Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Picture a girl of 7 or 8 sitting at a kitchen table somewhere in the middle of North Dakota while the sun goes down. This girl who had to take some of everything served even if it was something she disliked.
So the sky outside darkens, she hears the tv from the living room as the family watches in the winter. In the summer she hears nothing as siblings and parents are outside. Mom is weeding in the garden, siblings playing and dad working on a project; none watching her but yet she can't get up. She is in luck however as the kitchen table has a lip that runs around the underside. It holds a great deal of the potatoes she has stuffed there.
It is her turn to wash the dishes that are waiting stacked on the counter. So she starts washing as she watches the Martins flit about outside. Her mom comes in and approves of her empty plate still sitting on the table. After the dishes are down she turns to the table to wash it off and as she does she sweeps the stuffed potatoes into the cloth and the disappear into the dish water.
Another thing that saved her was the bathroom was next to the kitchen and once in a great while she could stuff them into her mouth and then excuse to the bathroom to flush them.
This was the way of the times and the parents were doing what they believed was best. But it was a very horrible time for this girl. They thought her strong willed and oppositional. They believed they would break her.
I was that girl. I don't know what I was thinking back then but I do know there were many foods I did not tolerate . I don't know if it was texture, taste or the way they hit my stomach and caused issues. There became a time when I was allowed to take only the food I liked and by then it was only jelly bread sandwiches if nothing was served I liked. There were foods I did love through out the years but not much from the farm as the staple was meat and potatoes.
It took years for me to overcome this. I was ridiculed by siblings and friends. I stopped eating lunch at school because I did not want to go through all of this with my friends.
I remembering my mom saying she was paying for school lunch so that it would be there if I wanted to eat. I never did. I felt guilty for the money they paid but still I did not eat. By the time I was a freshman in high school I got a job washing dishes in the school kitchen. They employed usually 2 students at a time to do this. We got paid $25 a month and had free lunch. If we did not eat we made $40 a month. Guess what I did?
This is a struggle most parents have with growing children. Most research agrees that forcing kids to eat what they don't like or making them stay at the table until they are finished with everything is more damaging than not. (The Pragmatic Parent, Dr. Julie Lumeng, director of the U-M Center for HUman Growth and Development at C.S.Mott Children's Hosptial).
Research tells us pressuring kids to eat results in a kid that starts to over eat or one that starts to restrict intake. Neither of these are a healthy outcome.
Forcing children to eat food they do not enjoy can spark tension at mealtimes and damage parent-child or sibling relationships. (Appetite, July 30, 2018). The longitudional study by Appetite (2006) by researchers Galloway and Birch showed kids developing a dislike for foods when they were pressured to eat. I still am not a great meat eater because; chewing meat over and over (cold by this time) and not being able to swallow it because its gross does not lend itself to developing a taste for it later in life.
Children, more than adolescents and especially adults, follow natural body cues and eat when they are hungary and stop when they are full. (The Pragmatic Parent, 2018). Ignoring these cues can teach kids to override their feelings of fullness.
From Jill Castle, MS, RDN a childhood nutrition expert ...It is not our job as parents to force kids to take more bites, clean their plate or finish the meal, she states has negative affects down the road. (Jill Castle Podcast)
In toddlerhood children become erratic eaters and thats usually where parents, though well meaning, step in and do exactly the wrong thing by forcing them to eat. Some kids want the same foods over and over again and some refuse to eat. This is typical toddler development.
Its hard to be a parent and do the right thing but kids really do have their own rhythm to eating, likes and dislikes and different levels of fulness than you may think they have. It is a rare child that changes to liking something they have had a bad experience with or had a reaction to, as an adult. So provide a variety of food and allow you kids to choose and graze. They will be okay. I had a son who ate 'red soup' (Tomato soup) for probably all of his 4th year of life. He is fine.
I detest mashed potatoes. I never did like coconut or raisins and guess what I still don't. I still do like an occssional jelly sandwich even though I was shamed most of my childhood for it. But hey, I had to eat something!