The Independence To Eat Right

Whenever I see these two things happening, I always thank God, my parents, my husband, the books that I read, the teachers of my child, the parents who shared their experiences with me, the parents who allowed us to witness their plight.. No, don’t get me wrong, this is not an acceptance speech for an award. This is because I genuinely feel about these two situations…

The Independence To Eat Right

Situation 1: When I see mothers, grandparents, maids… feeding the little ones. (By little ones, I mean 2-year-old plus kids). Patiently, putting one bite after the other into the mouths of uninterested kids. Some are even running behind the kids to feed that another bite while the child is busy playing with toys or cycling in the drawing room or simply going up and down the stairs.

Situation 2: When I see kids not eating the regular home-made food viz dal, vegetables, chapati, rice… Special and separate foods are prepared for the kids because they would not be eating what has been cooked for rest of the family. Some would not eat dal, some are fussy about vegetables, some would eat only rice, some only chapati…

How are these situations different for us?

When our child was able to sit and was able to hold a spoon in his hand, we encouraged him to eat on his own. While we ate in the dining room, his baby high chair was placed near us. But very soon, he would balk at the idea of sitting on his high chair for meals. He wanted to sit on the dining chair along with us. We let him sit with us. While we ate from our plates, he ate from his. The spilling of water, or food on the clothes or on the floor was a regular feature for a while but soon, he settled well at eating on this own. And there’s no looking back since then.

When the kid was in Class Nursery at DPS, we got a circular regarding the lunch-box policy at the school. 2 lunch boxes were to be sent every day. One should contain a fruit and the other one should have a parantha/chapati with a dry vegetable. Though it was a pain for the lazy (in kitchen) me to prepare a vegetable at 6 am for 5 days in a week, but I did it every single day. Reason? If a child had something else in his tiffin, he was made to sit in front of the class on a mat at lunch time which was simply not acceptable to my child. Once, when I had overslept, I packed a quick sandwich and I still remember his angry and hurt outburst when he came back from school.

Due to the school’s stringent lunch-box policies, the child learnt to eat all fruits and all vegetables as you couldn’t be sending the same apple/banana/potatoes or ladyfingers every day.

Also, the husband further laid 2 rules for the dining table.

Rule No. 1: Everything that is cooked at home has to be eaten.

Rule No. 2: Whatever is in the plate has to be finished.

Today, the kid is a 11-year-old, he has his likes and dislikes for food, certain things he can eat everyday and some which are not to his liking, but still he eats everything that is cooked, including the bitter gourd. And for this I am thankful to God, my…

A former pharmaceutical professional-turned-soft-skills facilitator for corporates and mother ofย  a 11 year old, Shilpa Garg blogs atย http://shilpaagarg.blogspot.in/

  • Well, well that speech is well deserved and yes accept the award. You must for having such nice people around you to shape you as a good parent and kudos to the child too.

    I have inculcated the same habits, though i must admit my children were fussy and are still fussy,( i used a timetable which incidentally was my first post at parentous) but the policy is no food will be wasted and they too abide it since they were kids . Now, at 16 and 14 they don’t throw tantrums anymore and they eat and prepare traditional food too. And they have never wasted the blessing.

    • Thanks Asha ๐Ÿ˜€ Glad that there were enough experiences around us to compel us to inculcate right eating habits in our child right from the very beginning. It is really a blessing if your child eats well. I have seen so many parents who are so stressed and worried regarding their kid’s eating habits.
      I remember the timetable at your place and it is simply a cool idea! Thanks for sharing it!

  • lucky you:)
    i know it is very difficult to make the kid eat and I face the situation 1 daily.I have tried everything even kept him hungry for a day or two just waiting for the day he will ask for food.It seems that my wait will never be over:)

    • I can understand your situation Manjery! It must be so tough and so stressful to see your child not eat well. Hope your efforts bear fruits soon. Have faith and patience. {Hugs}
      PS : I read somewhere that research shows that allowing kids to eat only when theyโ€™re hungry is the way to go.

  • A very practical post Shilpa… Our younger one eats all on her own in School… and at home… well…. :). It is all how you set the expectations…

    • Thank you Prasad. True, it is all about getting it right the first time!

