” gesture but I just shrugged and said, “I don’t know what to do for you, Baby.”
And what a miracle, he eventually ate three more bites of egg mixture. Then he stopped eating again but I thought, hey I’m on to something. Low pressure, friendly interaction, and don’t let him know there’s any other food in the house.
I don’t know when it ocurred to me to give him some water. Maybe I was feeling thirsty myself. But I remembered he’d had nothing to drink yet this morning so I filled a small glass with water and began to help him drink it.
And miracle of miracles, after his third or fourth sip, I caught him looking at the bowl of eggs-and-bread on the table.
“Would you like more eggs?” I asked him, and tried giving him a bite. He took it. Then he looked at the water so I gave him more. Then eggs. Water. Eggs. Water. Eggs. Water. Till he’d finished the entire bowl of eggs and the entire cup of water. Now he’s happily runing around the house filling his diaper.
My nose tells me I should go.
But first I must reflect that sometimes when we have trouble getting our kids to eat, it’s because we are trying to forcre them into our own bad eating habits. My husband is always telling me I need to drink water at every meal but I usually forget. Now I was expecting my baby to do the same thing. Fortunately he has healthier desires than I do.
As I explore Orthodox Christian thinking, my ideas about children are changing. If God does not take personal offence at my every infraction or failure, as I once believed he did, then why should I take offence at my child’s infractions and failures? If he’s wrong it’s only to his own hurt and that should grieve me more than anger me. I’m trying to reserve righteous anger for those times when he is truly being stubborn even though he knows better. At this age (16 months) that doesn’t really happen when you watch closely. Ignorance, misunderstanding, blind desire, and fear drive most wrongdoing. That wrongdoing can and will become sinful and death-bringing if they become habits and last till he’s older. Well, that’s bound to happen…it’s the human condition. But the gentlest way to discourage as much of it as possible is the best kind of discipline. Sometimes when Johnny is truly frustrating me I put him in his crib with some toys until we are ready to start interacting again.
Then again, as in today’s example, sometimes it’s me who’s wrong, not him. And that should make me even slower to condemn my child’s frustrating behavior. I’m really glad I didn’t punish Johnny for not eating his eggs-and-bread this morning.