breakfast

Are Parents to Blame For Picky Eaters?

by Samantha on June 20, 2015

Whose fault is it when kids refuse to eat what's put in front of them?


girl picky eater

We’ve all dealt with the picky eating habits of our kids at one time or another. Whether it’s a disdain for broccoli or a dislike of asparagus, most parents have had to negotiate with their children about certain types of food that said child has deemed “gross.” I’ve done it myself and have used every trick in the book to get my kids to eat what I think to be a balanced and sufficient meal.

But what about those kids who consistently decline most food items put in front of them, demanding, instead another meal selection, snack or pronouncing a downright refusal to eat at all? What about them? Where did they get their chutzpah?

At the risk of being scolded, may I suggest that it may very well be from their parents?

Yes, their parents.

It’s safe to say that many kids are picky eaters because their parents have coddled them. Through fear that they will eat nothing and - gasp - go to bed hungry, they have been provided with their own personal chef and concierge, taking orders and serving meals on demand.

In many households, it is the child (or children) who have been allowed to dictate what is being served. In these homes, the parent(s) gives in to the child’s demands and makes special or separate meals for them. How many of us have given in and said, “okay, if you don’t want to eat this, I’ll make you something else?”

Guilty as charged. And it’s not a stretch to assume that you are too.

As parents (and mothers in particular - there, I said it), we worry about our children’s every need. Whether it’s the fact that they have a runny nose, a fever or the fear that they haven’t had enough to eat (in our opinion), so many of us feel the need to rectify the situation at any cost. It’s this parental instinct that takes over and shifts the balance of power from the parent to the child.

In the case of picky eating, the tendency for the parent to give in to the child’s refusal to eat sets up an expectation that all demands and requests will be accommodated.

In these scenarios, the child feels that they are in control and they don’t have to try anything. Also, it sets them up for unrealistic expectations as adults that they will be given in to whatever they ask for.

Allowing kids to set the stage for meals is just one example of the growing trend towards a child-centred philosophy of parenting. The rise of “helicopter parenting”and an age where over-protection is the norm, not the exception, just feeds (pun intended) kids desire to have all of their demands fulfilled.

Unfortunately, giving in to these demands just sets up kids for unrealistic expectations in the future. As difficult as it may be, it’s in our kids’ best interests to not always give in to their demands, particularly regarding food choices. In the absence of a specific allergy or inability to digest certain foods, what’s on the table for dinner should be just that - dinner, with no option for choice. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, when I was a kid, there was no choice - each meal was what we were eating and that was it. No consulting with us kids about whether or not they wanted to eat it, what they wanted instead, or why they didn’t like it. Not eating meant that they’d likely have a grumbling tummy and a voracious appetite the following morning.

It’s a hard thing to do, denying your child their preference for food, as there’s always the fear that they’ll starve. They won’t. Especially if there’s a fridge full of food and a healthy balanced meal in front of them that they have chosen not to eat. As difficult as it may be, as parents, we are obliged to teach our kids that there are not always choices in life. As they grow up and later when they become adults, they will need to know that sometimes, the luxury of choice is absent. More importantly, it’s crucial that children learn early to be flexible, accommodating and that sometimes they will have to just go with the flow and deal with the situation at hand instead of assuming that there will be an option. There won’t always be one.

Is your child a picky eater? How do you respond when your child won’t eat their meal? Do you give in or say “no?” Tell me about it in the comments section below.

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When Your Child Wants to Become Vegetarian

by Samantha on August 8, 2014

How to support your child's new meat-free culinary choice

assorted vegetables

You’re a family of meat-eaters. Carnivores through and through. Steak, pork chops, ribs falling off the bone - that’s your idea of a real meal. This is how it is, this is the way it’s been forever in your family.

Enter your child. They could be young, say elementary school age, or in their tweens or teens. Regardless of their age, they’ve decided that they no longer want to eat meat.

What’s a parent to do?

This scenario is a common one that is playing itself out in kitchens and dining rooms around the world. With an increasingly aware group of children who are curious about how and where their food comes from, coupled with many delicious meat-free options that are now considered standard fare in supermarkets, restaurants and even school cafeterias, it’s no wonder that kids are considering their choices before they “chow down” on their next meal.