  • Without making anyone of you angry ! !
    Have you tried taking a tough stand?
    At the age of three odd,one is old enough to eat on his own and eat what is cooked.
    Perhaps,its worth trying

    • What you say makes perfect sense, Mr Chowla and in fact that is the way it should be handled. Be firm in your expectations with the child and it works… it is not easy and it will not happen right from the very first attempt. But patience and perseverance and sticking to your expectations with the child certainly helps. Adhering to these basics have helped us in weaning the child from drinking milk from a bottle to a glass/cup, sleeping on his own bed and later in his own room.

  • I never force feed my toddler even though many people suggested the same …she has a slim frame…so it makes ppl doubt more on my feeding capabilities. Right now I let her eat on her own few foods like fruits, bread etc and planning to let her eat on her own all the things soon. There are days when she refuses to eat anything and some days she wants to eat even roti with spoon!!
    But as you said, patience is the mantra ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Glad that you are not force feeding your daughter, Nibedita! We force feed our children due to our anxieties, desperation, pressure from people around and even to get a tick against our parenting skills. When we force feed children, they often refuse to eat even when they are hungry! Have faith and patience, your patience will bring great results! Good luck ๐Ÿ™‚

  • This is a new and interesting dimension. There are several in this post! and insightful too.

    I am one who believes that the kid will eat when she feels hungry! But then I guess things will change once school starts!

    • Thank you Kavi. Glad that you found some food for thought in this post! ๐Ÿ™‚
      Certainly, hungry kids eat! Yes, a regular routine (which is often tiring and exhausting for the kids), seeing other kids at school eat help kids to develop good eating habits!

  • Roshni

    Very well said, Shilpa! I too feel amused when I see parents etc run after their kids to try and get them to eat! I feel that is pretty ridiculous! How does such food get properly digested?
    My elder son is fussy about food, but he still has to eat whatever is cooked. My younger son is less fussy, but is firm about how much he will eat. We let him have his way as we definitely do not want him to overeat; accordingly he himself takes as much as he can consume.

    • Agree, this style of feeding a child is simply ridiculous. It is so tiring and so frustrating for the parents and wonder how much the child is benefited with this!
      One of our friend’s child eats only cottage cheese and potatoes. Variations of these 2 are made everyday in their house for the child. If they have to go out, either they feed the child at home or order only these 2 at a restaurant. And the child is now 10 years old!!
      Glad that your kids have the right eating habits! Kudos to you ๐Ÿ™‚

  • When I was young, nothing special was made for us, kids. If we didn’t like what was there, we could eat something else and leave. There were always substitutes… Why is school mandating what to bring for lunch and what not to? Here, I have not heard even the strictest schools doing that. Unless, of course, they are boarding schools.

    Destination Infinity

    • It was the same for us too!
      As for school giving food guidelines, I guess, that is good. That’s because…
      Whatever guidelines are there… they are for the good of the kids. Helps develop healthy eating habits from the very beginning which is so very vital.
      There are many kids who just get biscuits, namkeen or maggi in lunch boxes, which is just not right. I have never understood, how can a cold hard mass of maggi be eaten by kids.

  • Well done Shilpa !! I always wonder what purpose running behind the kids to stuff them food, under the disguise of a story or TV, serve!! THough my daughter is a bit uninterested in food she gets to eat what is cooked for the rest of us. Nothing special!! Thanks for bringing up this great discussion!!

    • Thank you, Divya. Glad that you find this post and discussion useful. Even I have seen many parents feeding the kids while they watch TV… and some have incentives too… ‘eat this then you will get that’!!

  • Ritu Dikshit

    Dear Shilpa,
    Very well written article, heavy subject but light treatment. I have struggled with it myself and faced a lot of falk from everyone. Who said being a parent is easy but trust me rewards are always high ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hey Ritu. Thanks, am happy that you connected with this post! True, nothing really worthwhile ever comes easy in life and the same goes for parenting too!

  • Well said, Shilpa. Good habits formed early in childhood last a lifetime. It may take some time and a lot of efforts initially, but the results are always positive.

    • True, Sheetal. Read this somewhere, “Donโ€™t get tired of doing what is good. Donโ€™t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time”. Patience and perseverance are the buzz words!

