Imperfect pretzels are so powerful they can turn normal kids into "crazies." But they can also turn your kids into empowered eaters.
But there's a twist: if you want to empower your kids you can't give in to their demands to be presented only with perfect pretzels. (I know, not giving in goes against the grain. Stick with me for a minute here.)
Some kids go absolutely nuts in the presence of Imperfect Pretzels.
"Ahhhhh. Take them away. Take them away!"
You know what I'm talking about: Imperfect pretzels are cracked, not whole. As a result, they're totally offensive.
- Maybe your "imperfect pretzel" is a waffle that hasn't been cut correctly.
- Or it's a sandwich served with the crusts on. The horror!
It seems so easy to satisfy your child's eating idiosyncracies, and perhaps it feels a tad coercive not to. But serving only perfect pretzels teaches the wrong lessons.
Serving imperfect pretzels teaches kids that they're in charge of their own eating.
It's an effective way of saying, "You can choose whether or not to eat the pretzels."
Empowering kids by serving imperfect pretzels is counterintuitive.
It feels like giving in to your child's demands will empower her, but it doesn't. It simply reinforces a control struggle. It sends the message that you need her to eat. Therefore, you will provide food in whatever way she wishes.
In the process, it also limits your child by reinforcing the idea that he can (and should) only eat foods when they're presented in a certain way.
Think about how liberating choices are to children.
- You can choose to eat only the whole pretzels if that's what you want to do.
- You can tear the crusts off the sandwich, eat around them, or eat them. The choice is yours.
- You can pick the mushrooms out of the stew, if you would like.
You can do this. You are able to do this. You are competent to do this.
Imperfect pretzels teach another very valuable lesson: foods that look different often taste the same.
Serving imperfect pretzels reduces the control struggle by setting a reasonable and appropriate boundary.
And it enables parents to be warm and compassionate at the same time.
Boundaries+compassion=authoritative parenting. Authoritative parenting has been shown over and over to produce kids with healthy eating habits.
Does this mean you should never serve perfect pretzels?
Absolutely not. Sometimes serving perfect pretzels— because you know your child likes them— is a great way to show respect. It's the difference between wanting to and having to.
For more on this topic read Cutting Toast Triangles & Cucumber Squares?
I discuss all these ideas in It's Not About the Broccoli.
~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~