Eat this, then that.

Humor me.  I’m rejoicing in a small victory today.  Lunch time woes.  Both of my kids have it.  “Lunch?!  I hate lunch! I want to throw lunch in the trash!”  Interpretation: “I only like to eat sweet, snacky foods–fruits and snack crackers and cookies.”  Today, my patience paid off–for BOTH of my children!

Lunch for the children today was meager: pile of tomatoes, pile of real mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 wheat bread slice.  I would’ve made a grilled cheese with tomatoes, but they wouldn’t eat it all together like that… They each ate the bread.  They each ate the tomatoes… and then, the cheese was left.  They looked at what Mommy and Daddy were eating and started losing it.  “I WANT a SANDWICH!”  (Of course, I know better… We’re eating fancy paninis, complete with pepperoni, cheese and veggies.)

They see the whole grain chips and hummus we’re eating.  My 19-month old: “Chip.  Chip.  Abby chip.”  It started with Sophia hollering and beggine and continued on to Abby.  The easy thing to do would be to just give in–give them each some chips.  After all, they’re whole grain.  Or, I could simply have put chips on their plate in the first place.  However, I had a sneaking suspicion that neither of them would eat this foreign looking cheese.  I was right.

Since Sophia asked for a chip first, I told her that she would need to eat some cheese before she could have any chips.  After flipping out and yelling awful things, she finally asked to leave the table to go play.  5 minutes later, she was back.  She ate a piece of cheese and got a chip.  10 pieces of cheese and 10 chips later and lunch was finished.  Abby didn’t quite understand the concept so well, though we’ve done it many times.  (Either that, or she’s stubborn as a mule.  I think she’s stubborn as a mule.)  After 10 whole minutes of screaming her head off for a chip, she asked to be all done.  Then 10 minutes later, Abby came back to the table and asked for a chip.  This time when I said, “Cheese first, then chip,” she ate the piece of cheese and then ate the chip.  (Sophia helped.)  10 pieces of cheese and 10 chips later, and she was also completely finished with her lunch!  AH!  Victory is mine!

It’s a simple rewards based system that teaches children the importance of eating what’s more healthy first before moving onto the junk.  Some people don’t like to reward with food, but it’s such a simple concept that is effective.  As long as your rewards aren’t crap and as long as what you’re using to teach them to eat is truly healthy food, then I think that it will teach them good eating habits.

Another trick we use with our eldest is dessert rewards.  When she completely finishes her (well-balanced) plate of dinner, she is rewarded with a (reasonable) dessert.  Dessert is usually fruit, sometimes a fruity popsicle, or something sweeter like chocolate or a cookie.  I want to teach my kids to eat EVERYTHING, appreciate foods with different flavors, textures and colors…  I think it’s working, little by little.  The trick is having the patience to be okay with screaming for a few minutes.  My kids sure can throw fits!  I bet yours can, too.  😉

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