We recently visited a Chinese friend’s home and were welcomed with a fabulous, authentic meal. The ingredients were fresh, organic and traditionally Chinese. I was shocked when my children quickly picked up their chopsticks and dug in. Dumplings, noodles, pork, hot tea (on a 95 degree day in no air conditioning) and spicy veggies were all consumed with no complaint.
In the Chinese culture when you finish your plate, the hostess will happily refill your plate with a large portion. My kids smiled and said thank you and didn’t complain when they were given more. The food was different than any food you would get at a Chinese restaurant, it wasn’t what they were used to, but they ate it. I left that night thankful. Thankful that my kids were not rude, whiny and complaining when presented with an unusual meal. I certainly would not have acted that way when I was a child. I still have memories of my picky eating habits that would embarrass any parent!
I remember when our first son was born, my husband firmly told me that he did not want our kids to be known as picky eaters. Sure, my oldest is not fond of shrimp and his younger brother loathes zucchini, but they will still eat it when presented with it. It is okay to not like something, the problem comes when our children become so stubborn that they refuse to eat it. There are two important reasons that my husband and I decided that we should be strict with our children’s eating habits. First of all, for health reasons. If they eat only what they like then when they are older that most likely will not make healthy choices. Secondly, for manners sake. When in someone else’s home, I want them to show respect and thankfulness for what was provided for them.
Thanks to my husband’s prodding, the following was enforced in our home. Honestly, I needed to incorporate this in my own life too when I first had kids because my eating habits weren’t the greatest. I am extremely thankful that we did take the following steps with our children at a young age so that they could easily enter a new situation and enjoy the meal with a good attitude.
Encourage Them To Eat What Is On Their Plate
I make sure that each child receives an appropriate amount for their age but they are required to eat what is put in front of them. There would be long nights where one child would be left at the table long after everyone else was done but once they learned we weren’t giving in to their stubbornness they would eventually comply.
When praying for our meal, we have the children thank the Lord for the person who made the meal. This helps them put into perspective that there was work involved and that they should be thankful even if it isn’t their favorite meal.
Make Their Plates Colorful
As far as dinner goes, I try to have both a salad and a vegetable in addition to the main dish. I try to incorporate greens, fermented foods and a variety veggies when I can.
Incorporate Homeschooling Lessons Into Your Meals
When studying Mexico, we will have Mexican that night. When learning about Jacob and Esau, we make Lentil stew for dinner. When we studied Russia, we made stuffed cabbage leaves. This is the perfect opportunity for children to break out of their shells and try something new. My children thrive on these lessons which is probably why when we went to my friend’s house they were so excited to try a traditional Chinese meal.