The Benefit Of Insisting (or “forcing”)
Having trouble getting your kid to eat? As with everything else kids related, there’s a disagreement between whether or not you should force things on kids. We as adults “know what’s good for our kids” but if we push too hard it might have the opposite effect. For the longest time I prescribed to the gentle approach when it comes to food, fearing that forcing or insisting would result in a resentment against food in general… which for a food lover like me, is a nightmare. If he didn’t want to eat something I would neither insist or push it on him, thinking that he will eventually get around to it.
Fast forward to about a month ago when I… I don’t know, maybe I was just having a bad day or was just sad about all the good stuff he’s missing out on. Long story short, I sat him down in the kitchen with me and filled the countertop with various things to eat. He was kicking and screaming, crying and making a fuss when I tried to get him to try cheese, yoghurt, bell pepper etc. I guess I had enough and raised my voice as well, expressing my frustration about his refusal. We argued for a good while, both of us in tears of frustration and he finally gave in. Our deal was established, he doesn’t have to eat anything he doesn’t want but he has to try everything once, just ONCE. If he at that point doesn’t like it, he can spit it out.
So he did just that. He took a bite of the bell pepper, spit it out and described it… sweet, juicy, crunchy. This became his way of exploring food, by intellectualising it and describing it in flavor, texture and color.
Since then I have seen great improvements both in how he eats, chews and with which speed he does it. Now he tries almost anything simply from curiosity and he even understands when he likes the taste of something but is not quite ready for the texture, so he keeps asking to have a bite, chews it for a bit and discards it.
I understand that texture plays a big part but to deny the experience of a flavor simply because the texture is challenging, is a poor excuse to not experience it. Children especially vary a lot in gag reflex and what type of textures and flavors they can tolerate but it has to be taught just like “don’t put rocks in your mouth”. It’s a trained skilled, to learn how to be open to try and experience new foods, or things in general for that matter. Hiding in a shell of fear is for me not a valid option unless forcing it would be traumatic so I would argue that insisting is a useful tool, maybe calling it forcing is just semantics but I guess you catch my drift.
There’s nothing wrong with nudging the limits of a child, God knows we should do it more often as adults too! Just be…. oh gosh I hate this word, mindful. Be mindful about it, don’t hurt your child, just give them that healthy nudge to help them grow and expand. I think it teaches them to trust us parents too. They’re scared, we tell them it’s going to be okay and it’s safe… and they come out of it with a learning experience, knowing that it was okay and perhaps as time goes on, that trust will continue to build. Well, at least until they become preteens and all their respect for authority and age goes out the window 😀