etiquette

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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Pregnancy and Public Transit

by Samantha on June 14, 2015

What has happened to kindness and common courtesy?


Pregnant belly

She was about 8 or 9 months pregnant, belly hanging low, baby about to drop any day. The previous months had clearly taken a toll on her, as her face showed the exhaustion and fatigue required to make a human being. She was physically spent, yet there she stood.

Yes, she was standing. Standing on the 505 streetcar in downtown Toronto, as it abruptly stopped and started in morning rush hour traffic. Had she slept the night before? Unlikely, as anyone who has experienced the final months of pregnancy knows: a good night’s sleep is an ephemeral and fleeting fantasy.

Yet there she stood, while all around her, young, fit and otherwise preoccupied citizens pretended not to see her by burying their heads in their smartphones of choice.

A 20-something man in a crisp suit, clearly headed to his job in the financial sector pretended to sleep, as his eyes closed immediately after viewing the pregnant woman’s swollen belly.

A middle-aged woman played candy crush saga with an intensity and fervour that many of us thought only belonged to a younger generation of gamers, her eyes glued to her retina display screen.

Three teenage girls in private school uniforms giggled amongst themselves, giving nary an eye to the belly that not only protruded into the aisle in front of them, but turgidly languished on the very edges of their personal space. You see, her belly - had it been acknowledged - would have broken up the party, and that wouldn’t have been cool. The latest gossip about that cute guy in class and recap of last night’s TV show was much more important.

This had not been the first time that I had seen such appalling behaviour. Sadly, purposely, ignoring pregnant women while riding public transit has become the norm, not the exception. What has happened to humanity?

I’ve posted many rants and complaints about this on my personal Facebook page and talked to many friends who are mothers themselves. All of them have a similar story to recount about how they have been ignored  while pregnant and riding public transit.

A personal anecdote: during my last and final pregnancy with my twin boys, I could barely walk. I was considered “high-risk” for a few medical reasons which relegated me to bed-rest for most of my pregnancy. On those off days before I was completely immobile, somewhere between my seventh and eighth month of gestation, I needed to use the public transit to get to my doctor’s appointments. Now, let me say that having my third pregnancy and twins, no less, made me huge, much earlier than I would have been, had I been on my first pregnancy. In other words, there was no doubt that I was indeed pregnant.

Yet there I stood.

Their eyes averted, I was ignored, invisible and silently defeated as I struggled to balance so many times on the streetcar, hoping that some kindly person would give me a seat. My elephant-sized ankles continued to swell, my feet ached and my back painfully swayed with each lurch and jolt of the streetcar. Everything hurt, including my feelings.

As the mother of four, and one who has experienced three different pregnancies, I’m sad to say that this experience wasn’t atypical. Sadly, it was the norm, not the exception. And every single woman that I know who has been pregnant has experienced the same. What on earth is going on?

While I don’t profess to have all of the answers, I do believe that our culture of entitlement is a huge factor in this cultural shift. Once upon a time, there was chivalry, then socially accepted norms that included women, about “doing the right thing.” Helping someone who was clearly in need was the norm, not the exception. With the increasing sense of entitlement, exemplified by the “Me Generation” and continuing onward, those in need haven’t had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a fair shake. Whether they’re seniors who are unstable on their feet, the disabled or the aforementioned pregnant woman just looking for a kind soul who will let her have a well-needed seat, the chances of these folks receiving this small kindness grows smaller every day. The lack of focus on others, supported by the technological tools to “zone out” or feign ignorance wherever and whenever possible makes this willful blindness not only possible but probable as well.

Yet, in spite of this trend towards selfishness, I do believe that change is possible. The change starts now with all of us who are raising children with the values that support kindness and compassion. And while we make efforts to effect our childrens’ behaviours in future there are some adults who are in need of an etiquette refresher now.

I am starting a one-woman public awareness campaign as I feel that it needs to be done. As someone who has endured a very difficult twin pregnancy and was on the verge of begging someone to please give me a seat, the time for greater awareness for this reality is long overdue. Clearly, the assumption that everyone riding on the bus/subway/streetcar/[insert transportation mode here] understands that pregnant women should be given a seat is completely wrong. My assumptions - based on the teachings of my parents (thank-you, Mom and Dad) underscored the importance of kindness, but more specifically the need for those of us who are more able, to extend said kindness - and where appropriate, a seat - to those in need. This includes the elderly, the disabled and, of course, pregnant women.

Whenever and wherever you can, please remind those riding the public transit who seem to have forgotten basic courtesy that pregnancy is challenging, difficult and just plain exhausting. If a pregnant woman is standing while able-bodied people are pretending not to see her, be her advocate and ask them to give her a seat. I’ve done it before and have never been told “no,” probably because the shock of being called on their bad behaviour mixed with their embarrassment makes the culprits stand up quicker than one would imagine.

Perhaps making the subject one that is no longer ignored, one where pregnant women don’t have to suffer in silence, will put an end to it once and for all. If anything, making those who are oblivious more aware of their choices and how these choices affect others will affect change, hopefully for the better.