Vegetarian or not, the choice to become one poses a dilemma for families where most of the members are meat eaters and have always been so. For you as a parent, the practical considerations of this pronouncement by your child include the following:

  • Philosophical Disagreement - You just don’t agree with vegetarianism, period. People should eat meat - that’s how we evolved, and that’s your position.
  • More Work For You - Having a child that disagrees with you is causing a major problem at the breakfast, lunch and dinner table as you may have to make extra meals to accommodate your child. As well, there’s the education involved as you may also have to “bone up” (pun intended) on vegetarian nutrition and find out what types of healthy, balanced meals you can make for the new non-meat-eater in the family.
  • Expense - “How much is this going to cost me?” you may be thinking. After all, aren’t vegetarian foods more expensive? From a practical perspective, money is money and parents on a budget may balk at the idea of having to spend more on groceries due to this new development
  • Fear - What does this new foray into meat-free eating say about your child? Is this just the beginning of an overall change of values for your beloved son or daughter, values that you worked so hard to in still in them?

Recently, my ten-year-old daughter expressed an interest in cutting down the amount of meat that she would be eating. Inspired both by her deeper consideration about animals and school friends who are also vegetarian, the topic has been one that we’ve been discussing frequently.

Full disclosure: While I am not a full-fledged vegetarian by any means, I eat mostly vegetarian dishes, do not eat red meat or pork at all, and eat chicken and fish two to three times a week. Generally speaking, I lean more towards the non-meat meals as a preference. That being said, the rest of my family eats meat of all kinds fairly regularly. This type of scenario - where different family members eat different meals is not at all atypical. For many reasons, food choices amongst family members often begin to vary as children get older and form their own thoughts and ideas about what they do or don’t want to eat. The question for the parents then becomes: “How are we going to deal with this?

 Tips for Parents of Newly Vegetarian Children:

1) Be Supportive - Your child is questioning their choices and is starting to make decisions for themselves. This is a good thing! You’ve likely taught them to be an independent thinker and to weigh many sides of an issue or topic. In choosing a vegetarian diet, they are doing this, so help them along their journey as they sort out their new dietary lifestyle.

2) Know Your Stuff - Learn as much you can about vegetarianism, not only the nuts and bolts such as what to cook, but the philosophy behind it as well. Many cultures and countries in the world have large vegetarian populations and long histories behind this culinary choice. In addition to learning about the philosophy, do some research to make sure that your child’s daily nutritional needs are met. Things to consider include vitamin intake, protein and iron requirements, which foods are rich in specific vitamins, etc. Also consider the type of vegetarianism that your child wants to follow. There are also different types of vegetarian diets and not all are the same. Some of these include Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw Vegan, Ovo-Vegetarian, and others. For a more detailed list with explanations of each, click here.

3) Learn Some Recipes -  This new nutritional venture is a great opportunity for you and your child to cook together as well as to learn some new recipes. Seize the moment and invest in a vegetarian recipe book (or two) and learn to cook some meat-free meals. Sit down with your son or daughter and go through some potential dishes that appeal to you both. Cooking with your child and showing support in this way will make the transition to this new cuisine more enjoyable for both of you.

4) Plan Ahead - Meal planning is key in this new world order. The last thing you want to have to deal with is scrambling to make a separate dish for your child and finding out that you don’t have the right ingredients. Sit down with your son or daughter and, as in point number 3, learn some recipes and then head to the local grocery store to make sure you have the ingredients. Make a weekly menu and grocery shopping plan so that you’re prepared for each meal. The key is to have vegetarian staples on hand so that meals and snacks for your child are easily prepared. These can include vegetable soup stock (for making soups, vegetarian stews, etc.), tofu, beans, nuts, rice, and of course plenty of fruit and vegetables.

5) Be Flexible - Sure - you may love to tuck into your steak and potatoes regularly but perhaps your child’s new food choice is an opportunity for a family shift in family meals. With little effort and an open mind, you can support your child’s choice without too much change to your own diet. Consider making vegetarian meals for the whole family once or twice a week, or making a complete veggie-based dish as part of your family’s regular menu. Starting with Meat-Free Mondays or a similar food plan will help you along the way.

