My kids won't snack on anything that is good for them. Grandma watches them after school and gives them cookies and chips (even though I beg her not to.) When they are home they refuse anything healthy. What can I do?
There is a fundamental truth about the parent-child relationship: When we are desperate, our children are often inclined to do the opposite of what we are asking. So the more you push and plead with them to eat the healthy foods you lay before them, the less likely they will do so.
• Be less needy. Present the food in a friendly way--"Hey guys, here's some hummus and pita bread!" and then get busy doing something else. If they are hungry enough, they'll eat. Don't try to " sell" them what you've made. If your kids sense your neediness, they'll be less inclined to eat what the foods you've offered.
• Educate them. Companies who make processed foods and snacks have teams of scientists on board to help them maximize flavor and fuel an urge for their products; it's how they make money! It may help if your kids watch the 60 Minutes show's segment called The Flavorists: Tweaking Tastes and Creating Cravings.
• Mix it up! While some kids insist on eating the same foods every day, most children enjoy a little variety. Smoothies one day, mini-sandwiches the next. And think outside the box. No reason they can't have scrambled eggs or oatmeal for an afternoon snack!
• Turn them into chefs! Kids love to be creative so try hosting your own family cooking show, with each child given the same ingredients and then challenged to make something tasty and unique!
• Presentation, presentation, presentation. Involve your kids in artfully arranging the chips around the guacamole, or making funny faces with nuts and raisins in the bowl of yogurt. Encourage them to associate snack time as a chance to get creative.
• Come together. Sit down with your kids when it's time to refuel. Children who normally refuse to snack on what's been offered often become hearty eaters when snack-time turns into a chance to spend time telling jokes or goofing around together.
Naturally it would be great if Grandma could come on board and be more aligned with your wishes about foods she serves your kids when she's watching them--but that's another topic! For now, try these ideas when your kids are with you, and remember--be relaxed, less needy, and inject more fun and creativity into snack time.
Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected and the brand new Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids (An Eckhart Tolle Edition). She is a family therapist, parent coach and internationally recognized speaker on all subjects related to children, teens and parenting.