I’ll be tweeting and sharing the hashtag #StandUpForMom and #giveupyourseat on my social media channels to keep the topic top of mind and hope you’re able to share it as well.

Let’s do this.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

VIDEO: Stand Up For Mom!


What has been your experience with pregnancy and public transit? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

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How old should a child be before they're able to go to a public bathroom alone?


public washroom

We’ve all been there.

You’re out with your young child and all of a sudden, he/she announces “I have to go pee!!” You know that this type of warning means that time is of the essence and that a toilet needs to be found, now.

If you’re the parent of a child that is the opposite sex from you, you have a problem, especially if that child is “of a certain age.” In some cases, this can mean over the tender age of six. Yes, six.

Recently, a sign was seen warning parents to leave their boys who were over the age of six out of the women’s bathroom and to let them go alone to the men’s facilities.

To say that this is a problem is an understatement, at least in my opinion, and in the opinion of the many other parents who helped to make this image go viral. Here’s the offending sign:

boys over 6 sign

As a parent of young boys (twins), I know them well and know that my comfort level in allowing them into a public bathroom without me is not there yet. There are the practical problems: they may need help wiping or washing their hands, or even reaching the sink. I want to make sure they don’t touch too many things in the bathroom. They may need me to undo and do up their pants.

Then there are the more disturbing potential problems: what if there is a questionable person or persons in the bathroom who may pose a threat to my son(s)?

As a parent, I can’t help but feel that erring on the side of caution is best in these instances and therefore, my child will stay with me if they need to go to the bathroom, at least until I feel comfortable enough to let them go in on their own. At the end of the day, parents know their kids best and should be the ones making the decision about when their kids are ready to confidently venture into a public bathroom without their parent. An arbitrary age shouldn’t be dictated to determine bathroom abilities or the lack thereof.

On a related note, for those insisting on a specific cutoff age for going into a public bathroom with an opposite-sex parent, I would ask them the following: How do you determine a child’s age? Do you ask for a birth certificate? What about those kids that look older or younger than they really are?

In case it’s not clear, I think that six is much too young to be going into a public bathroom alone. I accompany my kids at this age and will continue to do so until I feel that they can handle things by themselves. As a mother, I will not be told that I  have to leave my children alone in a potentially vulnerable situation. And clearly, based on the response to this topic, I’m not alone in this sentiment.

Check out the Huffington Post Live segment below on the subject where I weigh in and provide my perspective, along with other parents:

VIDEO: The Public Restroom Challenge For Parents

So what do you think? How old should a child be before they can go into a public bathroom alone? Would you feel comfortable letting a six-year-old go into a public bathroom without you? Why or why not? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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How to help your child get through the loss of a beloved companion

Boy and turtle

There comes a time when most parents must deal with the inevitable - the death of a beloved family pet. This occurrence is even more painful when the pet is the particular companion of a young child. Your son or daughter likely grew very attached to its turtle, gerbil, cat or dog and now the beloved pet is gone - a harsh reality for a young mind.

When this very real part of childhood occurs, it’s best to be prepared, so that you as the parent are able to calm and comfort your child while they go through the grieving process. While this is a difficult time, it is possible to get through it with your son or daughter understanding and accepting this very real part of life.

Following are five tips for parents on how to help their child manage the death of a pet.

When Your Child’s Pet Dies - Top 5 Tips For Parents

1) Acknowledge the Loss - It hurts. The death of a child’s pet is a painful experience and is one that often comes as a shock to those unaccustomed to the reality of death. As this is likely the first instance in his or her experience of losing something he/she loves, the reality of what has occurred will hit hard. For a child that has lost its animal companion, it can be all-consuming as well as confusing. Recognizing and acknowledging the pain that your son or daughter is experiencing, and providing comfort while they grieve is one of the first steps towards helping your child through this difficult time. Being there and recognizing your child’s feelings will help them get through it.

2) Leave Time For Grief - Just as with people, pets can’t be replaced. Sure, you can get a new dog, cat or gerbil, but a new animal can never take the place of the one that’s died. For this reason, it’s important to take some time for your child to grieve and reflect on the loss of the pet. While the impulse may be there to soothe your child’s pain, don’t jump in and get another pet right away. Kids need to be allowed to mourn the loss of their pet and realize that while their companion can’t be exactly replaced, a new pet can still bring joy - in time.

3) Give it a Proper Send-Off -  The rituals attached to death shouldn’t end with humans. Ceremonies are important, even if they’re small. Whether it’s a fish, a hamster or a larger pet, giving it a proper goodbye will allow your child to understand that the ritual involved is all part of the process and can often help with healing.

4) Talk Honestly About Death - While it’s a difficult time for your child, the death of a beloved companion can also provide parents with the opportunity to talk about the reality that all living things eventually die. Teaching a child that this sad occurrence is a normal part of life may be hard, but it’s an experience that we all have to deal with at some time in our lives. The loss of a pet can open the door to a difficult topic of discussion but one that is needed and necessary. Answering questions about death can give your child a greater understanding about this reality as well as an opportunity to calm his or her fears.

