discipline

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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Don’t Make Santa the “Fall Guy”

by Samantha on December 19, 2014

Honesty is the Best Policy During the Holiday Season

coal from santa

“He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake!”

So are our children warned in one of the season’s most popular tunes, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Heaven forbid one ends up on “The Naughty List.”

For the uninitiated, this is the list that is kept by The Great One (no, not that one) who has the final say in what children receive – or don’t – on the morning of December 25th.

You see, the threat of being relegated to “The Naughty List” is what may be one of the only things that keep kids on the straight and narrow in those weeks and months leading up to Christmas Day.

Santa and his all-knowing, all-powerful ability to “see” what’s going on and to be the sole arbiter of decisions regarding behaviour throughout the year provides some semblance of order and obedience by anxious children, at least for a month or two (or three) leading up to the big day.

Oh, yes – there is the “Elf on the Shelf” who, in some homes, is also keeping an eye out for their boss, but these imps’ abilities to actually have decision-making capacities is questionable, at best. They may indeed report back to Santa but it is the big man in the red suit who determines what child is getting the goods and what child will be disappointed to say the least to receive that proverbial bag of coal on Christmas morning.

By many accounts, the threat seems to work, but one has to ask: is it really necessary?

Sure – Santa may determine that a child’s behaviour is not up to snuff and is therefore a reason to deny said child of gifts on Christmas Day. But why does Santa have to be the judge, jury and (figurative) executioner on December 25th? Whatever happened to parental responsibility and the ability to look one’s child in the eye in an attempt to deliver the verdict? If a child was indeed “naughty,” and deserves no more than a lump of coal in her stocking, what’s the problem with telling her so? Why offload the delivery of the bad news to the man in the red suit?

For the weeks and months leading up to Christmas Day, children around the world are on their best behaviour, in large part because of the constant reminder that the all-knowing, all-seeing Big Guy from Up North is watching their every move in an effort to determine whether all of their Christmas morning dreams will come true…or not.

All things considered, the lead-up to Christmas gives parents a break from always being the “heavy.” For a short while during the year, we get to delegate this parental responsibility to someone who appears to have the power to do what so many of us cannot: get their child to behave.

Perhaps it’s our collective feelings of guilt about having to be the disciplinarian for most of the year that relegates many of us during the holiday season to giddily remind our kids that “Santa’s watching.” We are, if only for a fleetingly short period of time, able to offload any responsibility for bad behaviour to an omnipresent figure who will mercifully deliver – or mercilessly not deliver – the goods come Christmas morning. After all: Santa sees all, knows all, and determines who gets what, so Moms and Dads are, for once, off the hook.

It’s easy to get Santa to do our “dirty work” for us for us once a year and relinquish us from any responsibility we may have otherwise had regarding being “The Heavy.” Financial considerations aside, it’s much more difficult to look your child square in the eyes and tell them that they didn’t receive the requested gift(s) because their bad behaviour didn’t warrant positive reinforcement.

Indeed, Christmas may present a welcome though fleeting relief for a time every holiday season, releasing us from the more unpleasant responsibilities of parenting: saying “no,” or disappointing our child. Though it’s easy enough to coast along, leaving Santa to be the one deciding our child’s toy fate, perhaps we should reconsider this tact and do the “dirty work” ourselves.

After all, it’s our responsibility to teach our children well, even when the lesson being taught is not one that the child particularly wants to learn. As difficult as it may be, this holiday season may present an opportunity to start a discussion with your child about their behaviour, good or bad, Santa Claus notwithstanding.

A child who has been deemed “naughty” should very well be told so by their parents, and no one else. Santa may be an easy messenger through his actions (or lack thereof) but the real lessons that will be learned and remembered by children are the ones that come from their mothers and fathers. As difficult as it may seem, the naughty behaviour that warrants discussion should not be made the responsibility of the big guy in the red suit. In other words, parents should take a page from their own well-worn playbook and follow one of the most important rules of all: honesty is the best policy.