  • Shilpa you are right when you talk about the compromises that people make when they are faced with fussy kids. I remember, keeping the food ready for my daughter to eat as soon as she would come back from her school when she was just 3/ 4 years old and she would eat whatever i have made without making fuss and eat it without spilling too. I had never had to run around behind my children, and i remember my mother too brought us up like that only. We never wasted anything.
    I think parents are the real culprit, for they give too much space to a child, giving in to their whims and fancies, and then end up forcing them to eat against their will, or keep running after them.
    Good habits has to be inculcated right from the beginning. Also because both parents work, and they hardly get time for themselves, leave alone for their kids, it is natural that some such problems are bound to come. I sometimes feel we should not be judging them harshly for, unless we are in their shoes we don’t really know what they are going through.
    I only wish there was a easy solution for this problem.

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences, Rama!
      True, bringing up kids is very demanding and the parents today lead a very busy and hectic life. Also, each child is different and each one has their unique situations / circumstances. By instilling the right habits from the very beginning, the parents are lessening their burdens/troubles!

  • Insightful post Shilpa. I’m grateful to my parents, esp Mom for instilling he right values in me and my brother… It must have been tough for her and us in the beginning, but in the end the results are worth all her efforts.

    • Thanks Reshma! That is so cool and am happy that you realize the value of efforts your mom made for you and your brother! Cheers to her! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Aashima

    So Today we went to this family get together where the mom insisted on feeding her 7+ year old daughter so she is free from telling her to eat again n again ! Feed her! Get it over with!
    I guess the basic problem is, we as a generation are not patient, experimental and all these short cuts leads to eating issues with kids.
    It all about parents, grand parents, maids & everyone sending the same message to the kid !

    • You said it, Aashima!! Our lifestyles, lack of time and patience… make us do those things which we know are not right for us and for our kids!

  • Very nice topic, Shilpa and a very vast one too. Many times I too keep wondering why many of us Indians take that extra pain in feeding, including me. Something I liked about locals here is, they let the baby feed themselves right from the day he starts on solids. Luckily, both my kids are non-fussy eaters..touchwood. My little one is becoming a pain these days…These days, I cannot get my son to eat Capsicum, tomato… man…drives me crazy

    • Thanks, Latha! Glad you liked this topic for discussion. True, it is such a vast subject and everybody can add so much of their personal experiences into it! Touch wood! Kids eating everything and on their own is a real blessing.

  • A great post, Shilpa! At the risk of being called a disciplinarian, I did inculcate good eating habits in my kids. I still make their dabbas getting up early in the morning. And I feel blessed when they are non-fussy about their food. Of course, it could also be because I did not have the time or patience to run behind them with a spoon and bowl in hand :). And, with parenting one cannot really comment on why others do what they do. Sometimes, they don’t understand the importance of firmness or possibly they do have difficult kids or don’t have the time or energy themselves.

    • Thank you Rachna. Agree, a bit of firmness in the formative years of a child gives great results. Running behind kids to make them eat is a nightmare. You are bang on, these very reasons make the parents do what they they are doing. Sad it is but then that’s what they have chosen.

  • great article…i am a mommy to be…and such advice is of great help indeed..:)

    • Hey Deepti! Thanks so much. Glad that this post gave you some insights. Wishing you the very best in your journey towards parenthood! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Anilkumar Kurup

    Hello SG,
    Apologies for the faux pa comment. It was totally written in the wrong context. I did not notice the link to this post.
    You have doctored the child the right way.
    I read somewhere the other day that the USA waste twenty five percent of the worlds food. And they spend more than a billion dollars a year to dispose wasted food. What outrageous irony and crime!

    Respecting food was something I picked from the primary school ( convent ) I studied. Saying grace before taking food was a great discipline that helped create gratefulness for the meals we get. And that was taught by the Convent school. Not that back home there was a culture of wasting food. No it was strict and no special pampering meals.
    Well done in your case that you have the boy groomed well.

    • Hi Anil. Thank you for sharing your views and experiences. Never knew about the magnitude of food wastage in America. Shocking!
      Your experience proves that habits and values learnt early in life go a long way in shaping one’s life!

  • Dear Shilpa,

    Nice post. My son is 14 but still is very choosy about his food. The only meal that he eats without any grumbling is his afternoon meal when he comes home after school. Otherwise, all that he wants is chatpata food. There is one respite though. He likes saag which I never did but the karela is something he still doesn’t like.

    • Thanks Shail! Glad that your son is eating well and saag has all the goodness of various vitamins and minerals and has the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. ๐Ÿ™‚