I'm Bribing My Kids to Eat Better...by Deanna Verbouwens
My seven year old doesn’t eat anything healthy unless you consider spaghetti, pizza, pumpernickel and cream cheese, pancakes, candy, chips, pretzels, or chicken nuggets healthy--and he hasn't eaten a fruit or vegetable since I closed up those baby food jars when he was a year old! I know my three year old would try new things, including fruits and vegetables, but he does everything the seven year old does, so it's useless. I eat the healthiest of all of us, including my husband. I measure out my cup of pasta, bulk up my food with baby spinach, try my hardest to get my five veggies and three fruits in every day. And I am 150% conscious of what goes in my mouth, even if it’s an entire bag of Lay's potato chips on those oh-so-crazy PMS days.
Every once in a while I get on a desperate quest to get my children to eat healthier foods, as you may of read here. I don't trust in the "fact" that they'll eat healthy at some point in their lives, even though my mother-in-law tells me time and time again that all her children ate was bologna and pumpernickel and cream cheese, and now they love and eat everything! I come from a family where you ate what was on your plate--end of story--so I'm constantly in a tug-of-war between both philosophies.
I worry they are not getting enough nutrients. I worry they will someday be obese. I also worry that by neglecting to introduce and forcefully encourage them to eat healthier foods, we are unintentionally enabling them to get carotid artery disease, a heart attack, diabetes, or high cholesterol.
Last week I got another bee in my bonnet--I wanted my kids to start eating healthier. And I wanted them to start eating healthier NOW, right NOW! In the past I usually sat the kids down to explain to them that we are all going to start eating healthier, created a sticker chart, got tickets, promise prize--you know, the whole shebang. I’ve never been successful and usually stop after the first try. Last time both boys threw up at the table when a pea touched their lips. One single pea. Because I didn’t want to do that again, I put the mother of all bribes on the table. I told Richie that if he tried 30 new things we would go to Disney. GASP! I even upped the ante and told the proclaimed animal expert that we would even stay in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The seven-year-old was so excited that he agreed on the spot, and I explained that we had 180 days 'til Disney. All he had to do was take one bite and if he didn’t like it, he simply had to say “No, thank you”. I even gave him three choices to select from each time I presented him with something new. That night at dinner Richie chose his first pick--an orange! He said he loved the smell. I was beaming because I thought it would be a win-win. But he buckled, cried, and collapsed at the mere sight of it. I was completely defeated. And on top of that, I felt like the world’s worst mommy for putting so much pressure on a seven-year-old--dangling the carrot of Disney over his head was horrible! I thought I would be okay with this bribery, with this type of parenting, but it just made me feel really small.
Later that night as we prepared for bed, I told Richie that we could call the deal off, that it wasn’t fair for Mommy or Daddy to even make that kind of deal, and that we were going to Disney either way. After a big hug and kiss, Richie said out of the blue that he’d try ten new things. Really? Okay! The next morning when Richie woke up, he asked to try a lemon. I stood still and said, “You want to try a lemon?” He replied, “Yes, a lemon.” So with his pancakes, I gave him some water and a slice of lemon. He sucked it dry. He loved it! Peculiar? Definitely! But who cares, the kid ate a fruit!! I guess a little bribery never hurt anyone, eh?