Should Santa have all of the responsibility as to whether a child receives the gifts they ask for or not? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

To read this article on Huffington Post, CLICK HERE.

VIDEO: Santa Claus is Coming to Town

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My Imaginary Friend

by Samantha on January 15, 2014

When I was a little girl, I had an imaginary friend. It’s name was “Haldico.”

I say “it” because Haldico was neither a “he” or a “she.” And I was fine with that.

A strange name for an imaginary friend, I realize this now, but it all seemed so normal at the time. As a matter of fact, I can’t really remember how or where the name came from; all I knew from that time is that it was right, it fit and it stuck.

In my five-year-old brain, Haldico took the heat for all of the things that I couldn’t admit to. Haldico broke the vase. Haldico scribbled on the wall. Haldico stole some chocolate. Yes, Haldico did everything I didn’t do, and he/she did it with gusto. I just stood by in the sidelines, watching it wreak havoc on my household, all the while feigning innocence and being incredulous at the unmitigated gaul of my illusion.

My very exasperated mom would ask me a question, knowing full well that the answer may likely include a reference to my “special” friend. I, of course, knew nothing about the ills that had occurred at my home. All I knew was that Haldico was in the house and that things that were apparently beyond my control were occurring.

The need and ability for children to relinquish their responsibilities, errors and bad choices to a non-living figment of their imaginations is as common as the Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. Like the latter three fantasy figures, imaginary friends provide not only gifts (chocolate eggs, money and various presents, respectively), but a focal point for all of their fears, their regrets, their anger and their pain. The imaginary friend takes on the lion’s share of the challenging and more difficult parts of childhood, and deals with them with the ease of..well…an imaginary friend. They are all-knowing, fearless and just a little bit bad, and our kids love that about them. Imaginary friends are universal superheroes (regardless of gender, or lack thereof) who thumb their noses at silly little things like “rules.” Imaginary friends are the James Bonds of the preschool set. And then some.

James Stewart With Harvey

Having an alter ego, a “fall guy” if you will, who is the foil for all of one’s transgressions is very appealing, especially if you’re well below the age of majority. When control of one’s whereabouts, environment and life in general is dictated by parental figures who often seem to be big time party-poopers, it should be no surprise that these imaginary friends exist. Relinquishing responsibility to an invisible but culpable allay would be appealing to anyone who has ever had the desire to live out their darker fantasies but has decided against their primal urges because, hey, “what will people think?!” Offloading one’s innate compulsions to a “figment of the imagination” is not only easy, but cathartic as well. Guilt, shame, fear…beogone!

Perhaps we as adults are somewhat envious of the fact that our kids - by virtue of their ages - are able to invoke the likes of a non-existent pal. After all - how many times would we like to step back from reality and blame someone else for our transgressions?

Who got this parking ticket?

My imaginary friend.

Who bombed their big presentation at work this afternoon, in front of a boardroom of executives?

My imaginary friend.

Who yelled at their kids for the third time this morning and questioned their general abilities as a parent afterwards?

My imaginary friend.

You see, the imaginary friend is so much more than a figment of our children’s and, by extension our imaginations. Imaginary friends are us in our rawest form, as spiritually ugly as they may be. What these fantasies do and say are what we really want to do and say. And though the prevalence of fantasy-figure amigos may be more common in the younger set, they do exist in the adult population, if only in our minds. We daydream about stealing money from the till or pilfering supplies from the office. Of course we would never dream of doing such unethical, immoral and illegal acts…but our “imaginary friends” would. It’s so much easier to put the blame on someone else and unburden our consciences in the process.

And this truth has been figured out by our kids. No longer must they bear the brunt of parental discipline when they can easily pass on the responsibility for whatever ills have occurred to an unwitting and non-existent pal. The imaginary friend may have done the deed, but there’s no one really there to punish. From a kid’s perspective, what’s not to like?

