If you are a mom or dad, you know how many questions children ask throughout the day. Some of the questions I got yesterday from a few of my seven kids included:
Question from 7-year-old: “Mom, do you think that God could change the sky to black and white at once?”
My answer: “Yes, if He wanted.”
Question from 24-year-old (via text, of course): “Mom, could you call the church and see if we are confirmed for the wedding?”
My answer: “Yes.” And in case you were wondering the answer, we are confirmed so I guess she is really getting married.
Question from 18-year-old: “Mom, why don’t we have any food around here?”
My answer: “There is a pantry full of food – just not junk food.” (This is a common exchange between us!)
Question from 12-year-old: “Mom, will you make an apple pie for dessert?”
My answer: “Not a pie, but we can make baked apple slices.”
The questions come all day long and I try and say yes (or have an acceptable alternative) whenever I can because I know that the “No’s” in life often outweigh the “Yes’s.”
I live by this philosophy when it comes to food choices. Because children are children, they want the junk. They see it on television, they touch it in the grocery store, their friends munch on it, and most families in America have a lot of junk food in their homes.
Take last night for example. When my 12-year-old (the one in the middle) asked about the apple pie, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. For one thing, I didn’t have a dessert scheduled and for another thing, I didn’t feel like making one! However, in the spirit of compromise, I told him a conditional “No.”
I said we would not do an apple pie but how about baked apple slices? (recipe linked) He thought that was a terrific idea and promptly pulled out the apple peeler/slicer that I got from my time working at Pampered Chef over 15 years ago. He rallied his younger brothers and they washed the apples, stuck them on the peeler, and took turns (more or less) rotating the crank.
In a few minutes, the apples were sliced and once I gave them the recipe, they were seasoned and popped into the oven. We had the apple slices for an impromptu dessert and everyone was happy.
I believe that it is important to say “Yes” to your children when possible but you should not say “Yes” to things that you know are bad for them. For example, you would never tell your small children that drinking alcohol before they are of age is okay – right? And you would never tell you teenager that it is okay to use drugs – right? Of course not.
How do you handle their innate desire for junk food? (And yes, I acknowledge it is innate because of the times we live in, not necessarily something they are born with.)
I do not serve or buy a bunch of junk food, but I do manage to say “Yes” to treats on my terms and in a way that most everyone is happy. Because let’s face it. You are the parent. You have to feed your kids a healthy diet. No one else is going to do it for you.
I have seen parents tell their small kids “No” to every tempting treat known to man and I have watched those same kids devour McDonald’s hamburgers, candy, and cupcakes like there was no tomorrow as soon as they were old enough to drive. I have also seen lots of parents give in to every food whim their child has and shudder when I think about the lack of nutrition in the household.
I believe in balance.
We balance nutritionally superior foods with the occasional dessert or slightly junky food. I buy potato chips that they can have for lunch sometimes, I make my own desserts, I bake my homemade version of Ritz crackers, and have even made goldfish crackers from scratch a time or two. (Very time consuming but kinda fun.) I say “Yes,” but in a way that limits the amount of junk and still allows them to experience a delicious cake made from all-natural ingredients.
The upside is that as I have seen one of my children go out on her own, she still makes excellent food choices. She has a refined palette and dislikes fast food, junk food, and is particular when she goes out to eat. She brings her snacks and lunch to her job (she is an electrical engineer) and skips the vending machines and fast food restaurants nearby. Her sister, who still lives at home but is in college, makes the same kinds of choices.
Neither of them feel deprived, but rather tell me how glad they are that I taught them about good food and the value of making things from scratch. They also both tell me that they are amazed at how many adults they know whose idea of a lasagna dinner is to open a box, slide the frozen concoction out of the box, and stick it in the oven!
I hope that you think about balancing the “Yes’s” and the “No’s” in your children’s lives. No, we never go to McDonald’s or buy junky cereal or cookies, but we do have desserts I make, “fried” chicken at home, and eat a wide variety of healthy foods that feeds their bodies well.
Say “Yes” to your kids in a healthy way so as they grow older, they do not run to foods they perceive as better or special.
How do you handle the balance between healthy foods and treats in your family? Diane