Ever have someone you've invited over for dinner bring a separate meal for their children?
Or better yet, ever have guests ask to borrow your stove so they can whip up something special for their kids?
We've all be in the place where we think, "My child won't eat that." Come to think of it, we've all be in that place where we think, "I won't eat that!"
Believe me, I understand the rationale for always being ready with your own rations.
It's better to be safe than sorry. And, when used as an occasional strategy to get through a strange situation—kept in your bag and used only as a backup (what if turns out your kids like chicken tandoori?)—it's not a bad thing. But "packing" on a regular basis teaches kids the wrong lessons.
Bringing your own MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat) undermines your objectives and makes the problems of parenting a picky eater worse.
"Packing" on a regular basis:
- Deprives children of the opportunity to sit, ponder, consider and (perhaps even) consume something new.
- Reinforces your children's delusion that they should be able to eat their favorite foods every time they eat.
- Doesn't prepare your children for the real world.
Parents who "pack" probably think they'll never have a peaceful moment; that made-to-order macaroni and cheese is all that stands between them and mayhem.
And really, when you think about it that way, bringing a meal for your kids doesn't seem like a big deal. Everyone deserves a quiet dinner out. (And no one wants to parent a picky eater in public.)
On the other hand, there are other, better, ways to feed the family and to avoid a scene. Trust me, you don't need to pull up to your host's house carting a cooler full of consumables. Just change your goals.
Shift your goals from getting your kids fed (peacefully) to teaching them how to handle food-related social situations.
The pickier your kids are the more they need to learn this. (Even if they're 2.)
Lessons kids need to learn:
1) Different moms, different restaurants, different countries (you do want to travel some day, don't you?) sometimes cook different food.
2) There are ways to cope when confronted with foreign foods. (Never mind that the foreign food we're talking about here is probably something as simple as grilled chicken. Your kids still gotta learn.)
Talk with your children about what food will probably be on the menu.
Then, brainstorm things your children can do to get through the situation, without starving, sulking or stomping. I suggest you consider the following:
- Let your kids eat before going out, and then maybe again, after you get home.
- Find something (anything) palatable on the menu being served.
- Taste unfamiliar foods with NO PRESSURE or EXPECTATION to eat them.
- Always be polite.
When you think about it, aren't these the techniques you use when you go out? You can teach them to your kids, too.
Most kids don't spontaneously start eating differently.
They need practice and opportunity. Read Let Your Kids Sit With Their Own Struggles.
And most kids don't automatically know how to be polite when confronted with an eating disaster.
They need practice and opportunity for this too.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~