At one time, vegetarianism was seen to be an odd and in many cases, unpopular choice for families. Thankfully, things have changed and these days, there are a number of sites and options available for those who want to venture into a more vegetarian-based diet.

Here are some great sites with kid-friendly vegetarian recipes:

BBC Good Food: Vegetarian Kids’ Recipes

Cooking Light: Vegetable Recipes For Kids

Martha Stewart: Kid-Friendly Vegetarian Recipes

With an open mind, a little planning and some flexibility, you can easily support your child’s new food choice without making too many changes for the rest of the family. Bon appétit!

Has your child recently expressed an interest in becoming vegetarian? If so, how have you handled this decision? Do you agree or disagree with children making this choice? Leave me your thoughts and comments in the section below.

 

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Simple tips to make the morning routine stress-free


morning rush

The Morning Rush: It’s that very stressful period where we have to wake up the kids, get breakfast ready, get them dressed, fed and out the door and deposited to school or daycare - on time. For many of us, it’s a daily struggle. I’ve written about it before and put a humorous spin on in in the image below - you can check out the full post here as well.

Though the morning rush is brief, it’s often intense as time is of the essence and kids are often not the best at following rules, especially when you need really need them to do so. In many cases, stress levels are high - for both children and parents - and tolerance levels are low, often leading to combustable scenarios that include shouting, crying and more. This is far from an ideal way to start the day.

Beginning the day on a negative note is never a good thing as it affects not only one’s mood, but one’s productivity throughout the day as well. This goes for both parents and kids - children are often affected by the events at home and it’s reflected in their behaviour at school. For these and many other reasons, it’s important to alleviate the issues that result in those crazy, stress-filled mornings that leave everyone unhappy.

Following are 10 tips for dealing with the morning rush:

1) Wake Up First - As the parent, you lead the charge. As any leader knows, getting ahead of the game and taking a few solitary moments to breathe, savour the quiet and get your mental battle gear in order is the key to success. Set your alarm to wake up half an hour before the family rises to both mentally prepare yourself and to enjoy the peace and quiet.

2) Prepare the Night Before - Planning is key. To avoid stressful scenarios in the mornings, get organized and plan ahead. Lay out your kids’ clothes, make their lunches, sign all school forms, check homework, pack backpacks, etc. Get your kids into the habit of providing you with their school-related documents when they receive them, not the morning that they’re due.

3) Get Enough Sleep - The importance of a good night’s sleep is grossly underrated. This goes for not only kids but parents as well. Tempers flare and nerves are frayed when people are not well-rested. This goes for not just you but the kids. They’ll be less grumpy and easier to wake up in the mornings if they’ve been able to get enough sleep the night before.

4) Tune Out the Tech - As tempting as it may be to check your email, Facebook or even the morning news online, don’t do it. By its very nature, the Internet is distracting and we all know how quickly we can get pulled in to its vortex. Make a plan to focus on getting the kids dressed, fed and out the door and leave the digital dabbling to later on, when the kids are at school.

5) Get Kids to Help - Why take on all of the responsibility? Kids can learn do do simple tasks at early ages so let them get busy! Have them pack their knapsacks help pick out their clothes (depending on their ages) and help with making their lunches. With even a little bit of responsibility kids will thrive and there will be less for you to do as well.

6) Start Early - If your kids need half an hour to get themselves out of bed, plan to get them up half an hour earlier. The point is to minimize the stress, of which sleep - too much of it - is often a key part. If you’re dealing with a sleepy teenager or tween, or a child who needs a full night’s rest, get them to bed early. They’ll be much easier to wake in the morning and stress levels will be considerably lower for everyone involved.

7) Plan the Breakfast Menu - Breakfast is often a scramble - pun intended. When dealing with kids, there’s the issue of picky eating, whining, complaining and often crying. It doesn’t have to be this way. Get the children involved the day or night before and determine at that point what they’ll be eating for breakfast. Talk it through, get their agreement about what’s going to be on their plate in the morning and rest easy knowing that the breakfast theatrics won’t occur.

8) Put a Time Limit on Tasks - As part of the overall morning plan, give your kids a certain amount of time to eat, get dressed, etc. Left to their own devices, we all know how much longer kids can take getting things done as they often have no sense of urgency. If necessary, use a time or stop-watch - they’ve been known to work with even the slowest of kids.

