I Make Separate Meals for Our Kids

I know parents who will do literally anything for their kids.

Buy the latest toys. Outfit them with the latest gadgets. Sign them up for any sport, camp, or extra-curricular upon demand. Shop for oodles of clothes. And eat out whenever or wherever the urge strikes.

But the buck ferociously stops at mealtime, where a Wizard of Oz-like, echoing ultimatum is usually preceded by a lightning strike, thunderous boom, and a plume of thick, green smoke.

You will eat what I serve or you don’t eat at all! 

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separate meals
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We don’t have picky eaters in our house, so maybe this is easier for me to say:  if one of our kids doesn’t like the meal I’ve made, I have no problem making something else.

I find this tactic easier for the simple reason that no one wants to eat food they don’t like, and our kids are too young to cook for themselves.

Some might find this to be coddling, enabling, and possibly nurturing the unwanted flaws of disrespect and ungratefulness.

But hear me out first.

Our kids don’t have free rein to eat whatever they like at every meal. There are four rules that accompany my approach.

  1. No one gets to automatically place individual meal orders ahead of time, so they know full well that separate meals aren’t a guaranteed option from the get-go.
  2. If the main meal is met with hesitation, everyone must at least try what I’ve made. And by try, I mean scoop a utensil-full amount, chew it, and swallow it.
  3. I have zero tolerance toward bad attitudes and broad negativity. Think Goofus and Gallant: “Ewww” and “gross” will be uttered by the former, while “I don’t care for that” is a more Gallant-like manner.
  4. The replacement meal will be every bit nutritious as the main meal.

Of course, there have been times when my benevolence has created extra work for me – work that I certainly don’t need. For most people, it comes down to this factor.

But the way I see it, meal time is sacred time. It’s that singular moment of the day where we become united through sharing of food and thought while growing in love. It should be a pleasant moment, not a time for kicking, screaming, and fighting, with me acting like some controlling parent over an arbitrary rule.

And yes, it really can be arbitrary when we force undesirable food they undeniably don’t enjoy, then let them rule the roost in other areas of life.

Besides, do you cook food for yourself that you don’t like? Of course not. Well, they don’t have that option. 

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We want everything else in life to be enjoyable for them. We don’t buy them toys they don’t want, or video games they don’t like, or enroll them in sports they don’t enjoy. So why operate with a different set of rules elsewhere?

Call me a short order cook if you want, I don’t mind. By the time our children are adults, they won’t remember all the individual meals I made for them.

They’ll remember how I made them feel.

What do you think?

I Make Separate Meals for Our Kids

Tom Konecny is a dad of four children and husband to wife, Erika. Tom currently serves as a private consultant in writing, communications and marketing. In 2013, Tom founded Dad Marketing, a site dedicated to exploring the world of marketing to dads. He previously worked in sports marketing, served as an associate editor and writer for several publications, and directed an award-winning corporate marketing department. His first book, "DADLY Dollar$" will be published this summer, and he is c ... More

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