Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Don't Play With Your Food!

In an earlier post, covering three ways to teach your kids to lie, I concluded that "for all the parents searching for the reason their kids lie, here's a possible answer: you taught them to."

While eating soup with my wife tonight, I pretended the soup was a train boom-chug-a-chuggin' up a hill and then choo-chooing before it is supposed to enter the tunnel. And then I made the connection that a lot of parents do this, along with the one where the spoon is a plane about a year before yelling at their kids for playing with their food.

I'm not complaining that my parents played these games--in fact, I think I remember enjoying them. Like before, however, I'm saying: if you're wondering why your kids always want to play with their food, here's a possible answer: you taught them to."


  1. The airplane game, or train, is typically done at a point when the child is transitioning from a primarily liquid to a primarily solid diet. Such games are necessary to get the child to accept the food. It's conditioning him to accept that food now often comes in a spoon rather than a bottle.

    "Playing with their food" for older children serves a different purpose entirely. It's a way of avoiding the act of eating. It's generally not "here's a fun game" but a stalling tactic. The frustration is that kids would almost always rather by doing something fun than eating, until such time as their stomach is telling them that they absolutely must eat.

    Moreover, the time between these two periods is so enormous intellectually that I don't think they make the connection. At least, I've never seen it with my four kids. (But then they don't actually play with their food either; they just stall through chatting and slow eating.)

  2. I know it wasn't the point of your post at all, but I wanted to say, just cause I need to stick my nose in, that there is no reason to do anything to get kids to eat. Like animals, they will eat when they are hungry. It may not be when you are hungry, but they aren't suicidal. They will eat. Because Livy was breastfed the natural human amount (a tiny bit above three years) and started eating real solid foods with her hands at about a year, we never had to trick her into eating.

    I get your actual point, though. Yes, parents often model one thing and say another. I try hard not to do that, but I have been called out by Livy for yelling at her, "Stop yelling at me! It hurts my ears!" Doh.

  3. Bill:

    Perhaps they don't make the connection, which is why it's only a possible answer. It took me 29 years after all to connect the dots! :-)


    That's the perfect summation of my point: that parents often model (or say) one thing and say another.


    Thanks for your posts! I wasn't really thinking about the other issues raised at all but I appreciate the feedback.

  4. I can guarantee that they don't make these sorts of connections until much later. We've actually yelled at our children to stop yelling and they don't call us on the irony--though I'm fully conscious of it. They are well aware that there are things that parents do that they are not allowed to. (I'm omitting a lot of context to this, which I can supply privately if you're interested.)