9) Schedule Bathroom Time - Fighting for the bathroom is yet another morning stressor that doesn’t need to happen. For those of us who don’t have enough bathrooms to support the morning demand, make a schedule. It may sound crazy but planning who is going to go in first, who’s showering at what time, etc. will take the heat of those waiting outside the door. For younger kids, bathe them in the evenings before bed.

10) Check the Weather - Unless you’re blessed with living in a climate where it’s always warm, you will likely have to deal with getting your kids dressed for the season. Whether it’s fall, winter, spring or summer, your child’s outdoor attire can add precious minutes to your morning routine. Check the weather forecast for the coming morning and, where necessary, set out your kids’ rain boots, snow pants, hats, mittens or whatever is required. Doing so will reduce the amount of time and stress looking for the right attire at the last minute.

The Morning Rush from a parent's point-of-view The morning rush is crazy! Getting kids ready for school is often stressful AND funny.

What tips do you have for making the morning routine less stressful? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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child cooking

We all have to eat to live. It’s one of life’s basic realities. For us parents, we not only have to eat to live, but we have to cook for our kids as well. Considering the amount of time that most of us spend in the kitchen, wouldn’t it make sense to include our kids in the food preparation process? As a matter of fact, getting our kids into the kitchen would not only help us in terms of having a second set of hands in meal preparation, but it would help the children as well.

The skills acquired through cooking are ones that result in greater confidence and self-esteem for our kids. Just think about it: what child wouldn’t feel better about themselves after mastering a killer Beef Strogonoff or Oven Baked French Toast?

Cooking is a great way to build kids’ confidence as well as a practical method of getting meals prepared in the home. Here are some five ways that parents can use cooking to build confidence in their kids:

1) Let Them Choose - It all starts here. In order to get your child excited about the idea of cooking, get them involved at the get-go. Get a cookbook or go online and let them pick out a recipe or menu that appeals to them. Having them involved in the process from the outset will make them comfortable with the idea and will support their creative spirit. A great resource is FamilyKitchen.ca, where there are a variety of recipes that children can choose from. Sit down with your child and plan a meal - giving your child some control over the cooking process will build their confidence and motivation.

2) Give Them Age-Appropriate Tasks - A measured approach is always best and giving kids tasks that they can master will go a long way in allowing them to achieve success. Depending on a child’s age and level of skill, there are many options for them to do in the kitchen. Activities can range from the simple, such as pouring, mixing or stirring, to the more advanced, such as chopping, shredding or even grilling. It’s all dependent on the child’s level of ability and comfort. As kids continue cooking with their parents, they quickly advance to more advanced tasks, allowing them to feel both confident and inspired.

3) Give Them Their Own Set of Cooking Tools - There’s nothing like ownership to get a child motivated and excited. This includes cooking tools of their very own; after all - what chef doesn’t own their own tools of the trade?  Depending on their age, some things to get your child started on their cooking journey could include a cheese grater, a peeler, a spatula, mixing spoons, a vegetable scrubber and a rolling pin. And don’t forget their own mini-apron!

4) Let Them Get Creative  - Kids love to express themselves and this is no more true than in the kitchen. Let your burgeoning chef release their inner Julia Child by supporting their ideas for recipe experimentation. This could be as simple as adding an extra spice to a simple dish, or for more advanced chefs, substituting ingredients. Let your child take the reins on cooking and watch them flourish. Remember: most recipes are made to be altered and can come out well even with some changes made. Your child may have a great idea about how to add some flavour and flair to a particular dish; why stand on ceremony and say “no?” Let them have their way (within reason) and watch your children’s inner chef appear.

5) Be Their Partner - Together you can do this. Your support means the world to them, mom and dad. Be your child’s sous chef, their food supplier and their cheering team. Let them know that you’re there to help them become the best cook that they can be, and that you believe in their abilities to excel at whatever dish they choose to tackle. Just knowing that you’re behind them all the way and supporting their growth will do wonders in growing their abilities and their confidence.

