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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Training a Child's Appetite

"A child born in the tropics soon learns to like the luscious fruits which are given to him freely; while a child born in the arctic regions learns with the same rapidity to like the grosser diet of fish and oil which is his chief supply of food. In one region the people live mainly on roots and berries; in another, they devour raw flesh or drink fresh blood; in yet another, they eat dried locusts or grasshoppers; in yet another, it is milk or honey which is their chief means of sustaining life. In every region the children are easily trained to enjoy the eating of that which they have to eat and if a child is taken at an early age from one region to another, he quickly adapts himself to his new conditions, and learns to like that which is given to him as his means of satisfying hunger...

When a mother says, 'My boy won't eat potatoes,' or 'He won't eat tomatoes,' or 'He will eat no meat but beef,' she simply confesses to her culpable failure of duty in the training of her boy's appetite...

[There was a prominent American educator who] was a man of limited means, and he felt the necessity of training his children to eat such food as he deemed proper for them, and as good as he could afford to supply. His choice of food for his family table was wisely made, to begin with; and then he showed wisdom in his mode of pressing it upon his children.

If those children deemed a dish distateful, they were privileged to wait until they were willing to eat it. There was no undue pressure brought to bear on them. They could simply eat it, or let it alone. If they went without it that meal, the same dish, or a similar one, was before them for the next meal; and so on until hunger gave them the zest to eat it with unfeigned heartiness...

It is by no means an easy matter for a parent to train a child's appetite; but it is a very important matter, nevertheless. Nothing that is worth doing in this world is an easy matter; and whatever is really worth doing is worth all that its doing costs - and more." - from Chapter 12 (Training a Child's Appetite) of Hints on Child Training: A Book That's Been Helping Parents Like You...for More Than 100 Years by Henry Clay Trumbull

As an infant, DearDaughter1 was very open to eating anything we put in front of her. However, as she transitioned into her toddler years, her tastes changed and she became very stubborn about eating foods she did not like or recognize. We tried everything to coax DearDaughter1 to try unfamiliar foods, but to no avail, nothing worked. Eventually, I just avoided foods I knew DearDaughter1 didn't like and avoided the conflict. DearDaughter1 doesn't necessarily have a bad diet. In fact, she has a fairly good diet, at least liking healthy foods. For example, she likes chicken and rice and she likes carrots, brocolli, cauliflower, and green beans. Unfortunately, if these foods are in a dish that's unfamiliar to her or the dish just does not look appealing, she will not even try a bite of it. Now there are a few foods that she will absolutely not eat and that's the area I needed a training tip on. One of those foods is egg.

Breakfast is one of the most tense meals of the day. The only breakfast food DearDaughter1 will eat is bacon. She does not like eggs, pancakes, french toast, and she barely likes cereal as a breakfast food. Every morning is a battle for us to get her to eat breakfast.

So, this morning, I made bacon, eggs, toast with homemade strawberry jelly, and fruit for breakfast. The only item DearDaughter1 was interested in was the bacon. So, I gave DearDaughter1 a bowl of bacon and eggs. DearDaughter1 went straight for the bacon and left the eggs and refused to eat any more. DearHubby and I told her that she didn't have to eat the eggs now and if she wanted to she could also leave the table. DearDaughter1 thought she had won the battle. A little later, DearDaughter1 approached me asking for a snack. I got the same bowl of eggs from breakfast and set it before her. She whined about it, but I told her that whining was not going to get her anything else to eat and that if she was hungry she could eat the eggs and only after eating the eggs could she get something else. She refused to eat the eggs and went back to playing. A little later, DearDaughter1 asked me for a banana. I got the same bowl of eggs from breakfast and set it before her. She refused to eat the eggs and went back to playing. This went on even until lunch and she still refused to eat the eggs. DearDaughter1 had been up since 6am and she still had not eaten anything for the day. Finally, at 3pm, DearDaughter1's hunger got the best of her stubborness and she gave in and ate the eggs. At her first bite she said, "I DID IT AND I LIKE IT MOM!" She ate all her eggs in 5 bites and I gave her some leftovers for her lunch and a little treat.

Well, today's "training" worked as a benefit for us because she gave us no fight at dinnertime when I served lasagna, one of the dishes that she didn't like. DearHubby also asked her if she wanted to try garlic bread, something she had also refused in the past, and she was willing to try that and ate a whole piece. We then went out for ice cream after dinner and DearDaughter1 usually only eats chocolate. I had mint chocolate chip ice cream and I asked her if she wanted a taste of it and she licked it without a second thought, where in the past, she would just turn her head in disgust.

I don't know if this method is a success yet. If it is, I would like to work on a few other food items like fruits. DearDaughter1 likes apples, grapes, and bananas, but those are the only fruits she's willing to eat. I feel like she's missing out on other great snacks and pleasures because she doesn't like other types of fruit. I do hope training my children's appetite is a success because I want them to be "rulers of their appetite, instead of being its slaves."

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