As adults, we envy the freedom that kids experience, from their lack of responsibilities to their ability to live in the moment without a care in the world. No concern or fear of what tomorrow will bring and all of their todays are filled with fun and games.

Henry David Thoreau said it succinctly when he uttered “Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.

Something to remember next time our kid invokes the name of their imaginary friend as the culprit.

VIDEO: James Stewart Discusses “Harvey”

Image courtesy of Universal International Pictures/Universal

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Bad_friend_influence

It’s an inevitability that all parents must face: their child has a new friend and we don’t like them.

Perhaps it’s the new friend’s sassiness, their precociousness or their unwillingness to listen. Perhaps it’s their casual rudeness, familiarity or insistence when speaking with adults. Perhaps it’s the fact that their bad habits and manners are rubbing off on our kids and it’s causing some grief at home.

Your child wasn’t a big fan of talking back but now she is. Ditto for the less-than-savory language and the clothing that she now wants to wear. And it’s all because of her new BFF.

While a child is on the younger end of the spectrum, say aged 8 and younger, it’s often manageable. When they’re older than 9, however, it starts to be a challenge reining them in. Kids’ friends have clout and what their friends say and do affects our children, whether we like it or not.

Which brings us to today’s parenting dilemma: How do we as parents, keep our kids away from negative influences? What can parents do to handle situations where our kids are taking away the wrong messages and negative influences from their friends? Leave me your thoughts in the comments below!

VIDEO: How Do We Keep Our Kids Away From Negative Influences?

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The Sleep Over - 5 Questions Parents Should Ask

by Samantha on April 25, 2013

Parents should feel comfortable before allowing their child to spend the night away from home

sleep over kids

First it’s playdates, next thing you know, it’s sleep overs. Does the stress ever end?

No, it doesn’t, not when you’re a parent.

Kids love playing with their friends, as evidenced by their love of play dates at a very early age. Soon, though, they grow bored of just spending a few hours at their friends’ homes. As your children get older, they will utter the words “sleep over” just before you break out into a cold sweat.

For those of us who have been there, the thought of your child spending the night at someone else’s home can be quite anxiety-producing. After all, we won’t be there to watch over them, make sure they’re safe and be that comfort in the night just in case they have a bad dream. While we want to be everything to our child, we realize that we can’t always be, and that sooner or later we’ll have to let them venture out into the world, without us. Sleep overs are often the first instance of this fact becoming a reality.

That being said, the idea of your child spending the night at her friend’s home doesn’t have to signal the onset of a panic attack. Kids go to sleep overs, they have a great time and, for the most part, they come home just fine. If your child is asking you for permission to spend the night at a friend’s home, read on and make sure you ask the right questions. You may have heard them before: Who, What, Where, When and Why. Instead of asking them from a journalistic standpoint, add them to your parenting roster and make sure you get the answers you need.

The 5 Questions Parents Should Ask Before Sending Their Child to a Sleep Over

1) Who - Whose sleep over is it, anyway? That’s what you really need to know before your child walks out the door to sleep over at her friend’s house. Just as you wouldn’t leave your child in the hands of a stranger in any other instance, the sleep over is no different. Know who the parents are, speak to them or meet them before the date if you can, and make sure that you’re completely comfortable before giving the green light to the date. In addition to this, are other children going to be at the sleep over or is it just a one-on-one thing? If other kids are going to be there, it’s worthwhile to find out if you know them and if you’re comfortable with this scenario. Accordingly, a chat with the parents and, if possible, a visit to the home is not out of line. After all, you need to feel comfortable about sending your child to this place for the night.

2) What - Before sending your child off for the evening, find out what’s on the agenda. Are the kids going to be playing video games? If so, are you cool with that? How about watching TV and movies? Do you have limits or rules on what your child can view? Does your child have dietary restrictions, allergies or specific foods that they shouldn’t eat? All of these questions should be discussed with the other parents and answered to your satisfaction before sending your son or daughter over for the night.

