Todays post is another amazing piece from Emily at Mighty Moms!
Encouraging your kids to eat more vegetables can sometimes feel as intense as a high-stakes negotiation between Fortune 500 companies. Actually, that’s not a fair comparison — corporate takeovers are probably easier. However, there are a few tricks you can take from the boardroom into the kitchen to help your kids make healthier food choices. Our Chaotic Mess shares a few negotiation techniques that work as well for spinach as they do for sales.
Give Them the Illusion of Control
People resist attempts to control them, so good negotiators create the illusion of control. They make you feel like you’re guiding the narrative and forming your own decisions when, in fact, they are cleverly guiding you to that conclusion. Your kids will see threats of punishment, bribes, or your angry voice for what they are — attempts to control.
As Parenting Science explains, this will only lead to resistance. Instead, give them control, but only within parameters that you set. So is it peas or broccoli today? Do you want to sit in this chair or that chair? It’s also OK if they don’t eat what you serve each day; give your kids control over how much they eat, and you just control the what, when, and where.
As any salesperson will tell you, the easiest customers are the ones who already love the product. Now, the taste of vegetables is often not a great selling point to children — at least, not at first — so you have to build interest in other ways. One great way to do that is to take them to a farmers market. With so much processed food, many children don’t understand where vegetables come from or how they are grown. You can show them the different sizes, colors, and shapes that vegetables come in, and talk to the farmers about where they come from. If they are old enough, you can give them a little money and let them choose their own vegetables — another application of the illusion of control.
Utilize the Power of Social Proof
When people aren’t completely sure about a decision — whether that’s eating vegetables or anything else — they look to other people to see what they are doing. Negotiators call this social proof, and they will utilize its power by talking about other satisfied customers, or high status people who use their products.
When working out their eating habits, children will look to friends, siblings, and most importantly, you! As Unlock Food, a healthy eating resource run by dietitians in Canada, explains, if your children see you eating healthy food, they will want to eat it themselves. Eat your evening meals at the table so that you are more visible as a role model and your children can see you eating and enjoying healthy food.
Big deals are not made quickly, nor will picky eaters turn into vegetable lovers overnight. In fact, it can be as many as 12 exposures to a new food before children get used to the taste and start to like it. So you’ll need to be persistent, but don’t nag or coerce. Also, don’t take refusals personally — it’s probably not a reflection on your culinary skills.
You can try putting a small amount of the food on the plate — one sprout, or just a little bit of broccoli — and see if they eat it. If not, don’t worry, just keep trying while setting a good example. Parenting.com has some good tips on negotiating with the picky eaters out there.
And if you work from home, you have an advantage – you’re better able to be persistent and creative in the kitchen, as it’s easier and more convenient to prepare healthy food including snacks throughout the day.
With childhood obesity being such a major problem in America today, it’s important to get your children on the right track with nutrient-dense food like vegetables. And as a parent, you play a huge role in building healthy eating habits into your kids. Many parents have had success with the above techniques — and you can too. Which strategy will you try first?
Blogger Lena of the Our Chaotic Mess blog shares her stories and allows people to have a look into her life so they are able to learn they are not alone in whatever life has thrown at them. Reach out to find out more!