5) Create Memories With Child - “Gone but not forgotten.” While death is a difficult lesson to learn, children can also be taught that the loss of a loved one - pet or otherwise -  doesn’t mean that the loved one will be forgotten. Memories live on, an important lesson to teach your child in the face of their loss. Help them honour their beloved pet by putting together a scrapbook, photo album, or other memento that represents a permanent tribute to their companion.

How have you dealt with the death of a family pet? What additional tips would you provide to parents who are going through this with their children? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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What Type of Role Model Are You?

by Samantha on February 25, 2014

parent smoking in car with kids

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

A wise saying and one that’s more true than many of the adages that we’ve heard over the years.

The phrase is one that indicates what most of us already know: that what we do and how we behave is often mimicked and replicated by our kids. A scary thought, really.

We’re role models for our kids.

They’re watching our every move. This reality is something that many of us parents try to forget or ignore, especially when we want to do something that we know is not setting the best example for our children.

How many times have we poured ourselves that extra cocktail, told a boldface lie or reached for that cigarette in spite of ourselves? Sure - things would be perfectly fine in all of these scenarios had our kids not been watching and taking mental notes of what we were doing.

“Daddy smokes so it must be okay.”

“Mommy drinks a lot so it can’t be a problem.”

“Mommy and Daddy lie all the time so it can’t be that bad.”

It’s a bitter pill to swallow (figuratively speaking, of course) when we realize that we are indeed role models for our children. Those days of doing whatever we wanted to do with no repercussions have passed and we’re now in the position of being one that is looked to with wide-eyed wonderment…and disdain, depending on what we’re doing.

When our kids are young, they observe, accept and sometimes replicate what they’ve seen their parents do. As they get older, the mental imagery of what they have watched and experienced over the years has solidified, providing the foundation for the decisions that they will make in their critical teenage years. How many times have we heard the story of kids who started smoking because it was “the norm” at home and that their dad lit up first thing in the morning and after every meal? What number of boldface liars, scammers and generally unscrupulous people grew up with parents who underscored the importance of integrity, of telling the truth and of general ethics. Not many, I gather.

The point here is that our actions speak louder than our words, and that our values - the way we live our lives and the lessons that we teach our children - are imprinted on our kids, forming the basis of the types of people that they’ll become in adulthood. A scary proposition but one that is very real. Ask any flustered parent who’s had to scramble for an explanation for their teen who’s been caught smoking, drinking, or worse. “But Mom! YOU smoke [drink/take drugs or whatever other vice that they’ve been caught doing].” No explanation is ever sufficient in these circumstances.

Of course we could always fall back on another vintage parenting philosophy: “Do as I say, not as I do,” though it’s fairly hard to defend to growing kids who start to understand the troublesome nature of hypocrisy. No, as unnerving as it may be, we are the ones who need to be setting the examples for our kids. A sobering thought but one that can’t be ignored. So take a deep breath, butt out, tell the truth and realize that parenting is no doubt the toughest job you’ll ever have.

What do you think? Do you feel that you’re a good role model for your kids? Why or why not? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of www.huffingtonpost.com

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Why I’m NOT Friends With My Child

June 23, 2013

For some strange reason, parenting has changed. Perhaps it’s an inevitability of time, but holy smokes, some things should remain sacred, shouldn’t they? I’m talking about kids, parents and the relationship between the two. It seems that there’s a lot more of a comfort level between mothers, fathers and their kids that, frankly, makes me […]

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Baby Name Shame

May 25, 2013

Anal? Rogue? Lucifer? These certainly don’t sound like names that would adorn a sweet and cherubic bundle of joy, but surprisingly, they are. Though hard to believe, parents have actually bestowed these lovely names on their children, leaving their unwitting charges to fend for themselves in the playgrounds of their futures. Whatever would possess a […]

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Stolen Baby Names and Other Nonsense

March 23, 2013

Are baby names verboten once you’ve “claimed” them? We’ve heard this story before: a person (usually a woman - sorry, but true) has dreams since childhood about what they’re going to name their first son or daughter and tells everyone they know. This person - let’s call her “Childhood Friend #1”  has known their future […]

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My Funny Valentine Problem: Should All Classmates Receive a Valentine?

February 6, 2012

Is it ever okay to exclude classmates from receiving a valentine? Valentine’s Day is around the corner and at schools across the country, the excitement has set in. The thrill of giving and receiving Valentine’s cards to and from friends, teachers and perhaps that special someone is felt by students and teachers alike. The Valentine’s […]

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The Top 5 Re-gift Tips For Beginners

December 28, 2011

Fruitcake? Perhaps. That hideous sweater that you got from your great aunt? Maybe. The 10th pair of socks/scarf/gloves/[insert item here] that you’ve received in the past little while that you have absolutely no use for, and even less space, for that matter? Absolutely. Re-gifting has become all the more popular as we try to de-clutter […]

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