For more information on how to cook with your child, as well as easy-to-follow and delicious recipes, go to www.familykitchen.ca

VIDEO: Cooking With Kids

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How to Cook With Kids: Top 5 Tips For Parents

by Samantha on August 31, 2013




*In an effort to support greater nutritional choices and activities for families , Multiple Mayhem Mamma is partnering with The Registered Dieticians and The Dairy Farmers of Canada to offer easy-to-follow tips and advice to parents*

Parents are busy, that’s a well-known fact. Between shuttling kids to various lessons and managing a household, it’s no wonder that cooking for the family can often feel like a chore. Trying to juggle everybody’s busy schedules as well as spending quality time with their kids is an effort in and of itself; preparing quality home-cooked meals is just one more thing to add to the list.

Fortunately, the solution to this last challenge is simpler than you may think. The Registered Dieticians with Dairy Farmers of Canada recommend that families cook together. By doing so, parents will save time in the long run, get extra quality time with the kids and provide their children with an important set of life skills.

Check out this Fattoush Salad. Looks yummy, right? You can get the full recipe for it here:

fattoush-revisited

Following are 5 Simple Tips on How to Cook With Kids

1) Start Them Early - Cooking is a life skill, just like swimming or decision-making. Teach your kids how to cook early on and they’ll carry it through to adulthood. The sooner they get into the kitchen, the more likely they will be skilled at the basics of meal-making at an earlier age. The result? They’ll thrive when they’re older and out on their own. Instead of eating Ramen noodles in their university dorm, your kids will have the skills to make real meals when they’ve finally left the family nest.

2) Make it Easy - Using a measured approach based on age and skill level will go a long way in encouraging kids to cook with confidence. Give kids tasks that they can do so that they feel like they are helping and contributing. In doing so they will be more likely to become confident and inspired cooks as they get older. At www.FamilyKitchen.ca, there are a number of child-friendly recipes and videos of families cooking together that can be used as a starting point for parents and kids.

3) Make it Fun - Cooking doesn’t have to be boring. How about mixing it up a bit and making some meals special events? Parents can have “Dinner and a Movie” night, “Smorgasborg Night” or a special Weekend Brunch. Making a meal into an event every so often will compel children to participate and will make the whole process easier for both the parent and child.

4) Make it Interesting - Sick of boxed mac and cheese? Expose your kids to new recipes that they will like. There are a number of kid-friendly meals that families can cook that extend beyond the run-of-the-mill standards. Sure - grilled cheese sandwiches are great, but how about chicken pot pie? Don’t let the idea of pastry crust scare you 😉 The recipe is family-friendly and kids love it. Find the old standards as well as some new ideas at www.FamilyKitchen.ca.

5) Make the Time - A 2012 study of Ontario parents showed that parents’ hesitance to cook with their kids was due to their thoughts that they wouldn’t have enough time to include their children in the process. Specifically, 77% of parents cited time as being the primary factor as to why they don’t cook with their kids. In actuality, families who cook together actually save time because kids are taking on part of the responsibility, e.g preparation, grating, organizing, etc. Who knew? Your child can be your own little Sous Chef :)

Do you cook with your kids? How do you get them engaged in the process? What are some of your favourite  family recipes? Leave me your comments below!

VIDEO: “The Talk”

VIDEO: Cooking With Kids




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How to Save Money, Food And Your Sanity - Top 5 Tips For Parents

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Eat leftovers, plan ahead and banish the guilt! As it always does, Friday night rolled around recently and, being the lazy sod that I am, I made the executive decision to ixnay plans for cooking dinner. After all, it’s been a busy week and a woman needs a break every now and again, right? Okay, […]

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Top 10 Tips For Dealing With A Picky Eater

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Child-Friendly Recipes: Simple Oatmeal Muffins

February 27, 2012

If you’re like me and have kids that suffer from the curse of “Picky Eater Syndrome,” you know how stressful it can be making sure that your little ones eat a healthy breakfast before heading out in the morning. Whether they’re just tired, crabby or generally averse to eating first thing, there is a way […]

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IKEA and Me: A Love Story

November 4, 2011

**DISCLAIMER** This is NOT a sponsored post, I have had no dealings with IKEA and I am not being paid or compensated in any way to talk about my love of the Swedish furniture maker. My boys play “IKEA” at daycare. What? You don’t know what this is? Let me explain. Sadly, my two-year-olds push […]

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