3) Where - The assumption is that the sleep over is going to take place at your child’s friend’s home, but are you certain? Something so obvious often seems like it doesn’t merit asking but you never know. Is there any plan for the kids to go to the friend’s relative’s home, or to another friend’s home during the course of the sleepover? Not sure? Ask. Similarly, are you okay if the kids go elsewhere while in the care of the friend’s parents? If you’re not comfortable with this possibility, it’s perfectly fine to speak up and let your thoughts be known.

4) When - A clear start and end time for the sleep over is key to everyone’s happiness, especially yours. The clock starts as soon as your child leaves your home, of course, but there should also be a specific time for pick-up. For the most part, it’s best to remember the classic rule about not overstaying one’s welcome, so shortly after breakfast the next morning is usually a good time to pick up your child. That’s assuming that you’ve agreed that you’re going to go and collect your child in the morning. Some parents may graciously offer to drop off your son or daughter when the sleep over has ended; just make sure to confirm the details so that your lines don’t get crossed.

5) Why - Is there an ulterior motive to the sleep over? It’s never a nice thought to suspect your child of being up to no good but we know that things are not always as they appear (this is particularly the case as kids get a bit older and crave more freedom). Does the friend’s household provide more “freedom,” from your child’s perspective? Are there activities, games, movies, more permissive attitudes or parenting styles that don’t jive with yours? As noted in point #2, it’s prudent to chat with the parents about any and all concerns that you may have and be comfortable with your child being in the care of others for the evening. After all - they’re your child and at the end of the day, you have the right to say “yes” or “no” to any activity in which your child may be participating.

Sleep overs can be fun, exciting and an overall great time for your child. It can even provide you as a parent with a well-deserved break for an evening. By asking the right questions and feeling completely comfortable with the answers that you receive, both you and your child will experience an enjoyable and stress-free evening.

How do you feel about sleep overs? Do you think that there’s a right age to allow your child to spend the night at a friend’s house? What other pieces of advice would you give regarding this topic? Answer in the comments below!

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VIDEO: How to Handle Sleepovers - Advice From Multiple Mayhem Mamma


VIDEO: The Brady Bunch Sleepover Episode


 

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Anything You Say Can And Will Be Used Against You…

March 22, 2013

This is a cautionary tale for any parent who feels that their edicts, advice or simple musings have no consequence. They do. And how. We all know the “Miranda Rights” - you know, the few sentences that are uttered during the second half of Law and Order SVU 😉 “Anything that you say can and […]

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Monday Musings - What Style of Parent Are You?

February 5, 2013

What style of parent are you and why? We hear it all the time - the different styles of parenting and their relative merits and flaws. Some of us embrace Attachment Parenting, others are self-admitted Helicopter Parents and still others profess to followers of Maria Montessori, allowing their kids to learn at their own pace, […]

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VIDEO: How to Deal With Playdates

January 10, 2013

Well, here we are again discussing one of those hot parenting topics: playdates! The fun never ends, it seems. Like anything, there are good playdates and bad playdates. Unfortunately, it’s the bad ones that often stay in our collective memories for years to come.   Being a parent of many, this is a topic that […]

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Monday Musings - Is “Unschooling” a Good Idea?

December 10, 2012

Okay, I have to admit that I was a bit shocked while reading this article. It’s all about parents who have decided to “unschool” their kids. Yea, I didn’t know what it was either, but thankfully to Wikipedia, I quickly found out. According to the site, “Unschooling” is a range of educational, philosophies and practices […]

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VIDEO: Discipline, Parenting and Other People’s Kids

December 6, 2012

Is it ever okay to discipline someone else’s kid? I’ve asked that question before more than once on this blog and over at the Huffington Post. It’s always a pleasure to be able to defend one’s position in the face of those who may disagree. Who doesn’t like a lively debate? Certainly not me, and […]

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