Friday, 28 December 2012

Carrots And Sticks, Bananas And Pyjamas

Carrots and sticks. Incentives and punishments. The impossible balancing act that is parenting.

How do you encourage a three year old to eat her greens without resorting to a promise of ice cream for pudding?

It’s an eternal dilemma and if anyone ever properly cracks it they deserve a Nobel prize. Luckily our Bairn loves her greens - except peas. And sprouts. And lettuce. Basically, she likes broccoli. We regularly have to explain that she can’t say she doesn’t like something she hasn’t tried. And we try to praise her for trying.

It’s hard work and it seems to us the answer is to be pretty firm. Here’s your tea and that’s all there is. If you don’t eat it and you get hungry later your tea will still be here. No sneaky bowls of cereal and biscuits to fill your belly when you could fill it with perfectly reasonable things like bangers, mash and wholesome vegetables.

For a while I slipped into pudding promise mode. Eat up your tea and you’ll get a sweet treat. But in our house puddings aren’t the norm so I’ve had to wean myself off that tactic. We recently made some stickers with different pictures on them and created a sort of combined reward-height chart so we can track the progress of polite eating and physical growth. It sort of works.

Not a carrot or a stick but a spurtle
I’ve also hit upon the notion of making potentially boring food fun. It’s completely against my nature so I do have to work at it. I am the sort of guy who, like Calvin’s dad in Calvin and Hobbes, loves the idea of a bowl of plain oatmeal after a 6am bike ride in the snow. Thankfully our Bairn has responded with enthusiasm to the idea of adding things like bananas and raisins to porridge.

The other thing we’ve been trying is having porridge after bath and before bed. I looked up the sorts of food that can help aid sleep. It turns out porridge, bananas and toast are excellent snooze-inducements. My ideal breakfast is super-soporific!

The first few times we tried it we both conked out within minutes of hitting the pillows. It’s less reliable these days but does at least give assurance that the Bairn is going to bed with a belly full of goodness rather than gulch. An 8pm bowl of porridge also prevents me snacking on cheese and other comfort foods later on as a coping strategy when Question Time comes on the telly.

And my spurtle is ideal for making violent gestures at the screen.

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